The change, which has been introduced by the new Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations, will apply to all 'non-dwellings' over 500 square metres in size which are frequently visited by the public. However, businesses will not be forced to obtain an EPC if one is not already available.
The new regulations also extend the obligation on buildings occupied by a public authority and visited frequently by the public to display an energy certificate reflecting their actual operational energy use in a prominent place. The previous requirement which applied to those buildings larger than 1,000 sq m in size to display a display energy certificate (DEC) has been extended to all such buildings larger than 500 sq m from today; and from 9 July 2015 this is extended to such buildings larger than 250 sq m. However, DECs for smaller public buildings will be valid for 10 years, rather than the one year validity for buildings over 1,000 sq m.
Other changes will see details of the EPC rating included on all property advertisements, while the requirement to attach the front page of the EPC to any written material relating to the property has been dropped. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has produced updated guidance to reflect the changes.
Environmental law expert Linda Fletcher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the changes could surprise a number of businesses. The new EPC requirement applies to all non-domestic buildings frequently visited by the public, whereas the previous DEC requirements only applied to buildings which were occupied by public authorities and frequently visited by the public.
"What is interesting about this new requirement, which implements the changes in the recast EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, is that it relates to non-public authority buildings, which of course already have a requirement to display a DEC if they are frequently visited by the public," she said. "This new regulation will capture businesses such as shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels."
"However, the drafting of the regulation opens up many questions such as what is meant by 'frequently visited' and who is obliged to display the EPC - should it be the building owner or the occupier? It does not go as far as some had wanted however in requiring all commercial buildings over a certain size to be obligated to commission and display a DEC rather than the continued use of EPCs, which still do not give information as to how a building is actually performing as opposed to as built/designed," she said.
EPCs are required to be produced on the sale, rent or construction of a building. They give information on the energy efficient design of a building, include an asset rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and contain recommendations on how to reduce that building's energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. . DECs are based on the actual energy usage of a building, which must be displayed in a prominent place at all times.
The new regulations replace all former regulations relating to EPCs, DECs, air conditioning inspections and enforcement for both commercial and residential buildings and remove certain provisions which went beyond those included in the relevant European legislation. For example, the new regulations now exempt additional types of building from the energy performance regime. These include protected and listed buildings where compliance would "unacceptably alter" their character or appearance, buildings used as a place of worship or for religious activities, small stand-alone buildings and short-term lettings of residential buildings.