Retrofitting Non-Domestic Buildings for Improved Energy Efficiency

Writing for Energy Matters, Josh Wakeling, Head of Operations at Elmshurst Energy has produced an excellent article on PAS 2038 and retrofitting non-domestic buildings for improved energy efficiency. The article is reproduced below.

‘As those of you involved in the industry will already be aware, the BSI published the domestic retrofit specifications PAS 2035 in 2019. Following on from this the obvious next step was for BSI to consider commercial buildings. In August 2021, PAS 2038-2021 was released.

Now highly publicised, national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in response to the threat of climate change require significant improvements to the energy efficiency of the UK’s building stock, including nearly all of its two million non-domestic buildings.

Non-domestic buildings accommodate a huge variety of activities, and range in size from simple chip shops to large multi-story mixed-use buildings, shopping centres, hospitals, factories, offices and universities.

Some buildings are owner occupied, while others are let to single tenants or accommodate multiple tenants. Some buildings are managed and maintained by their occupants (who may have little knowledge of buildings, or how to improve them), but many are managed and maintained by building professionals, e.g. energy assessors, surveyors, commercial agents or facilities managers.

PAS 2038 is aimed at providing a ‘whole-building’ retrofit process that meets key objectives, promoting and defining technical robust and responsible outcomes.

These key objectives are:

  • Improved comfort, well-being, health and safety including fire safety and productivity of building occupants and visitors
  • Improved functionality, usability and durability of buildings
  • Enabling buildings to use low or zero carbon energy supplies
  • Minimisations of the ‘performance gap’ that occurs when reductions in fuel use, fuel cost and carbon dioxide emissions are not as large as intended or predicted
  • Improved energy efficiency, leading to reduced fuel use, fuel costs and pollution (especially greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use).
  • Protection and enhancement of the architectural and cultural heritage as represented by the building stock.
  • Reduced environmental impacts of buildings
  • Avoidance of unintended consequences related to any of the above

PAS 2038 will revolutionise the non-domestic retrofit market with likely backing from government departments such as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and also private backing from the likes of banks and investors that are looking for a reliable, industry defined, quality process they can rely on.

The Retrofit Process

The stages required for the retrofit process for non-domestic buildings are very similar to the domestic PAS 2035 requirements. The main stages that are reflected in the PAS include assessment of the building, evaluation of improvement options, agreement of intended outcomes, preparation of an improvement plan, design and specification and installation. There are a few further additional options and routes depending on the building size and complexity however the key requirement is to ensure that the Retrofit Team includes all of the relevant, competent persons for completing this project.

For smaller “domestic” like buildings, PAS 2038 provides an alternative route to follow PAS 2035. This alternative route requires the project to be managed by a Retrofit Coordinator who is also a qualified and accredited Non Domestic Energy Assessor (NDEA). The PAS 2035 route would be used for these “domestic” like building with RdSAP being replaced with SBEM when completing the energy assessment stage.

We believe there is an excellent opportunity for Elmhurst members to be a major part of the assessment process. Specifically, around the context, condition, occupancy and energy performance assessment requirements for the building with the PAS specifying the use of SBEM, DSM and DECs.


PAS 2038 relies on the project team to have all of the relevant competent persons for the project. If the project is a complex building such as The Shard, then a number of competent persons would be required and the reliance is on the Retrofit Lead Professional to identify when they need more competency on the Retrofit Team.

At least one member of the project team shall be competent to provide, where necessary:

a) Thermal transmissivity (U Value) calculations

b) Condensation Risk Assessment

c) Thermal bridging calculations

d) Thermal capacity assessments

e) Whole-life greenhouse gas emissions assessment

f) Energy performance estimations or simulations using the NCM (SBEM and DSM)

g) Radon exposure assessments

We are already seeing an increase in demand for our existing competency scheme training and accreditations on these subjects.

PAS 2038 Awareness Course

Elmhurst Energy has now released their market leading PAS 2038 Awareness course for anyone interested in understanding the potential opportunities and requirements from the PAS.

The course is highly recommended for Retrofit Coordinators in the existing PAS 2035 following the alternative “domestic” like approach details in this article.

The course will also provide further details on how NDEAs and DEC assessors will be part of the PAS 2038 process.’

Improving your building’s energy efficiency offers more than reduced bills

2021 is a vital year for climate action. With COP26 happening in the next few weeks, we thought we would explain how changing your lights to LEDs is not just a good investment for your property but also a way that your business can do something to help mitigate climate change.

Energy Efficiency

The biggest benefit of LED light bulbs is their energy efficiency. An LED bulb that uses 5 watts of power does the same job as a filament bulb that uses 40 watts.

On an energy rate of £0.19 per kWh, the LED light bulb would cost £19 over its lifetime (20,000 hours), whereas an incandescent bulb would cost £152 over the same period. And that is at today’s costs.

The long life and energy-saving qualities of LED lighting means that any business can save money by upgrading their incandescent and halogen lights thanks to their long lifespan and energy efficiency.

LED lights use 50% less electricity than incandescent, fluorescent and halogen options. When you consider how well-lit factory spaces need to be, and how long the lights have to stay on for a safe working environment, substantial savings can be made.

LEDs can also direct light to specific areas providing an additional reduction in wasted light and energy.

Commercial EPCs

When we assess commercial properties for an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), landlords are provided with a recommendation how to make their premises more energy efficient. Commercial buildings with poor ratings can really benefit from changing over to LED lights which will frequently result in a substantial improvement to their energy-efficient valuation, as lighting is one of the highest energy consumers.

LED strip lights

Environmentally friendly and sustainable

Lighting can account for up to 40% of total electricity costs, particularly if you are running a large storage unit such as a warehouse.

The single most significant saving a landlord or business owner can make to their electricity expenditure is generally a move to new energy-efficient commercial LED lighting.

For certain businesses, 40% grant funding is available through LoCASE towards the installation of energy efficiency measures. The grant can contribute to materials, equipment or installation.

The grants are available until 2023 across the south, including East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Surrey, Kent, Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester, Essex and the Isle of Wight.

  • Decreased overall power costs
  • LED lights have a much longer life span
  • Much lower maintenance
  • Better energy efficiency
  • Higher brightness
  • Better reliability
  • Directional lighting
  • Exceptional colour range

Although there are some initial high up-front costs to replace your existing lighting systems, taking advantage of available business grants while they are available, will also reduce your project costs.

Benefits to manufacturers

There are many physical ailments associated with poor lighting in factories, from migraines to eyestrain. Changing to LED lighting will improve the mood of your workforce, extend wakefulness, and improve productivity.

Lighting is an essential element in the workplace, and LED lighting provides control over colour temperature, and its wavelength has a quality akin to natural sunlight. This, in turn, will improve the energy levels of your workforce.

Positive results have seen manufacturers operate more safely, and more efficiently, ultimately producing better products and generating higher revenue. A tremendous benefit all round.

Building Energy Management Systems

BeMS is a computerised way of monitoring and managing a building’s performance to make it smarter and more efficient.

Managing the performance of your heating, lighting, security, air-conditioning, and ventilation gives you total control over the building’s environment. Different systems can be co-ordinated, and close monitoring will reduce your energy consumption further.

Building Energy Management Systems can be password protected, remote-controlled and pre-programmed for bank holidays.

If you would like to talk further about BeMS, we can supply you with further information.

EPC for non-domestic properties – all you need to know

What is an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

An EPC for a non-domestic property will show the energy performance of the building, and its grade between A+ to G (A+ being the most efficient).

Properties are assessed on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) likely to be emitted, from under 0 (which is net-zero) to over 150 (the least efficient). Properties are scored on this amount.

There are 5 main sections to a non-domestic EPC. These will show:

  1. The energy efficiency rating for your commercial building.
  2. How the property compares to others.
  3. A breakdown of the property’s energy performance.
  4. A report with recommendations to improve the property’s efficiency. Each recommendation will show a low/medium/high impact of the change in relation to the property’s carbon emissions.
  5. Details of the Energy Assessor who produce the EPC and their accreditation body.

How is the EPC rating calculated?

We examine the following:

  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Ventilation
  • Activities in zones
  • Building construction
  • Lighting

A assessment is made, and a rating calculated on specialist software.

Letting or selling a commercial property

When you sell, let or build a commercial property, it is a legal requirement to have a valid EPC. An EPC is valid for 10 years. When properties are let, there are minimum energy efficiency standards. These are expected to increase in the future.

Where to find a copy of your property’s EPC

All properties with an EPC in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have an EPC registered with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Energy Performance of Buildings Central Register. If your property is in Scotland, you can find a copy on the Scottish Energy Performance Certificate Register, or the Energy Saving Trust’s website.

Do you need a non-domestic EPC?

If you need an Assessor to undertake a non-domestic (commercial) EPC, we are registered Assessors with Elmhurst Energy. The Elmhurst Quality Promise ensures that all members are trained and qualified, audited, fully insured and compliant with the latest regulations and standards.

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)

Check your leases for Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES)

Most of us are now familiar with the minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) which came into effect in April 2018 and stated that new tenancy agreements and renewals (other than some HMOs such as bedsits) must have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E or above.

In April 2020, the standards were extended to cover all relevant properties, even those that had no change of tenancy.

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards extension will cover all leases and non-domestic properties from April 2023

From 1 April 2023, the regulations will apply to all privately rented property in the scope of the regulations, including where a lease is already in place and the property occupied.

These standards are likely to be raised again to a ‘D’ rating by 2025 and a ‘C’ by 2030.

Landlords of non-domestic properties should protect the value of their assets with early assessments

From 1 April 2023, all non-domestic property types are included in this scope, and this will have significant implications for landlords, and for occupiers who wish to assign or sublet space, as this will affect the marketability of the property and rent reviews for properties.

To avoid a property becoming unrentable in the future, take advantage of any energy efficiency improvements you can make now as part of an on-going maintenance and renewal programme. Some of these improvement works could take a significant period of time to complete.

Planning now can save you time and costs, especially if the building is currently occupied, as any energy improvements that need to be undertaken could cause disruptions to current tenants.

Financial penalties for non-compliance could be as much as £150,000, according to Elmhurst Energy, the UK’s largest energy assessment accreditation scheme.

How can we help?

You may think we are working ahead of ourselves but if your commercial property does not have an EPC, or has a rating of an F or G, it would be worthwhile having a new assessment which would give you time to make any necessary improvements. This is especially important if you have a large portfolio of properties or if you rent large properties.

Our consultants can assess your properties and provide a report on how to improve your energy efficiency. Our comprehensive reports, experience and the professional toolkits we use are an excellent source of information to support any challenges you might have in finding ways to increase your buildings’ energy efficiency rating.

The benefits for more efficient buildings are obvious, and office occupiers should also consider carefully what works might be necessary during their lease term and how this could impact on the use of the premises.

If you would like more information, please get in touch on 01273 458484 or use our contact form.

New Look EPC register and Energy Certificates

The Government has launched a new EPC register and Energy Certificates.

Today, the Government is launching a new Central EPC Register for the Energy Performance of Buildings for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This will make a difference to how Energy Assessors work, and will also affect estate agents, solicitors, building control bodies and other organisations and companies who receive Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) or Display Energy Certificates (DECs).

The register is changing because the government has made a decision to bring it ‘in-house’ following the completion of their contract with Landmark. The new register has been launched by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and will consolidate both domestic and non-domestic EPCs into one single location.

We are expecting the Government’s user experience to be similar to their other .gov websites with a view to engaging building owners to use the register to obtain their Energy Certificates and further information. We are hoping we can pass on a ‘weblink’ to customers to connect them directly to the new website.

The way we work, as Energy Assessors, will change slightly, however, the new Energy Certificate formats are not very different from the old ones. These changes will ensure that energy certificates will remain fit for purpose and the government will clearly own and control registrations.

Since writing the above we have already undertaken some new EPCs and thought you would be interested in seeing the new format. Here is an example of a certificate and a recommendation report.

If you would like any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01273 458484.

What is a Commercial EPC?

A Commercial Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is an energy survey that defines the energy efficiency of a building or commercial premises. The ratings for a commercial EPC start at G, the least energy-efficient evaluation, and go up to A, for a building which is the most efficient.

Across the country, there is a wide range of commercial premises from offices housed in Victorian and Georgian buildings to warehouses that are poor when it comes to energy efficiency.

Any premises built recently comply with stringent standards. Our job is very varied and interesting as we survey all kinds of properties from small corner shops to large manufacturing units and public buildings.

Why do I need an EPC?

EPCs were initially introduced by a European Directive (Directive 2002/91/EC – EPBD) to increase efficiency across all member states. 

Like all other countries across the world, energy consumption is increasing, as are CO2 emissions. The challenge remains to reduce harmful emissions that are a by-product of energy production and to ensure, in the medium and long-term, that our energy supplies are secure and viable.

EPCs were introduced as a method of assessing the energy performance of buildings in particular; heating, cooling and ventilation. 

The set of standards provide a minimum for new buildings and improvements to large buildings. Energy Performance Certificates show the current level of performance of a building and, for public buildings, these certificates (DECs) have to be displayed. 

EPC improvements

The certificates include suggested improvements for energy efficiency on insulation, heating, lighting, ventilation and cooling systems. They also raise awareness for the occupier of the building and alert the landlords to the energy efficiency of their properties.

Do I need a commercial EPC?

If you rent or sell commercial premises or, if the property has been recently constructed, then an EPC is a legal requirement. The EPC will provide the tenant, or prospective buyer, with updated information on the energy efficiency of the premises.

How long does a commercial EPC last?

A commercial EPC is valid for ten years from the time when it is registered. Any new EPC would replace the original, and buildings can only have one valid EPC. 

If the property is updated or has a significant change, ie an extension, changes to the fabric or other modifications, a new EPC should be produced.

The reasons a Commercial EPC is not required

When the building is a non-public existing building and not exchanging ownership or occupancy.

If the property is primarily used as a place of worship

When the building is a temporary structure with a lifespan of less than two years.

If the building is a barn or agricultural building with no HVAC system, it could be exempt.

Standalone buildings with a floor area of less than 50 square metres

Protected buildings with a designated environmental or historical status.

The benefits of having a commercial EPC

The domestic market and the commercial market are now assessed more so than in the past. This increased transparency makes it easier to compare properties.

With rising energy prices, the costs of running a building are considerable, and therefore making sure your premises have a good energy rating is likely to place you in a better position when leases come up for renewing or, when renting your buildings.

Commercial buildings are more energy-hungry during the day as there are more machines to run and ventilation to consider. It is vital, therefore, to know how well your properties are performing, especially in a competitive area where business rates and rent are high.

Do you need a Commercial EPC?

If you would like to talk further, please contact us for details. Prices start at £150 including the Lodgement Fee but will vary dependent upon the size of your building and number of zones.

Fill in our short form or call us on 01273 458484

How we produce Commercial EPCs

Firstly, there are three types of Commercial (Non-Domestic) EPCs for three different building levels.

EPC for level 3 building

A level 3 EPC is a simple property with basic heating or air conditioning. This would typically be your High Street shop with domestic use above or Office or Warehouse.

EPC for level 4 building

A level 4 EPC would be required for a premise with a more complicated air-conditioning system, such as heat recovery and air handling units. This would include newer large office buildings with climate control and any other building with air-conditioning.

EPC for level 5 building

A level 5 EPC assessment is for a more complex building that would require special modelling software to determine the energy rating. This building might include a modern shopping centre or football stadium or a large City Hall or airport terminal. 

Commercial EPCs produce a building emissions rate (BER), based on the property’s fabric and installed business services. The BER could be compared to the target emission rate (TER), which would be the rate if the property was constructed to current buildings regulations.

An EPC does not take into account how energy is used. For example, if the owners don’t heat and light the property to a great extent, the energy bills may be very low. This is not reflected in the rating. 

In fact, the higher the BER relative to the TER, the higher the CO2 emissions and the lower the overall EPC rating. A is the best and G is the worst rating.

How is an EPC carried out?

As qualified assessors, we would visit the property and undertake a physical inspection of all the critical components including, building fabric, business services, lighting, heating and air-conditioning.

We would review any changes that might have happened to, or in, the building since the last EPC was conducted. 

We look at activities for each part of the property, and these might be sub-divided, grouped and measured in zones. All of this information and measurements are recorded and assessed in accordance with the overall size of the building.

Occasionally, the information is not entirely accurate, and we do seek out documentation from building inspectors and the person commissioning the EPC. Scale Floor Plans are always useful.

We might ask for planning reports to show extensions and alterations; serial numbers for heating, ventilation and cooling systems and any additional information on renewables.

As assessors, if the information is not provided and cannot be evidenced, we have to revert to a ‘default’ set of values, which suppresses the rating. 

If we are given with the information, we can override those values and produce a better-rated EPC.

Qualified Commercial EPC Assessors

Most Commercial EPCs are for Level 3 and Level 4 buildings recognised as the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM). The Dynamic Simulation Model (DSM) is applied for Level 5 buildings.

Assessors need to have the correct level of qualification to produce reports, ie a Level 4 Assessor can produce reports for Level 3 and 4 but not for Level 5.

All of the collected data is entered into the software to produce the EPC certificate and a separate Recommendations Report. These documents are recorded on the EPC Register.

Recommendation Reports

As Assessors, we produce reports to the best of our judgement, taking into account all activities, the building, the services and long-term plans. The recommendation report shows ways in which a building’s energy efficiency can be improved; the building’s fabric and construction have the most significant bearing on the rating, followed by building services and renewables.

When an EPC is produced, you will receive short-term, medium-term and long-term recommendations and improvement measures. These give additional value for intended users and highlight a considerable number of energy efficiency improvements.

How do I know if my EPC is valid?

When a Commercial EPC is recorded with the registry, it produces an RRN number at the top right-hand corner of the certificate. This number can be searched for by a prospective buyer or occupier on the non-domestic registry website.

If an assessor sends an EPC certificate without an RRN number, then the certificate has not been recorded, and it may be a matter for building control. 

Could an agent or vendor get away with not having a Commercial EPC?

Local building control officers and new build inspectors, as well as local authority planners, perform checks for EPCs when premises change hands or when they are first sold. 

Inspection certificates have to be in place for air-conditioning units above 12kWs and reviewed every five years. 

Copies of Commercial EPCs and air-conditioning reports can be requested, and the responsible person has seven days to produce the document once the enforcement agencies have started an investigation. The penalty for failing to provide a valid commercial EPC is fixed in most cases at 12.5% of the rateable value of the building. 

Fines between £500 and £5000 are issued.

If you are interested in booking an EPC for your business or commercial premises, please get in touch on 01273 458484 or use our contact form 

How to improve an EPC rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’.

If, when we have assessed a building, the EPC rating is only an ‘F’ or ‘G’, the building becomes unlawful to let. This rating is bad news to a Landlord as it means there will be no income until the building has been improved.

Equally, if the building’s Freehold was being Sold, then the buyer would not be able to raise finance, as technically, the building would not be able to produce an income to satisfy a Lender.

We recently carried out an EPC on a third-floor office suite, and unfortunately, the result was an’ F’ Rating. However, we were able to remodel the building in our software with different scenarios involving heating and lighting, to show the Landlord the most cost-effective way to improve the suite to an acceptable rating.

With being able to remodel the building in this way, the Landlord chose that the best and cheapest option, which was to replace some of the lighting with LED units. This work showed that with minimal cost, the EPC would be improved to an ‘E’ rating. We instructed an electrician to provide a schedule of works to the client.

Please contact us for an EPC assessment and find out how we can help you improve your EPC rating.

Commercial EPC inspections during the lockdown

Skyline Energy Assessors have been able to carry out a limited number of EPC site visits during Lockdown, by adhering to Safe Distancing and PPE. These visits have been in vacant or unstaffed commercial premises.

To give an idea of the variety of different usage buildings that we see, I have mentioned them below.

EPC 4 commercial properties

We carried out an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) on a wide range of different premises during the lockdown in April, these ranged from small Retail Units in Richmond, Surrey and Brighton. The buildings were unoccupied and new leases were being granted. We also carried out EPC, at 9 pm in the evening to ensure safe distancing, on a Service Station/Convenience Store near Brighton.

We have also inspected two industrial storage/workshop units in Newhaven and a Trade Counter warehouse in Brighton.

All of the above received acceptable EPC Ratings of ‘E’ or above.

Home moving: Government guidelines during the COVID-19 crisis

In the current COVID-19 situation it is good to have guidance issued to all stakeholders in the housing sector. The recommendations are that ‘if you can delay your home sale then you should’ and owners should ‘delay placing homes on the market’.

These guidelines are particularly relevant to ourselves, as Energy Assessors and Surveyors and especially for home buyers, renters, homeowners and property agents.

As accredited members of Elmhurst Energy, leading experts in the field, we recommend using this link to read further on the latest news and advice from the government.

If you are home moving, we can continue to carry out EPCs by maintaining a safe 2-metre distance from others, making sure we wear gloves and to wash our hands when required. Commercial EPCs can still be undertaken if the premises are vacant.