Gas-guzzling houses

Originally appeared in the Irish Examiner – Property Section

If you have ever considered buying a car based on the type of fuel used and how many miles per gallon you are likely to get out of it then the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive [EPBD] is the EU initiative that will provide an equivalent performance benchmark for your home. Not in distance travelled or mpg but by calculating how energy efficient your home is. The issue might never have occurred to you but just like a car, some buildings can do more on less. So is your home a nippy little number or a gas-guzzler stuck in traffic and why is this even important?

From January of 2006 the EPBD will be brought in across Europe, applied to almost all buildings it will require owners to provide an energy rating certificate to any potential buyer when a property is constructed, sold or rented. The energy labels will be assigned on a sliding scale from A to G and will be a clear indicator of the fuel efficiency of your property.

This could have a noticeable effect on the value of your investment or home. For example an owner may rent or sell a property that has an over-sized sub-standard boiler, leaky windows and no insulation that over a year will cost the tenant €1000 more to heat than the virtually identical but A-rated, energy efficient property just up the road. The competitive advantage of an efficient property will be easy for the customer to see.

The first reason this is happening is that the EU-15 group of countries, including Ireland, must meet their targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. The EPBD is part of an overall strategy for meeting that target, as energy use in buildings currently accounts for almost half of C02 emissions in the EU and currently available measures could reduce the emission total to around a third of existing levels, it is easy to see why the EU has taken this first step in legislation. However the EPBD only represents a fraction of what is to come under future initiatives.

Secondly the EU has been involved in pro-active energy policies since the oil crisis of the 1970’s, today’s energy policies are still based on the secure availability of oil and unfortunately with the peak of oil production probable in the next 10 to 15 years and expectations of escalating prices and shortages, the EU’s support of an efficient and flexible energy supply seems a sensible strategy.

Andrew Warren from the EU advisory body EuroACE explains what the EPBD means for the homeowner or tenant if they apply it’s findings, “they’re going to have lower fuel bills,” and “when they come to sell the house, sell the lease on or whatever it is of overtly more value.” So it’s not all gloomy, if you have a high performance building the EPBD may actually increase the marketability and value of your property. Warren advises that governments then need an infrastructure and a one-stop solution for you to find out what you can do to improve the building.

Paula Rice from Sustainable Energy Ireland agrees and warns that there is often poor information available and hopes that the EPBD improve this situation. She explains that as well as a rating you will receive an advisory report that will encourage people living in inefficient houses “to invest their money smartly in energy efficient measures so that the efficiency of their house will improve.”

Jeff Colley editor of industry magazine Construct Ireland has regularly championed consumer awareness of the subject and advises on how best to future-proof your investments. “It’s a question of looking ahead, people need to be conscious of what factors are converging to make energy performance central to the value of their property long term, whether that be fossil fuel depletion or environmental legislation coming in.”

The responses from the current administration to Dáil questions on the EPBD consistently refer to delays in implementation until 2009, a delay that curiously enough the Construction Industry Federation publicly demanded of them at the end of 2004 claiming that there were insufficient inspectors. Many industry insiders disagree with this claim however and maintain there are already more than enough inspectors available. At the European level this is being dismissed, as it is not about finding inspectors locally, the provision is there “if you cannot find anyone in Europe who is qualified to do this.”

The Government has been promising a Draft Action Plan for the EPBD since last year now rescheduled to be published in the next few weeks. “If you have an existing building and it does get a very poor energy rating, there’s no obligation on you to make any improvements to it,” Paula Rice reminds us. Nevertheless the clock is ticking on implementation and the EU is talking about prosecutions for member states who don’t comply. So if someone buying or renting your property doesn’t want to pay over the odds for heating or performance upgrades to make it liveable or a worthwhile investment you may have no choice but to start thinking ahead.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a absolutely compelling read. I have had a career in the solar industry for just under 6 years and it is amazing how rapid things are changing. For alot of us this is a very mind-blowing chapter of history so let’s strive to keep up the pace.

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