Energy opinion by Simon Dare
As an energy assessor I see various buildings over the course of a week. What never fails to amaze me is how in most cases the attempts at 'greening' buildings to improve their efficiency (and consequently save money) are almost nil. In general, businesses don’t see energy management or improvement as an effective cost saving method - but they couldn’t be more wrong.
From 18 April 2018, the government’s Energy Act will enforce that a property cannot be legally let if it fails to meet a minimum energy rating. What is not clear is exactly what that minimum rating will be but it’s being speculated that the minimum will be an ‘E’ rating.
This new legislation will be a salutary lesson for many business owners and will force them to act as properties with energy ratings of ‘F’ and ‘G’ will be unlettable.
Business owners need to move quickly and get buildings rated by an accredited energy assessor and then do the work needed to improve the rating. Recent research by the IPF (Investor Property Forum) has indicated that the costs can improve the letting potential and long term investment value as well as save money.
So what are the areas to consider to make a building more energy efficient?
1. The fabric of the building - improve insulation, this can be in roof spaces, or improved wall insulation - improving the thermal mass can make a building manage heat much better.
2. Heating and cooling - older boilers are very inefficient (around only 60% efficient), modern units are in the high 90% of efficiency. The savings here can be huge and with the bonus of a short payback period.
3. Update air cooling units to more efficient systems - and manage temperatures better in the building with modern control systems.
4. Lighting - the old tungsten style bulb is very inefficient - modern compact fluorescents lights or even better LED's can save up to 75% of annual lighting costs.
5. The addition of PIR's (Proximity infrared detectors) - and other lighting controls also reduces costs in less commonly used areas such as toilets and corridors.
6. Glazing - replace single glazing with modern thermally efficient double or triple glazed units.
7. Solar gain - as part of improving the glazing consider coatings that reduce heat gain in the building - that will reduce cooling costs. As a minimum use blinds to reduce solar gain in summer.
These are the main physical items to address, but there are other ways to reduce costs:
1. Switch energy provider - find a cheaper or/and a greener tariff.
2. Install flow restrictors in water systems - reduce flush rates and cistern sizes - and meter water use.
3. 'Generate your own' - photovoltaic panels won't generate enough power to run a building, but they may future proof against price increases.
4. Educate staff - leaving computers and screens on when not needed and over heating or cooling space all costs money.
These measures do work and, according to research by Sweetts UK, it costs proportionally little to make the improvements to achieve a better energy efficiency rating.
The research looked at a range of ‘typical’ commercial property types and the relative cost to improve the energy rating. Surprisingly, for an additional 0.8% to 2.6% of the original refurbishment cost (the range depends on whether the property type is office, industrial or retail), an improvement of one or two ratings can be achieved.
Many business owners don’t realise that by investing in these improvements they can achieve a much better result for relatively little cost and with the government’s ‘Green Deal’ now offering a better way to fund energy saving improvements and various other funding options available, now is the time to act.