Workplace design specialist Space Solutions is seeing a marked increase in the number of businesses taking steps to comply with new green ratings for commercial premises.
However, the firm's Environmental Consultant Rhona Turnbull says the majority of business premises owners are still unclear about the legal requirement for Energy Performance Certificates (EPC).
Now she has urged companies to do their homework on the new legislation – or risk facing costly delays when trying to sell or rent properties, as well as fines.
Since January demand for the service has increased dramatically as more and more businesses rush to comply with new laws which state most commercial premises must have an EPC at the point of sale or lease.
Rhona recently bolstered her existing environmental credentials by qualifying as a certified EPC Assessor and added: “The EPC system is in its infancy, so there is still a lot confusion even among property professionals about exactly how it works. We can guide people through this.
“Put simply it is an A-G rating of how well a building performs in environmental terms, very like the rating you get when buying a new fridge or a washing machine.
“When the ratings first came out for white goods, people didn't pay much attention. Now you can't buy a washing machine or a fridge without a rating and most customers want to be assured what they are buying is as environmentally friendly as possible.
“Typically people are looking for lower running costs and a good rating can be an indicator of this, something which will apply even more so to buildings.”
From January a seven-day grace period was available for businesses to attain an EPC during commercial property transactions. From April 1 that buffer period disappeared and those without EPCs could face fines.
Rhona added: “Therefore now is the ideal time for companies to be more proactive in getting their premises assessed.”
Rhona urged workplace owners to act swiftly, particularly if they may be selling or letting their premises. Failure to have an EPC in time could cause a deal to collapse because it is now a legal requirement for any such transaction.
She added: “To have a sale or potential rental deal fall through because of a lack of an EPC certificate could be extremely costly. We've already had a number of clients come to us needing an EPC at very short notice.”
While achieving a rating is the first priority for most businesses, Rhona says that increasingly companies will look to improve their rating and that Space Solutions expertise in workplace design enables them to do this, even before issuing the EPC.
Rhona added: “The whole idea is that over time, if someone is looking for a new office or workplace, they will use the EPC rating to help make their decision.
“If someone is looking at two similar premises and one has a higher EPC rating not only is that the better choice for their green credentials, there will also be real financial savings from having a more energy-efficient building.
“The obvious next step will be when firms don't just want to comply, but want to improve to get a better rating and enjoy the benefits that will bring to their business and to the environment.”
Depending on size and complexity of commercial premises an assessment can take from 1-7 days and typically may cost £300 to £1000. Rhona, who was awarded EPC Assessor status by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) this year, is now carrying out at least two assessments per week.
On top of its expertise in designing, refurbishing and relocating workplaces, Space Solutions offers services advising companies how to benefit from making their premises more sustainable. The firm can help companies to significantly reduce overheads by improving environmental efficiencies.
Following the introduction of legislation at the beginning of January, all non-domestic premises, including offices over 50m2 and warehouses, must have an EPC at the time of sale or lease.
Space Solutions operates UK-wide to design, build, fit out, refurbish and relocate modern and productive business environments. It has 140 staff and bases in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Peterborough.