Having discussed EPC ratings and the validity of the EPC certificate in my previous blog, I will now look into the recommendations for enhancing this data. It is important that government ensures that EPCs are fit for purpose and able to deliver the recommendations and accuracy needed for them to be used across this wide range of policies and as decision making tools for homeowners.
EPCs: Enhancing the use of data to give robust recommendations
When assessing an existing property and its performance any subsequent recommendations are based on a site visit looking primarily at energy performance. An assessor may not have access to drawings, specifications or developer statements and will often need to make assumptions about the property, which can lead to inaccurate ratings.
Considerable useful data and information can be gathered during an assessment, (much of which could be useful for retrofit planning and improving recommendations), but much of what is gathered is not currently logged with the EPC report and is, therefore, lost. A future re-assessor will usually have to start from scratch when a fresh EPC is required, adding time to the process and potentially losing important information. The cost and disruption of reassessment may even discourage homeowners from updating their EPCs when retrofits are carried out.
Making it easier to update the underlying data, rather than starting over each time, would help to ensure that EPCs are kept current and representative of the property. In addition to the data collected during a site visit, the use of smart technology and occupant supplied information could be considered; this might allow for a better understanding of the buildings condition and maintenance needs and allow for better recommendations for improvements to be developed.
EPCs should encourage a whole house approach to retrofit. Focusing on a single measure can lead to unintended consequences and poor outcomes for the consumer. Recommendations should be linked to a retrofit plan, which highlights the interactions between different measures. For example, a homeowner needs to ensure that their property is adequately ventilated when improving the building fabric and ensure that junctions between elements are considered. There is a lot more to appropriate retrofit than just considering one element at a time i.e. just considering insulation or the heating system. Heritage, context and constraints, condition and maintenance needs, moisture and ventilation are also all important and need to be carefully considered when making improvements to the aforementioned elements. If the EPC is to be used as a retrofit tool to influence consumer decisions, these additional areas must be considered.