DEC Legislation Changes – Are we missing a trick?

On January 9th 2013, the floor area threshold for DECs was dropped for all public buildings over 1000m2 to include buildings between 500m2 – 999m2. However unlike the DECs for the larger buildings, DECs and Recommendation Reports for this new threshold would be valid for 10 years, not 1 year.

Certificates for the new area threshold are valid for 10 years in England and Wales, certificates in Northern Ireland for buildings with a floor area between 500m2 – 999m2 will be valid for 1 year like all other buildings which require DECs.

When the floor area threshold was reduced to 500m2, the opportunity to increase the value of DECs and Recommendation Reports was missed, by allowing smaller sites to have certificates based on 1 year’s consumption to be valid for 10 years. Whilst Northern Ireland has set the trend, the UK and Wales continue to lag behind.

A DEC and their associated Recommendation Reports can be incredibly beneficial tools if used properly, however in my opinion their value has been watered down over the past couple of years, due to a number of factors:

  • Trading Standards have not as yet been seen to be fulfilling their responsibility to ensure all public buildings have an up-to-date DECs displayed in a prominent place. To the best of my knowledge Trading Standards have yet to warn/fine any building occupier which does not have a DEC.
  • This has led to a number of building occupants waiting to renew their expired DEC or even have one produced; it is not unusual for a certificate to be expired for more than 3-6 months before the building occupier will provide the Energy Assessor all their consumption data. In my opinion, if Trading Standards carried out site inspections, it is less likely that sites would allow their certificates to expire.
  • 10 year expiry on all DEC certificates with a floor area less than 1001m2. How can a certificate which is valid for 10 years which is based on 1 year’s consumption data provide any value? I understand how Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) can be valid for 10 years as they are after all based on the building design, fabric, use, etc.; however a DEC is based on the energy use of the previous year against its benchmark and therefore consumption will differ from year to year.
  • The work of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). When the new 10 year DECs came into place, no changes were made to ORCalc, although a DEC produced was valid for 10 years, the pdf and xml certificates created showed expiry in 1 year. This has caused confusion and concern; although this has now been fixed in the pdfs by downloading the file from the ndepc register, unfortunately at present it would seem the software bug still remains.
  • When the new Government coalition came into place, dramatic cuts were made; local councils saw their government income decrease overnight, these cuts continue to this day. With budgets cut, public buildings including schools have had to make significant changes, reduce staff and resources.
  • Schools make up a significant proportion of the DECs which TEAM produce. In the past, local councils have previously been responsible for running schools, they have now reduced their responsibilities and passed them back to schools themselves, in many cases it is not always clear who is responsible for compliance with legislation.
  • On the 20th of December 2013 accreditation bodies informed their members that Landmark had updated their website; now all downloaded DECs (pdfs) and Recommendation Reports (pdfs) for floor areas between 500m2 – 1000m2 would show that they are valid for 10 years. The table (Table A) showing DEC Expiry and RR Expiry dates also showed (alarmingly) that all Recommendation Reports regardless of floor area would now been valid for 10 years instead of 7 years (in the case of larger sites).

In 2015 when the floor area threshold drops to 250m2, will the UK change their mind and reduce the validity period? Will they include private companies (who account for a large proportion of UK energy use) as most energy surveyors hoped in 2013?

What we need in the UK is more Energy Managers who recognise and can enforce the benefits of DECs and Recommendation Reports, who renew their DECs annually regardless of floor area. If a few start to do this, and then maybe others will follow and have the information needed to push and improve efficiency, making their achievements clear to the British general public.

At TEAM we believe that we are in an ideal place to help building occupiers with the production of DECs and Recommendation Reports. Our team of accredited Energy Assessors have produced more than 9000 certificates for buildings throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland for councils, emergency services, leisure centres, offices and more.

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