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Building Research Establishment Calls for EPC Reform

Building Research Establishment Calls for EPC Reform
08 February 2024

A report from the Building Research Establishment sets out its vision for a targeted reform of Energy Performance Certificates.


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The group argues that a major transition is needed to bring Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) up to standard for the net-zero transition and to reflect new technologies in the home.

Around 30 per cent of the public know, or “have a sense of,” the EPC rating of their home and five per cent of people have acted on the recommendations of the EPC. Therefore the data collected must be accurate, timely and trustworthy.

Ahead of the government consultation on how the new national home energy calculation model will be used to calculate EPCs, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is calling for several changes to the system:


Making EPCs Valid for Five Years 


EPCs currently have a ten-year lifespan, and the BRE considers that with the predicted speed of transition to renewable heating solutions in homes, this could quickly render an EPC inaccurate. In ten years, the percentage of homes banded with an EPC rating of C and above has gone from 16 per cent to 48 per cent. Under the current system, someone renting or buying a home may be supplied a certificate that was originally issued up to a decade ago. 

The BRE’s report points out that Scotland has already consulted on an EPC validity of five years, and that this should also be the case for England and Wales. However, the impact of the extra demand on EPC assessors should be taken into account.


Ratings that Go Beyond the Cost to Heat and Light Homes


Another suggested reform is to readdress the headline metrics that inform an EPC rating. The current headline rating is based on the cost of heating and lighting, but the BRE wants to consider other additional metrics to make the rating more accurate. 

One of these additional metrics might be based on building fabric U-values, thermal bridging and thermal mass through a  Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard, which is already used in new builds.


Provisional EPC Ratings


For the 40 per cent of homes that do not have an EPC, the BRE recommends that a provisional EPC rating could be developed to help local authorities and homeowners to identify retrofit opportunities and plan grants and support. This could also unlock access to EPC-based advice, services, and support.

Gillian Charlesworth, Chief Executive of the Building Research Establishment (BRE), said: “Energy Performance Certificates cover 60 per cent of UK homes and are a key source of information used in planning retrofit programmes and in government policies. But too often home buyers and sellers see the certificates as just a bureaucratic necessity.

“With targeted reforms, the government can ensure the EPC can really achieve its potential, as a trusted starting point for advice and information on how we can all make our homes better.

“The transition to clean energy in homes is starting to gather pace; the last few months have seen an upsurge in interest in installing heat pumps. Whether it’s clean heat, upgrading insulation, solar panels or other modern energy technologies, reforms to the EPC to make it more up-to-date, accurate and usable will be key to supporting homeowners play their part in the journey to net zero.

“We urge policymakers to read this report and consider its recommendations as a way of driving the decarbonisation of the UK’s domestic building stock.”

BRE’s report can be found here:

Picture: a photograph of a person standing in front of a building site holding a tablet. The tablet screen shows the recognised symbol for an EPC rating. Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 08 February 2024


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