The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Energy Efficiency Conversion for Unrentable Buildings

Energy Efficiency Conversion for Unrentable Buildings
18 January 2024

Around 11.4 per cent of commercial buildings in Great Britain currently fail to meet new MEES standards, meaning billions of pounds of commercial property value is under threat if energy efficiency legislation is not urgently met. 

In this Opinion piece, Toby Horne & Ollie Finkill from Siemens Financial Services address the impact of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) legislation on existing commercial building stock and how specialist finance solutions can supercharge renovations. 

Toby Horne, Siemens Infrastructure Financing Partner at Siemens Financial Services UK is a robotics and electronics systems-educated chartered engineer, and since joining Siemens in 2015, has worked in various roles at from software sales to factory automation and infrastructure project sales. In his current capacity as a Smart Infrastructure Financing Partner, he is responsible for enabling new business models and providing financial products to grow and expand business. 

Ollie Finkill, Head of Specialist Finance at  Siemens Financial Services has been with the company for the last eleven years and has developed an in-depth specialism in sustainability and energy efficiency markets. In his current role he is leading the company’s development of specialised financing structures for “green”, “clean” and sustainable technology, expanding SFS’s financing remit into areas such as renewable fuels from waste, resource-efficient technologies, renewable power generation, combined heat and power, and various other segments. 


The Risk of Stranded Assets


According to the UK government, improving buildings energy efficiency is “one of the most cost-effective ways in which businesses can reduce their energy use and lower the associated bills in the buildings they occupy.” To ensure the timely conversion of its building stock and combat greenwashing, the UK has introduced increasingly stringent environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulations. Legislation introduced on 1 April 2023 now prohibits landlords from leasing commercial buildings with an EPC rating of F or lower. The regulations not only prohibit non-domestic landlords from granting new tenancies if the building has an EPC rating below E, but now also apply to existing tenancies as well.

Given rented buildings make up 61 per cent of the total non-domestic stock in England and Wales, and account for 37.5 per cent of the total emissions from non-domestic buildings, this is an urgent issue. 

According to the most recent government estimates, around 11.4 per cent of commercial buildings in Great Britain currently fail to meet the new standard. As a result of these growing sustainability requirements, implementing energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings must be a top investment priority for facility managers and building owners.


“Alongside financial penalties, building owners and investors are also vulnerable to reputational damage through a ‘name and shame’ publication of non-compliant companies on a public register. However, most significant is the possibility of properties becoming unlettable, rendering them stranded assets and threatening commercial value if improvements are not immediately undertaken.” 



Landlords of properties with a lower rating must improve the energy efficiency of those buildings or face penalties ranging from £5,000 to £150,000. Alongside financial penalties, building owners and investors are also vulnerable to reputational damage through a “name and shame” publication of non-compliant companies on a public register. However, most significant is the possibility of properties becoming unlettable, rendering them stranded assets and threatening commercial value if improvements are not immediately undertaken. 

This is just the first phase in the government’s overall net-zero proposal. The long-term trajectory requires that all non-domestic rented buildings will rise to a C rating by 2027 and to a B by 2030. 


Over £60 Billion of Commercial Property Value at Risk 


With regulations tightening over the next decade, landlords may be considering an incremental approach to upgrades. However, tenancy cycles (typically one-five years) and business sustainability concerns mean today’s occupants are already searching for tomorrow’s buildings. 

Improving energy performance, however, can be a costly and complicated process. Commercial landlords and investors have expressed concern over the projected costs of converting their properties and real estate portfolios to EPC B ahead of the 2030 deadline. As Peter Cosmetatos, Chief Executive of the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council Europe, the trade association for European property lenders, explains “Most owners […] don’t have sustainability teams or net-zero plans or quite possibly the capital behind them on the equity side.”

According to recent research from Siemens Financial Services, it is estimated that there is over £60 billion worth of commercial property value at risk in the office and retail sectors combined. This is considerable but the energy efficiency potential is also significant. In fact, British companies (owners, landlords and tenants) are believed to be missing out on around £1 billion in cost savings achievable through investment in energy efficiency.

Working with specialist financiers, potential energy savings can be harnessed to effectively subsidise the investment, meaning building conversion can often be achieved at zero net cost. 


Enabling Investment with Specialist Finance 


Given the expected costs of conversion, organisations across the public and private sectors are increasingly looking for financially viable ways to make the energy efficiency upgrade.  To meet this demand, specialist financiers are now offering financing packages which use future energy savings to finance buildings technology upgrades – covering condensing boilers, solar panels, heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), insulation, smart buildings controls, and any other technology required to upgrade a building to much higher energy-efficiency levels. These financing schemes allow buildings managers to achieve a strategic upgrade at low- or even zero-net-cost. 

In the retail and offices sector, little capital is available for such retrofit projects either because landlords are looking for maximised yield, or because energy costs are usually passed on to the tenant. However, with F- and G-rated properties no longer lettable, the threat of non-performing assets is providing a compelling new incentive for energy efficiency upgrades. Specialist financing packages allow capital investment to happen without the need to tie up precious cash. In a sense, the building owner is getting a valuable outcome – reduced energy consumption – without having to make an investment.

Typically, a reduction of between 15 per cent and 25 per cent can be made on energy expenditure by retrofitting a building with energy efficient technologies. Once the financing period is over, and the energy savings have been harnessed to effectively pay for the retrofit, landlords and their tenants then continue over time to reap the full benefit of the energy savings achieved.

Commercial buildings conversion is an urgent priority for owners of F- and G- rated buildings, now unlettable on the UK market. Without immediate investment, these properties are at risk of losing their commercial value. Similarly, as regulations tighten any building below EPC B could become unlettable if not upgraded before 2030. 

Alongside the urgent requirement to upgrade buildings, improved liquidity and energy cost savings make for a robust business case to invest in sustainability projects. The potential for these zero-net-cost conversion projects, offered by integrated technology-and-finance providers, remains considerable. The imperative is on building owners to grasp the opportunity as soon as possible, to ensure buildings compliance and to stop wasted and unnecessary energy consumption and costs.

Picture: a photograph of an open plan office showing several desks with people seated and working. Image Credit: Getty Images

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 18 January 2024


Related Articles

Green Property Alliance Calls for Government Response on MEES

A group representing the commercial real estate sector is demanding that the government finalises its plans on energy efficiency standards for England's...

 Read Full Article
80% of Landlords Want Stricter Energy Efficiency Rules 

Nearly four-fifths of landlords favour raising the minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) on rental properties, suggesting that the government’s recent u-turn...

 Read Full Article
Commercial Landlords – Priorities and Challenges in 2023

Nationwide research amongst property investors has revealed that one of their most significant challenges is the drive to upgrade their portfolio’s energy...

 Read Full Article
EPC Ratings for Commercial Buildings – What's Changing?

New research has revealed that thousands of commercial properties across the UK won’t meet new energy efficiency regulations, incurring fines for landlords,...

 Read Full Article
Energy Efficient Offices Command Higher Service Charges 

A benchmarking report from BDO has found that the most energy efficient office buildings tend to have higher than average service charges. In...

 Read Full Article
Building Research Establishment Calls for EPC Reform

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

 Read Full Article
BESA President Criticises Government’s “Cold Feet” Over Net-Zero Timetable  

BESA President Claire Curran said the government’s “flip flopping” on net-zero and infrastructure policy should not be used as an excuse to delay...

 Read Full Article
Apleona Achieves FM Contract Expansion With Siemens

Siemens Mobility has expanded its TFM contract with Apleona UK. The initial contract, which commenced in 2019, was for three years and encompassed services such as...

 Read Full Article
Can Artificial Intelligence Help Commercial Landlords Comply With MEES Regulations?

As the expansion to the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for commercial buildings draws ever nearer, are EPC assessments enough to truly measure energy...

 Read Full Article
A New Methodology to Measure EPC Ratings – What is SAP 11?

The government’s current system for assessing the energy performance of UK homes is to be overhauled over the next three years. In collaboration with the...

 Read Full Article