The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive sets requirements at an EU level for Member States to improve the energy performance of buildings and to make an important contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Article 9(1) of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that:-
- by 31 December 2020, all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings; and
- after 31 December 2018, new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero-energy buildings.
The Directive defines a Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) as a building that has a very high energy performance and that the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby. This definition was incorporated into the Building Regulations in January 2017.
The NZEB performance requirements are based on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive cost optimal calculations which were issued in 2013 and 2015. Cost-optimal levels are defined as “the energy performance level which leads to the lowest cost during the estimated economic lifecycle". The NZEB performance for new dwellings represents an improvement in energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance of 70% over 2005 standards and requires renewables on all new dwellings. This is typically equivalent to a Building Energy Rating (BER) of “A2” and is recognised internationally as a very advanced performance requirement. The Part L performance requirements of the Building Regulations have been advanced incrementally since 2007, and the final improvement to move from the current standard of 60% better than 2005 standards or a typical BER of “A3”, to a performance of 70% better than 2005 standards or an “A2” BER, can be more easily achieved as a result of these incremental improvements. The draft regulations and accompanying technical guidance to implement this have completed public consultation and the regulations are expected to be signed into law shortly. These regulations will also require that where Major Renovations take place which are greater than 25% of the surface area of the dwelling, the dwelling should achieve a cost optimal performance where feasible. This is equivalent to a B2 building energy rating for a typical dwelling.
For buildings other than dwellings (non-residential), the requirement to carry out a maximum permitted energy performance calculation and a maximum permitted carbon dioxide emissions performance calculation was introduced into Part L of the Building Regulations in 2008. The 2013 cost optimal calculations showed the potential for improvement in energy performance and carbon dioxide emissions performance in the order of 60% in these regulations.
This improvement in performance in the order of 60% along with a requirement for renewables on all new buildings was introduced into Part L Conservation of Fuel and Energy in Buildings in November 2017, and applies to all new Buildings other than Dwellings commencing construction from 1 Jan 2019, subject to transition arrangements. These regulations also require that existing buildings other than Dwellings will achieve cost optimal performance when undergoing major renovations affecting more than 25% of the surface area of the building envelope.
With regards to new buildings owned and occupied by Public Authorities, in December 2016 my Department issued a circular to all public service bodies advising them of the requirement for all new buildings owned and occupied by public authorities to achieve NZEB performance after 31st December 2018. It was accompanied by specifications and guidelines on how this could be achieved in practice, and to apply to all buildings owned and occupied by public authorities commencing design from 1 January 2017.
My Department has worked closely with the Department of Education and Skills, the Office of Public Works and Health Services bodies, as well as many Construction Industry bodies, to develop, elaborate and introduce the regulations and guidance.
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires that a Building Energy Rating is issued when a new building is offered for sale or rent or prior to occupation. The Central Statistics Office analyses all BERs and issues a report on this analyses including the BERs issued for new buildings on a quarterly basis. Currently, based on CSO statistics, 98% of all new dwellings are built to an A3 rated BER standard.
Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations, rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers.
My Department has responsibility for improvement in the energy and carbon emissions performance of buildings through building regulations. My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has responsibility for improving the energy performance of existing buildings more generally including those which are not undergoing works which are subject to building regulations. Together the policy measures from both our Departments will improve the performance of the building stock.
The Building Regulations measures will contribute to emissions reductions from 1 January 2021 and are key actions in contributing to Ireland’s National Low Carbon Transition and Mitigation Plan and the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). It is under these policies that reductions in carbon emissions will be tracked and reported on by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.