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Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) Regulations: How they will impact flexible workspace from April 2018

Scroll down for our MEES Management 10-Point Strategy


What I’m about to write will come as a great shock to many operators in the serviced and managed office industries: you may not be able to sign up clients for more than 6 months as of April next year. This is less than a year away!


Why is the flexible workspace market at risk?

As of April 1 2018 landlords are no longer able to lease out commercial office space in buildings with an F or G EPC rating unless a time-limited exemption applies, which must be registered on an Exemptions Register.

Many serviced and managed office providers thought that they were exempt from this rule as they are not the primary landlord, however this regulation applies to any tenancy agreement over 6 months and this can include sub-leases and agreements sometimes referred to by serviced operators as licenses (we’d recommend that you speak to your solicitors to determine if your “license” really is a license or a lease/tenancy). This creates something of a challenge for the serviced workspace sector. But they are not the only ones who are not aware of the legislation: in a recent survey by Property Week magazine, 32% of all respondents did not know what MEES was and how it would impact their business.

In a recent PropertyWeek survey, 32% of respondents still didn't know what MEES was and how it would impact their business.Click To Tweet

MEES represents a significant risk to companies looking to sub-let space, because they may be treated as a landlord and as a result must undergo the same process of due diligence as the superior landlord.


What about the rest of the market?

Outside of the serviced office sector, occupiers of all types of non-domestic property may struggle to sublet sub-standard space without undertaking improvement work, the benefit of which may ultimately revert to the superior landlord. And while assignments are not captured until 2023, sub-standard properties may become stigmatised by their poor EPC rating making this type of transaction difficult. Indeed, there are already occupiers, such as Government and large corporates that will not lease sub-standard space. As an example, EVORA was recently engaged to develop an EPC improvement strategy by a fund landlord that needed to obtain a C EPC rating to secure a Government department. This requirement for a C rated property goes far beyond the requirements of MEES, highlighting the growing importance of EPCs as a benchmark for predicted energy efficiency.

Landlords with E (or even in some cases D) rated properties may still be at risk because the EPC calculation is dynamic. The calculation methodology is linked to Part L of Building Regulations which deals with the conservation of fuel and power in new properties. Part L, like most of Building Regulations, is updated on a periodic basis and the minimum energy efficiency targets in Part L have to-date been strengthened with each successive iteration. This has impacted the EPC rating, and in particular the changes adopted in 2010 affected EPC ratings from 1 April 2011 onwards (the date on which EPC software was updated). In plain English, what this means is that an E rated property before 1 April 2011 if reassessed today is likely to be an F or G rated asset if nothing in the building has changed. This means that planned preventative maintenance and improvements will need to factor in these regulations.

Landlords beware: even your D or E rated properties may still be at risk from MEES regulations...Click To Tweet

Failure to comply with the regulations will result in fines of between £5,000 and £150,000. The enforcement authority may also impose a publication penalty. This means that the enforcement authority will publish some details of the landlord’s breach on a publicly accessible part of an Exemptions Register.


What actions can you take?

Here is The EVORA 10-point Strategy for Managing MEES (an image version is available at the bottom of this post):

  1. For landlords with multiple assets, such as funds or workspace providers, review how you store your data. This should be digitalised and in a central and accessible location
  2. Identify where there are gaps in the data (missing EPCs etc.) and identify those assets that are at risk by virtue of their (EPC) rating, capital or rental value and/or a lease or transactional event
  3. Consider the use of software such as EVORA’s highly versatile, market-leading platform, SIERA
  4. Use or involve CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) accredited assessors, or assessors that work for a recognised and reputable engineering practice – preferably with additional professional qualifications (such as those recognised by the Engineering Council)
  5. Have your professional EPC assessor review the existing certificate for accuracy and relevance
  6. If it is necessary to prepare a new EPC, ask for an indicative (draft) certificate. The assessor may be able to deliver an improved rating by using better quality data and/or by having better knowledge of building services. However, if the asset remains at risk from MEES, then commission a strategy to improve the building to include capital costs, energy savings and, where appropriate, life cycle costs
  7. Review point 6 in the context of the lease(s) and the fund or asset management strategy
  8. Consider ways to recuperate capital costs through energy savings or asset management driven opportunities
  9. Ensure you retain future access to the energy model used to prepare the EPC and utilise it for energy and asset management purposes, including MEES management. After all, you paid for it!
  10. Finally, to ensure that you’re getting the best result from your EPC-driven improvements, review how operational performance can be monitored to determine if the predicted energy savings align with the operational realities. Again, SIERA can assist with this, thanks to its intuitive and easy-to-use monitoring and targeting capabilities
Here is The EVORA 10-point Strategy for Managing MEES Regulations...Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

This all sounds very onerous, but in fact MEES should be regarded as an opportunity.

For occupiers

MEES is obviously an opportunity to save money through reduced energy bills and resultant CO2 emissions, and energy efficient buildings are more likely to help deliver a productive working environment.

There are also opportunities for occupiers to use MEES to mitigate rental increases after 1 April 2018 as a result of rent reviews and lease renewals. And it may be the case that occupiers can use MEES to reduce or remove any liability towards dilapidations.

For landlords

MEES is a great opportunity to engage with tenants, but if that were not incentive enough – MEES will become increasingly synonymous with building value and building resilience. Improve your EPC rating and you reduce your risk, and this could influence yields and even, in time, headline rents.

Energy savings could provide an opportunity to look at alternative methods of financing, using the value (£) of the energy saved to redeem finance. This could provide a cost-effective method of improving your estate.

Finally, for those looking to buy or sell sub-standard properties, MEES introduces an opportunity to discuss the price!


As CIBSE accredited assessors, we are perfectly positioned to support you with EPCs and MEES compliance. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


EVORA MEES 10-Point Strategy

The Power of Data Visualisation in Profiling MEES Risks and Opportunities

My colleague Ed Gabbitas recently wrote a blog post titled ‘Why MEES is Changing Behaviour Two Years Ahead of the Compliance Date’. In that post, Ed highlighted some of the challenges around the accuracy and variable quality of some EPCs as well as some broader implications for the sector. In light of the potential adverse impact that MEES could have on some key value drivers, it is imperative that property owners have a clear fund or portfolio view of their EPC risks.

The obvious starting point is to understand where the gaps are. Fortunately, many organisations have started this process already by looking at the extent of EPCs most at risk across their funds / portfolios. A prerequisite to carrying out this analysis is having a single, central database that stores all of the key information in a consistent format.

Those companies that have participated in GRESB will know well that to be able to easily answer the questions relating to extent of portfolio coverage relies on all the key parameters such as EPC scores and an accurate record of associated floor area covered being stored in a consistent format to easily get an aggregated view. If this is stored in a multitude of tenancy schedule spreadsheets it can be an extremely time-consuming process in ensuring that the fund picture is accurate. For voluntary reporting such as GRESB, the effect of getting it wrong might be a dent in scores. However, in the context of MEES, the risks are potentially much more significant – i.e. the inability to let space and therefore negatively impact on income streams.

This is something that we have been able to help a number of clients with through the use of SIERA – our proprietary sustainability management software – to reduce manual intervention and improve the efficiency of storing EPC information in a systematic manner so that information is not overlooked.

Assuming that you have all your EPC information in one place the next step is to prioritise actions for managing the potential risks. This may include identifying which EPCs should be re-modelled for example or identifying particular units or properties for improvement to ensure they are MEES compliant. Regardless of what specific actions are taken, an efficient means of profiling EPCs will help make the task easier.

In the case of one of our clients we profiled the assets of a fund to identify the lettable space most at risk of MEES; the units in the example below represented around 69% of rental income and 51% of total lettable area at a particular asset, which ‘could’ have been un-lettable from April 2018 unless action was taken. We carried out an extensive EPC re-modelling exercise to produce new EPCs.

The Power of Data Visualisation in Profiling MEES Risks and Opportunities - Image 1

The before and after scenarios are markedly different, showing a really good result. This example is just one improvement case study amongst a fund of where we had profiled many EPCs using the powerful visualisation tools in SIERA. For example with SIERA’s EPC profiling module, you can edit key visualisations of EPCs against ERV and lease expiry to dial in on particular sets of assets/units and create reports. Both our consultants and clients have benefitted massively from the efficiency of being able to very easily profile against key parameters to customise analyses to inform decision making.

Simplified sample EPC Profile Analysis from SIERA:

The Power of Data Visualisation in Profiling MEES Risks and Opportunities - Image 2

EPC rating by lease expiry.

 

The Power of Data Visualisation in Profiling MEES Risks and Opportunities - Image 3

Rental income by EPC rating.

To speak to our experts about MEES, SIERA, or any other topics, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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Scotland’s Approach to Building Energy Efficiency

This post originally appeared here on the UKGBC blog, to which we are regular contributors.


 

Scotland’s ‘competitor’ to the much publicised Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), due to be introduced in England and Wales in 2018, has been finalised and will be introduced next month. The approach is markedly different to the plans in place for the rest of the UK.

The scheme in summary

In Scotland, building owners who plan to sell or lease space will need to comply with the new regulations for units over 1,000 square metres in size, from 1 September 2016[1].  An energy performance certificate (EPC) is required, as usual.  However, an Action Plan must also be established to identify energy saving opportunities.  Action Plans can be issued by qualified Section 63 Advisors (many EPC assessors are in the process of gaining this additional accreditation) who use approved software to calculate improvements.  The software has been developed to consider the feasibility of seven improvement opportunities.

  • Draught-stripping windows and doors
  • Upgrading lighting controls
  • Adding central timer controls to the heating system
  • Insulating hot water storage
  • Improving lighting
  • Improving insulation
  • Replacing boilers if existing units are older than 15 years

Following completion of the Action Plan the owner can then decide to implement the relevant measures or produce an operational energy rating in the form of a Display Energy Certificate (and maintain this on an annual basis). Owners have 12 months to decide which approach to take and have a further 3.5 years to implement improvements if progression of the Action Plan is chosen as the approach.

Exemptions

It is also important to note that buildings constructed in accordance with a building warrant applied for on or after 4 March 2002 are exempt (for now)[2] – although there is a likelihood that this date will change over time to bring more assets into the scheme.  In many cases, exemption due to date of construction will be clear.  However, this rule has already raised questions.

For example, will a recently refurbished unit located in a building constructed prior to 2002 be exempt?

Consideration will need to be made on a case-by-case basis. The software used to generate EPCs and Action Plans will identify whether the unit meets the exemption criteria or not. As a result, the first part of the process, the EPC assessment, will need to be completed before the requirement for an Action Plan can be confirmed.

The Challenges

The approach, at first glance, seems practical.

Seven sensible improvement measures have been identified that, if feasible, need to be considered for implementation, and the bar has been set at the relatively low level of 2002 building warrant standards.  However, practical challenges remain.

Take the following scenario:

An owner wants to let an old (pre 2002) and large (over 1,000 square metre) office building on a Full Repairing and Insuring (FRI) basis.  The EPC and subsequent Action Plan will be produced.  To continue to comply, the owner will need to produce either a Display Energy Certificate or progress the implementation of the Action Plan.  However, lease structures for most FRI buildings will prevent compliance (as the owner will not have access to data and will not be able to implement improvements). 

To ensure compliance, owners of such buildings will need to ensure lease clauses are in place that require single-let FRI tenants to provide energy performance data to owners, as a minimum.

As a priority, landlords should review their portfolios and develop compliance plans to prevent problems in future.

[1] Units under 1,000 square metres will still need to produce an EPC, but will not be required to progress further.

[2] Transactions that are exempt from requiring an EPC are also exempt from additional action plan requirements.


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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Property Firms Vulnerable to MEES Regulations

Only 57% of property firms have assessed the impacts of the upcoming Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) on their portfolios, according to new research conducted by Bilfinger GVA.

The MEES regulations, due to come into force in April 2018, will make it unlawful to let or sublet properties in England & Wales with the two lowest Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of F and G, posing potential risks to landlords and occupiers alike.

The research also found that 98% of firms believe MEES will lead to increased capital expenditure, while 93% think that it will have an impact on pricing. With such a large proportion of firms who have yet to consider MEES at all, the report will likely act as an alarm bell to the sector, which is otherwise highly engaged with the wider sustainability agenda.

With just under two years to go until the regulations come into effect, fund managers can be well-prepared by assessing their portfolios and addressing risk now. When it comes to acquiring a new property, firms should take a more rigorous approach to the due diligence of the building’s existing EPC, checking its underlying accuracy and quality.

EVORA is perfectly positioned to help commercial real estate firms to understand the risks associated with MEES and to support them in the collation and analysis of their EPC data. Our environmental management software, SIERA, can hold EPCs for an entire portfolio and cleverly model the data to profile MEES risks against rentable income and lease expiry dates.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding MEES, please contact our experts today, who will be happy to advise you on the best course of action.


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