Energy ratings get a green light

SO MUCH legislation has been thrown at the property market in recent years that my immediate reaction to energy performance certificates was to wonder what we were being hit with this time.

But in this case the legislators deserve a commendation rather than our condemnation because this move – for once – was actually a step in the right direction.

The reports cost approximately £100 to commission and are available from a number of designated sources.

Each property is given an energy efficiency rating and an environmental impact () rating from one to 100, the latter being the most positive. Crucially, the report is complemented by a potential rating – how high a figure the property could achieve if improvements were to be carried out, given its age, method of construction and possibilities for improvement of heating and insulation.

This is accompanied by a range of measures which could improve the rating of the property, such as increased insulation, draught-proof single glazed windows and low energy lighting.

On balance the introduction of the EPC is a positive move for society in general, given that it will encourage energy efficiency and, by implication, reduce carbon output. But what effect will it have on the property market?

Well, unlike the controversial home reports, EPCs will not do any harm, if you can set aside the £100 cost to every seller or landlord actively letting to tenants. However, it will alter the attitudes of buyers and tenants.

At the upper end of the market – in Edinburgh's New Town or Glasgow's Kelvinside, for example – EPCs are likely to have little or no effect. With the best will in the world, there is only so much one can do to improve the energy efficiency of period homes without completely destroying their character.

It appears that properties built since 1930 present more opportunities for improving energy efficiency, so the effect of EPCs may be most felt in the market for housing built during the latter half of the 20th century, up to when building regulations changed in the 1980s.

Current new-build housing stock is constructed to standards that provide high levels of energy efficiency. This means EPCs may offer something of a lifeline for new-build flats on the Leith Waterfront and Glasgow Harbour, which have taken a hammering from falling capital values, because they should score heavily in terms of EPCs.

People will still – as they always have done – base their choice of housing on location but once that has been made, from now on their final decision could depend on which property has the best, or potentially the best, energy efficiency rating.

• David Alexander is sole proprietor of D J Alexander, the Edinburgh- and Glasgow-based rental and estate agency.

THE SCOTSMAN, 21 March 2009