The EU energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) came into force on 4 January 2003 and places a number of obligations on Member States in respect of the energy efficiency of buildings. The EU has estimated that energy use in residential, commercial and public buildings accounts for more than 40 per cent of the total energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions across Europe, and views the directive as part of its response to implement its obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

The EPBD should have been implemented in full by 4 January 2006, but is only being partially implemented in the UK this month. The UK has derogated from its obligations under the EPBD in respect of energy performance certification and inspection requirements, to allow time for sufficient numbers of properly accredited experts to be identified. Fortunately, this is permitted by the EPBD, which makes provision for implementation to be delayed for this purpose until January 2009.

Key elements of the Directive

There are five key areas the EPBD addresses and which affect residential, commercial and public buildings. The directive requires:-


  • The creation of a general methodology for calculating the energy performance of buildings, which must include aspects such as the thermal characteristics of the building, heating and water supply, including insulation characteristics, air conditioning and ventilation, and may include a C02 emissions indicator. It is expected that there will be a UK-wide methodology. (Article 3)

Minimum Standards

  • The setting of minimum standards on energy performance, which are based on this methodology, for new buildings and certain existing buildings, of more than 1000 sq m, when they are renovated. The minimum requirements must be reviewed every five years. (Article 4)

Improvement in Efficiency

  • Where new buildings over 1000 sq m are constructed, the following should be taken into consideration to improve efficiency - decentralised energy supply systems based on renewable energy, e.g PV cladding or site located wind turbine; combined heat and power; district or block heating or cooling; and heat pumps. Existing buildings over 1000 sq m must have their energy performance improved whenever they are substantially renovated. (Articles 5 and 6)

Energy Performance Certification

  • The introduction of an energy performance certificate to be made available when a building is first built, sold or leased, showing how energy efficient it is. Certificates must also give an indication of how this rating can be improved, and must be prominently displayed in large public buildings. (Article 7)

Inspection and Assessment

  • The regular inspection and assessment of the energy efficiency of air-conditioning systems and boilers. (Articles 8 and 9)

Implementation in Scotland

Although energy matters are generally reserved to Westminster, building legislation and promotion of energy efficiency are devolved, and implementation in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Building Standards Agency. However, a degree of harmonisation is anticipated across the UK. Many of the requirements of the EPBD are already fulfilled by the building standards system, however there are a number of requirements which will need to be introduced. These include the energy performance certification of buildings and the inspection of boilers and air-conditioning systems.

Much of the preparatory work has been undertaken by the SBSA, and a number of research projects are underway and will be completed during 2006. The SBSA has produced an Implementation Circular, which considers the 17 mandatory Articles of the EPBD and identifies how each of them will be addressed and whether or not more work is required. The text of this Circular will be further developed and in the meantime is to be treated as a work in progress. There will be consultation on any changes necessary to the building procedure regulations and associated guidance.

Timetable for Implementation

The EPBD will be implemented in Scotland as an integral part of the new building standards system, introduced by the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, which has been in force since 1 May 2005. This will be done in a series of stages. The SBSA intends to update the Circular throughout this process. According to the latest information from the SBSA, the intention is that Articles 3, 4, 5 and 6 will be implemented in April 2006 to align with the rest of the UK, and Articles 7, 8 and 9 will be implemented on a roll-out basis as soon as it is feasible, leading to full implementation in 2009. The SBSA is still in the process of developing its implementation strategy, and a formal public consultation on the proposals will commence in March 2006 and last for twelve weeks.

The Implementation Circular is available from the SBSA website at

The full text of the EPBD is available from the Official Journal of the European Communities at

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