Editor: All this talk about reviewing EPCs is great – but you don’t need an ‘A’ to be net zero carbon; buildings could be net zero carbon with only a ’C’ rating.

EPC dial

Source: Shutterstock / Olivier Le Moal

The BPF’s call on government to accelerate the decarbonisation of real estate and support the UK’s ambitious net zero carbon targets should be welcomed. But the suggestion this could be in part achieved by linking business rates relief to a building’s EPC rating is one we must think about carefully.

It puts a lot of stock in improving EPC ratings and, indeed, there has been much made of the new legislation, which requires commercial buildings to have a minimum ‘B’ rating and residential minimum ‘C’ by 2030. But how far will this help developers and asset owners reach their net zero goals?

EPCs are calculated in an abstract way using set values that cannot be changed, providing a snapshot of a building’s energy output at the time of certification. Changes that can substantially improve a building’s carbon emissions will not necessarily improve the rating, such as installing LED lighting or solar panels. These can help achieve operational carbon zero, but it might only achieve EPC ‘C’.

So, you might think by designing to compliance, you’re protecting the planet and making in-roads into your corporate net zero carbon commitments, but your building having a good EPC rating doesn’t mean it is operating as carbon neutral.

This is part of the problem: we need buildings to be designed to address the climate emergency, rather than to meet evolving legislation. EPCs are blunt instruments in what is a very large toolbox, and we should recognise their limitations. They should be a starting point to understand the environmental problems we’re facing, providing useful data and insight about how we can improve the operation of buildings.

The industry needs to be smarter about how it uses the rating system to deliver better, more sustainable solutions.

At Hydrock, we create bespoke digital twins of buildings that model energy use in a way that evolves the outdated methodology used to calculate EPCs. We develop strategies that allow our clients to understand their building stock and shift away from designing for compliance to deliver buildings that will be both energy-efficient and carbon-neutral. That’s the ultimate goal, so let’s change the conversation.

Annie Marston, associate of building performance engineering, Hydrock