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European energy legislation explainedMay 2010

Swamped by legislation? Confused about what regulation applies at any one time? BSRIA is working to unravel the spaghetti that is European energy legislation, as Gambi Chiang explains.

Building designers have long been required to jump through legislative hoops in the pursuit of planning permission. But the regulatory hoop-jumping has become Olympic standard - more challenging, more complicated and far more time-consuming. And there's always the fear that you'll miss something and end up being fined.

In the past, commercial building design engineers only needed to comply with the minimum requirements listed in the Non-Domestic Heating, Cooling and Ventilation Compliance Guide. Today, design engineers have to satisfy carbon emission targets, massage their designs through the Simplifed Building Energy Model (SBEM), meet the Target Emissions Rate (TER) and thereby obtain a good Energy Performance Certificate, comply with the planning regulations regulated by the local government, and find ways of unlocking finance from various government green energy schemes. Oh, and achieve BREEAM Excellent while they're at it.

Figure 1: The European Union's timeline for legislation. The UK's timeline for enhancing this legislation is in figure 2 below

Clients, designers and product suppliers are now swimming in European Directives, such as the EPBD1, ESD2 and RES3 (Figure 1). Not surprisingly, designers are starting to ask BSRIA for help with understanding these regulations and policies. Local legislation, voluntary certifications and various national and local government incentive schemes add to the burden.

To help out, BSRIA is studying the various European and national regulations to help people navigate their way through them (Figure 1). The logical place to start is national legislation, which has to implement the requirements of EU Directives. This is predominantly achieved through Part L of the Building Regulations, and the Approved Documents that underpin it.

Hoop one: Building Regulations

Part L supports two compliance guides covering domestic and non-domestic buildings. These compliance guides aim to provide detailed guidance for the installation of fixed building services in new and existing buildings. But even when all the chosen equipment and systems meet the minimum efficiency requirements, this doesn't mean the carbon dioxide emissions will be below the TER, as the systems need to have better efficiencies than the ones stated in the compliance guide. There is no indication how much better they need to be.

The original idea was to encourage engineers to select the best available technology. In reality, there are many constraints, not least of which is the project budget. This makes engineers' life more difficult.

The compliance guides not only list out the minimum efficiency requirements, but also make reference to many efficiency testing methods, and installation and controls requirements.

The compliance guides have recently been revised, and the final versions are due to be published in April 2010, to be in force from October 2010 (Figure 2 overleaf). At the time of writing, the draft documents require higher energy efficiency performance of some products. New sections are slated to cover pumps, micro-CHP, wind energy systems, photovoltaics, and lighting. Mechanical ventilation and comfort cooling will also be covered in the Domestic Building Services Compliance Guide.

The Non-domestic Building Services Compliance Guide will award heating efficiency credits for additional controls on boilers, warm air heaters, radiant heaters, domestic hot water systems, and heat pumps.

Figure 2: The UK's timetable for responding to European energy-related Directives

Hoop two: The local authority

Designers need to check with their local authority on local planning policies and regulations before they start designing. For example, the Merton Rule requires all new developments to generate at least 10 per cent of their energy from renewable sources. This is now part of national planning guidance.

Local planning policy can change quite often, and can be rigidly enforced. This means that design engineers are required to negotiate with local authorities on a project-by-project basis.

Hoop three: Top-up funding

All governments introduce incentives and grant schemes to promote low carbon development. One of the mature schemes in the UK is the Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) scheme. Products eligible for the allowance are published in an Energy Technology List (ETL), revised annually.

Public and charitable bodies can apply to the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (Phase 2), to fund the installation of micro-generation technologies. The products eligible for this funding are approved by the Micro-generation Certification Scheme (MCS). The Carbon Trust can also provide interest-free loans to help small and medium-sized enterprises acquire and install energy-efficient technologies.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently announced a feed-in tariff scheme for small-scale low carbon electricity generation. When it's introduced in April 2010, the feed-in tariffs will be aimed mainly at households and communities.

A scheme to promote heating from renewable sources, the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, will be introduced in April 2011. The DECC has issued the draft of the scheme for consultation.

Voluntary hoops

The BREEAM environmental assessment method and the Code for Sustainable Homes are the two commonly-used certification schemes used to improve sustainability. While currently voluntary, the public sector demands their use. For example, all government-funded schools and healthcare buildings must achieve BREEAM Excellent or Very Good.

Public sector housing is required to achieve at least Level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Different building types now have tailored BREEAM assessment schemes, such as healthcare, industrial, offices, retail, education and higher education. This is in addition to the requirements of the Building Regulations.

Incoming hoops

BSRIA's study of European legislation is ongoing, as the regulations are in a state of constant flux. The EPBD (known anecdotally as the recast of EPBD, or EPBD 2) has already been revised. The European Commission has submitted its proposals for Parliamentary comment.

The current draft of EPBD 2 suggests that the Commission is seeking to establish common principles for defining low and zero-carbon buildings, although Member States will be able to interpret the definition - in accordance with the Commission's principles - to suit national contexts. The Commission will also introduce a methodology to calculate the cost-optimal level of energy performance for buildings.

The Commission is working towards implementing EPBD 2 by 31 December 2010. This means that the revision of Part L proposed for 2013 will need to incorporate the changes.

A voluntary certificate, the Eco-Label for Buildings, is a European-wide scheme for assessing sustainability. A draft of the eco-label criteria has been issued to the UK construction industry bodies for comment.

The Renewable Energy Services Directive (RES) seeks to encourage Member States to promote heat from renewable energy sources. This Directive may well motivate future changes to the UK Building Regulations.

The current hot topic - the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) - will undoubtedly add more heat to the febrile market for energy-efficient buildings. The CRC will probably drive the adoption of automatic meter reading systems. Proof of performance will be needed to earn tradable carbon-credits.

So what about other countries? In Germany, the Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) regulates energy performance in buildings. EnEV 2009 requires energy demand to be reduced in new buildings by 30 per cent (up to 46 kWh/m2 per annum). The heat transmission factor (the U-value) has been tightened by 15 per cent. Germany also enacted its Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) which requires all new buildings to use renewable sources of energy for heating.

In Spain, the RITE (Regulations of the Thermal Installations on Buildings) will limit the air temperature of non-residential spaces for both new and existing buildings. At the end of 2010, internal conditions will be limited to a maximum of 21°C in winter and a minimum of 26°C in summer.

The requirements of the Eco-design of Energy-Using Products Directive (EuP) will set the minimum energy performance standards of a wide range of products to be sold in Europe, which includes boilers, water heaters and air conditioners.

The Directive has been renamed as Eco-design Requirements of Energy-Related Products Directive (ErP) to extend the product coverage to energy-related products such as windows, insulation materials, as well as some water-using products such as shower heads and taps.

You can be sure that more legislation, policies and schemes along these lines will appear soon. Are you fully prepared?

1 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
2 Energy End-use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive
3 The Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources Directive


BSRIA publishes an in depth market report EU energy legislation impacts on HVAC products.  For more information contact Tim Page:

T: 01344 465629