Since the introduction of the requirement for all buildings, both domestic and non-domestic, to have a BER (Building Energy Rating) Certificate, the scheme has come under considerable pressure from a number of quarters.
The whole concept of carrying out an energy audit on a dwelling in order to compare it to another dwelling is not new and many methods are available. What is new, however, is the adoption of a standard, which is uniform throughout the country. It’s a little like the introduction of the Euro, where prices across different countries in the Euro zone became immediately more visible, even naked in some instances.
In carrying out Energy Ratings, home and property-owners must appoint a qualified assessor to firstly examine their property and subsequently go through a process, using a piece of software, called DEAP (Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure), to arrive at an energy rating which reflects the nature and layout of the building. ‘A’ rated buildings are more fuel-efficient than ‘G’ rated buildings. The examination of the building involves looking at items including: size, orientation, windows, doors, walls, floor and roof insulation present, heating system, hot water system, among others.
The accuracy of the rating produced and presented thus depends largely on the technical competence of the assessor and their ability to recognise good design and construction details. For example, the orientation of a dwelling towards the south is excellent for obtaining heat from the sun. However the assessor needs to be able to report on the likelihood of too much southern glazing giving rise to overheating during the summer. This could result in a requirement for air-conditioning with associated capital and fuel costs. Equally where a proprietor has incorporated above average levels of insulation then the building rating should be given credit to reflect this.
Landlords will be unlikely to be too concerned about the exact rating of their premises, unless they are paying the heating bills as part of the tenant agreement. However tenants and prospective purchasers will become more aware of the direct correlation between the rating and the heating costs coming out of their pocket.
An important element of the BER Rating process is the ‘Advisory Report’. This report must accompany the BER Certificate and presents the property owner with options to make their building more energy efficient. Here again the more competent the assessor, the better and more effective the recommendations. Take an instance where either of two options could provide a saving of 20% in heating bills. Generally speaking combining both options will not result in a 40% saving, as there’ll be a combining and interacting affect. Property owners will also be aware that a competent assessor will be able to advise how to improve the energy rating, without compromising the building’s ventilation or Building Regulations status.
We feel that the implementation of the BER process and the awareness, which is being generated, will provide massive benefits for property owners and their fuel bills. In the longer term the only way fuel prices are going is up.
Seamus Lynch, Tutor on Energy Management courses