Buildings are a key source of energy use and carbon emissions, but buildings with a low EPC rating are contributing far more than they should be. Therefore, MEES is vital in helping the government reach their aim of achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.
MEES legislation is changing again in April this year, but what is MEES, when are the changes happening, how can you stay ahead of MEES and why is it so important?
What are MEES? – What
MEES stand for minimum energy efficiency standards and refers to the minimum EPC rating that a building must have by law. MEES were put in place to help UK rented properties become more efficient, which in turn will help the government reach net zero targets.
Legislation – When
Legislation on MEES is changing in 2023. Below is the timeline of legislation and a brief overview of what is changing:
April 2018 – Non-domestic properties must have an EPC rating of E or higher before starting a new lease.
April 2020 – Legislation now applied to all residential privately rented property before starting a new lease.
In this time, if you had an existing lease with an EPC rating of E or below, you were not breaking MEES legislation. However, you should be thinking ahead and making any refurbishments ready for new legislation.
April 2023 – MEES legislation will extend to include ALL leases – new and existing. This means that your property can’t have an EPC rating of below an E, even if you have an existing tenant.
April 2027 (expected) – All non-domestic properties must have an EPC rating of C or higher.
April 2030 (expected) – All non-domestic properties must have an EPC rating of B of higher.
Breaking of MEES legislation can result in heavy fines. It is important that everyone understands the upcoming changes, and how to bring their property up to standard in time.
Improving your EPC rating – How
There are a few key areas that can be improved to help gain a better EPC rating:
Insulation –One of the most common recommendations is to install cavity wall insulation, as roughly a third of all heat is lost through uninsulated walls.
Windows– Ensuring all windows are either double or triple glazed will help retain heat within your property.
Air Tightness– Thermographic studies can help establish where a building is losing heat and where to make improvements. It is also important to ensure that all windows and doors are fitted correctly and are tight, so heat does not escape.
Energy supply– Another way to improve EPC ratings is for a building to use renewable energy sources or even to produce some of its own energy, for example by using solar panels, air source heat pumps and connection to district heat networks.
Lighting– Lighting is another key area that can greatly improve your EPC rating. Changes could include switching to low energy LED light fittings, incorporation of daylight dimming controls so that artificial lighting is reduced where good natural light is available, as well as the installation of new lighting controls including PIR motion sensors so that lighting is only switched on in occupied spaces that are in use.
Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) – Introducing a more sustainable HVAC system will improve your EPC rating. Examples include ground and air source heat pumps, use of hybrid VRF air conditioning systems and implementing heat recovery systems. Specifying AC systems that utilise refrigerant gases with a lower global warming potential or a lower quantity of refrigerant gas.
It isn’t always easy in practice to improve your EPC rating. Each building is different and needs to be assessed independently, in order to identify the most appropriate energy performance improvement pathway. There is no “one size fits all”. There will be numerous different challenges presented by the characteristics of each building or estate:
Glazing– Buildings with significant areas of glazing may present challenges when looking to improve its EPC rating due to the increased heat loss via glass and the limited scope for improving insulation.
Disruption – The 2023 legislation which requires a minimum EPC rating of E, even if you have an existing tenant, means that works will have to be carried out with the building occupied. Communication between the landlord and tenants to work out a programme of works that is less disruptive is necessary, but this may be tricky if you have multiple occupants. There is also then the complex discussion to determine who pays for the EPC improvement works – landlord, tenant or contributions from both?
Historic buildings- It might not be feasible to improve the energy performance of some historic buildings without adversely affecting the building’s features of historical or architectural value. In this scenario, if the building is listed, then it might be possible for the landlord to get a dispensation against MEES.
Financial viability- The cost of some EPC improvement works might simply be unviable. Landlords will need to scrutinise the payback period for certain works as there may be scope for dispensation along similar lines as above (listed buildings).
What are the benefits of a higher EPC rating?
MEES mean that energy efficiency is a must. Aside from the Building Regulations and any specific Planning Consent Conditions, MEES are the only legislative requirements that will apply to require energy performance improvements to existing buildings. There are other benefits to having a high EPC rating, beyond the legal minimum requirements.
By aiming for a high rating now, it keeps you on top of any future legislation and requirements. The government may announce higher MEES down the line or change the way EPC ratings are calculated. Gaining a high EPC rating now will keep you one step ahead. The legislative change to achieve a minimum EPC Rating of “B” by 2030 is expected to be ratified imminently. Buildings that fall short of this are likely to become “stranded assets” with significant reduction to their investment value or in some extreme cases they might be very difficult to sell even at heavily discounted price.
Properties with a higher EPC rating are a more competitive, future proof and valuable asset. Recent studies suggest that high EPC ratings are attractive to renters and are therefore less likely to sit empty. Many medium to large corporate occupiers are already stipulating a number of minimum Sustainability requirements. Not just a minimum level of energy performance but other requirements such as green travel (cycle facilities, EV car charging, shower facilities), access to external amenities such as gardens or terraces, incorporation of biophilia and many other potential improvements that support the health and wellbeing of a building’s occupants.
MEES also benefit the tenants, who are the ones paying the energy bills, which may be more costly than necessary due to renting an inefficient property. Everyone is feeling the effects of recent soaring energy prices and this is putting energy efficiency into much greater focus. A building that is more efficient and has much lower energy consumption will result in a tangible saving on overheads.
The key with MEES is to make sure you plan ahead. Trident are currently working with a number of our clients undertaking projects to assess the energy performance improvements that are required to their existing assets before 2030. This is not just being driven by MEES but also by our client’s own carbon reduction goals and (to put it simply!) “doing the right thing!”. Trident are passionate about playing our part in protecting the environment. We have the right skillset, knowledge and experience to take a leading role for our clients in terms of helping to improve their existing buildings.
See the below case study of a recent example where we improved the EPC rating from an E to a B
If you would like further information on the services we can provide in relation to MEES then please contact Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org .