Energy

The EPC – now over 5 years old…..

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Local-EPC-graph-3D-chart-300x300The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been with us now in one form or another for over 5 years. Initially introduced to the residential market and then into the commercial property market it is fair to say they have not been universally popular! But how are they now viewed, and how much impact (if any) have they had on the market?

My personal involvement relates purely to the non domestic market – which arguably has been most resistant to their adoption. Within the residential market EPC’s are now accepted by purchasers and vendors alike, they actually appear to like the information it provides them with. Whether or not it actually affects their decision process is not clear – the market may not be that intelligent yet.

In the commercial property market I think it is fair to say that owners and purchasers have all come to accept that the EPC is now a legal requirement, the number of transactions that occur now without one appears to have dropped to almost zero, and the last-minute EPC ‘just before exchange’ is getting far less common.

However to date there are only 472,962 non domestic properties registered on the Landmark Database for England and Wales as having EPC’s – somewhat short of the total domestic registrations of 10,665,662! And a long way short of the England and Wales total property stock which is in the region of 25 Million homes and 1.8 Million commercial properties (VOA data).

What hasn’t changed sadly (from the point of view of an assessor) is the level of fees  – these still don’t reflect the work involved in a non domestic assessment – and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. But lets hope activity will continue to rise.

So we still have a long way to go on adoption, but as can be seen from the residential statistics much is down to the market activity – so with more activity in the commercial market adoption should increase. Time will tell if the EPC actually sees its 10th anniversary, what is clear is that the UK is slowly building a database of energy information – what it does with it is another matter.

The Green Deal – a flawed deal?

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Today sees the launch of the Green Deal – you have possible heard of it, but probably don't know the details of what it offers or how it works. The government haven't in my opinion been very forthcoming when it comes to publicising it! So what does it offer and is it worth your time?

20130127-195824.jpgWell, on the face of it the scheme is a great idea, providing funding for home improvement that make a property 'greener' – by way of new boilers, better insulation etc – you get the idea. The repayments are handled by your services provider, the idea being that the savings you make on heating are paid for by the cost of your loan – so in effect your bill doesn't drop, but your house is more efficient – but here lies the problem;

The loan can be over a long period – up to 25 years and passes with the property. So if you do a lot of green deal improvements and then a few years down the line sell up, the loan passes to the next owner.

Perhaps even more of a problem is that the loan is not interest free and this can actually make it more expensive that just borrowing the money on tHe high street to do the works!

But the real killer is that the initial survey is not free – costs of between £100 – £150 are quoted, and this is not recoverable if the green deal won't actually work for your property!

People will only do these works if they can see a benefit in their pocket – everything about the way the deal works goes against this – and is possibly why since October when green deal surveys could start to be done only a handful (literally) have been done!

So a great idea, but very badly managed. Cost to the government will be the reason for the charges and interest payments, but I cannot see the Green Deal doing much business until something changes…..

The future of lighting?

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The move away from the ‘good old’ tungsten bulb is now almost complete. Some people have stock piled them in cupboards as they don’t like the much more efficient and longer lasting alternatives – compact fluorescents and LED’s. but generally there does now seem to ba an acceptance that the move away from old style bulbs is the way to go (unless of course you read the Daily Mail!).

It appear now however that there is a new kid on the block – the plastic bulb. Sounds strange I will admit, and it is currently at a very early stage. But according to the inventors ( in the US) it gives a much nicer light. So what is it exactly?

The new light source is called field-induced polymer electroluminescent (Fipel) technology. It is made from three layers of white-emitting polymer that contain a small volume of nanomaterials that glow when electric current is passed through them. 

The inventor of the device is Dr David Carroll, professor of physics at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He says the new plastic lighting source can be made into any shape, and it produces a better quality of light than compact fluorescent bulbs which have become very popular in recent years.

And the first versions should be available next year!

Not down to us?

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I had an extremely pleasant evening last week at the Mattioli Woods charity dinner in support of Rainbows Hospice – a fabulous cause and hopefully one that benefited greatly from the night.

The guest speaker was Lord Lawson – known to the younger members of society as Nigella’s dad, but better known to the rest of us as the Chancellor during Maggie’s three periods in office. He is now in his early 80’s, so it was going to be interesting to see what his take on things as they are now was. And in many ways we were not disappointed – he is undoubtably a very bright man, and if I am half as active at this age I will be very happy!

However, there was one part of his speech that did worry me – he will always play to the ‘Daily Mail readers’ in a room, and the other night was no different. But his views on Global Warming I did find rather blinkered, especially after his comments about it being ‘a religion’ that no one was permitted to challenge anymore! He basically appears to believe that we are having no effect upon the planet and that burning fossil fuels is definitely the way forward!

I accept that it is not a clear-cut case – but the current extreme weather, the melting polar areas – not our fault?

The photo above is of my home town, Malmesbury in Wiltshire. As a family we have been there over 40 years and I cannot recall a time when the bottom of the High Street has flooded and blocked access into the town – even before all the flood alleviation work was done a good few years ago – so do we assume this is just a fluke event?

A very impressive hotel!

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We are very lucky in Nottingham to have two first class universities – both very different in terms of their campuses. Nottingham Trent is a city centre university and so visiting people have all the usual city centre facilities. Nottingham University has a wonderful landscaped campus, on the edge of the city. Consequently it has the potential for conferences, but limited local hotel accommodation – until now as a £20m eco-friendly hotel – The Orchard – has opened its doors right next door to the conference centre in the centre of the University main campus.

20121118-140049.jpgDesigned to complement the university-owned De Vere Venues East Midlands Conference Centre, The Orchard features technology to minimise carbon emissions, including a green roof, solar panels and energy-efficient lighting, heating and ventilation systems.

The 202-bedroom hotel also features a roof garden, brasserie and gym. It is also a quite stunning piece of design and is something the University can be justifiably proud of. It is just a shame that we don’t have such ‘interesting’ buildings being built in the city centre.

A challenge for our local architects and developers perhaps?

Left high and dry?

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20121026-202046.jpgI am a Chartered Surveyor – and proud of it. My membership of the RICS allows me to do my job and satisfy my clients that I have the necessary knowledge and qualifications to do it properly. So why does the RICS make it so difficult for me to consider them my ‘friend’ in business?

Let me explain – a few years ago I undertook the RICS accredited Energy Assessors course to qualify as an RICS accredited energy assessor – this would allow me to prepare EPC’s for my firm and clients and then lodge them. The training was quite intensive and not cheap, but I was proud to be accredited by the RICS as they were considered to be one of the better managed schemes – so perhaps of a better quality?

So all looks rosy – until Friday when I gathered (second hand) that the RICS are going to withdraw their accreditation scheme – so I will have to register with another body. This will possibly entail doing further exams – despite being qualified already, and more importantly if I don’t act quickly, might cause a break in me being able to provide the service.

I picked the information up from an RICS forum, from other equally confused assessors. I have subsequently spoken to the RICS by telephone and they have confirmed the news, and told me the letters are in the ‘process of going out’ – have they not heard of email? I have however been told officially by the software provider I use for EPC calculations and lodgment (Lifespan) and have also received an email from an alternative accreditation scheme (Elmhurst Energy) offering a free transfer.

So why if they can all contact me so quickly and efficiently, cant the RICS (who are supposed to look after my interests for me?)

Oh, and the notice that the RICS has given its members? Five weeks (and that is for the ones that have heard officially – I still haven’t). So am I to believe that this decision was only taken a few days ago – I think not!

Now do you see my issue with the RICS?

Trinity House

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This week I was lucky enough to have a brief tour of the new EON building – Trinity House – that sits at the corner of Trinity Square in the heart of Nottingham. Now this is the largest office building to be built new in the city for a number of years – the pre-let to EON ensured that it would happen.

The building is quite impressive inside, having a central full height atrium with glass lifts serving all 9 floors, it is also the greenest building in the city – holding a BREEAM excellent rating and an ‘A’ rating for its EPC. As an environment for its just over 1000 occupants it will be modern and comfortable. However, as a building it doesn’t really push any ‘boundaries’ for me.

Due to the fact that EON are tenants in the building and they don’t own it, the structure is actually quite ‘normal’. One might have expected there to be a raft of renewable elements, but in reality there is next to nothing – no PV’s, no water harvesting, and only a very small element of green roof. It is connected to the district heating scheme, which helps its cause, but that is really it for renewable energy.

Now, I am sure that if EON had more control over the building spec they might have added some renewables, but I do think this is a lost opportunity for the City. As a part of the street scene I think it looks well – it doesn’t ‘over power’ the surrounding buildings – something the architects should be proud of.

Yes, it is a green building, and it has managed this using existing technologies – which is impressive, but in my view it doesn’t push the envelope at all.

Prepare your property!

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As an energy assessor I get to inspect a large number of properties, most of which are vacant and looking to be sold or let. Consequently it is in the vendors (or Landlords) interest to ‘make the most’ of the property. Historically this has taken the form of ensuring units are cleared out, kept secure and generally ‘tarted up’ where required. If you were selling your house you would follow a similar regime to assist the sale.

There is however now another major factor that vendors and Landlords now need to consider as part of their marketing preparation, the EPC (or energy performance certificate). All commercial properties now need one if they are to be sold or let, so why don’t people take getting the best rating they can seriously?

This week I have prepared an EPC on a period office building (in Derby), nothing unusual there. But, a high proportion of the bulbs were old style tungstens (the type favoured by Daily Mail readers). As part of my report back to the client I highlighted that changing these all to CFL’s (compact fluorescents) would make a massive difference to the rating which as it stood would be an ‘F’.

Before the change
After the change…..

This being most important due to the changes due in 2018 which would make this property unmarketable if it remained as an ‘F’. This is something that all Landlords need to consider as part of their property portfolio reviews moving forwards.

On this property the change was quite remarkable  – for the cost of around 20 CFL’s (£20?) the rating moved from an ‘F’ to a ‘D’! So as far as this client is concerned the bulb change will be done, the EPC updated to a ‘D’ and the properties long term future secured.

So, in a nutshell, before you get your property assessed give some thought to the simple items you can alter like bulbs and fluorescent tubes – it may save you a lot more than just electricity in the long-term!

Yet another award for Edwalton Primary School!

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20120709-212755.jpgIt appears that awards are coming thick and fast for Edwalton Primary school – I have blogged previously about this amazing school (I am biased as I am a Governor there) and its green credentials. Well that has now been confirmed by a national award.

The school has been awarded ‘outstanding sustainable school’ in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) awards for 2012. This is a national award and is a fantastic achievement for the school, it is due recognition for the hard work that everyone at the school has put into driving forwards the sustainability agenda, from the kids, through the staff and finally to Brian Owens the headmaster who is the inspiration and driving force behind everyone. We were nominated in 2011 but sadly didn’t win – but this year has seen the ‘right’ decision.

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Brian receiving the award

Keep an eye out for this school, this is the way education should be going at primary level in the UK, other schools can (and are) learning a lot from its environment and general approach to teaching.

Fantastic news and another good reason to shout from the rooftops about Edwalton Primary West Bridgfords number one primary school!

Renewables – it’s all about getting a balance

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Renewables are a great idea – once the method of extracting the energy has been built it is free – whether it is wind, sun or wave power is irrelevant, as long as there is a selection of types to provide general cover. This is the normal argument against renewables – what happens when the sun is not out or it’s not windy – hence the need for a selection of producing sources.

The Germans appear to ‘get this’ and have moved forwards in the quest for a replacement for their nuclear industry that is to be wound down following the Japanese disaster.

German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity over a mid day period earlier this month. This is in response to Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022. They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass (a sensible spread).

The 22 gigawatts of solar power fed into the national grid met nearly 50% of the nation’s midday electricity needs, yes it was only for a short period, but it shows what can be achieved. Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity. The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.

All this at a time when our Government appear hell-bent on crippling our solar industry just as it was getting into its stride – time for a swift U-turn?