Consents and Regulations for Energy Improvements to Older Homes
Energy improvement measures may require consent
Various types of work to older buildings may require consent. Where historic buildings are designated - for example, as listed buildings or scheduled monuments - then listed building or scheduled monument consent may be required.
It can be a criminal offence to carry out work to a designated historic building without consent when it's needed.
In addition to these consents, planning permission may also be required for work to historic buildings and those in conservation areas.
You're strongly advised to speak to your local authority planning department or relevant advisory body if you are in any doubt about whether you need permission or consent to implement an energy improvement measure, particularly if your building is designated or within a conservation area.
To decide whether to give consent for an energy improvement measure the local authority or other relevant authority will weigh the need for the improvement against the impact of the measure.
They'll prefer measures that are inconspicuous and do not alter the fabric of historic places.
Energy efficiency and building regulations
You may also need to obtain consent under building regulations. These set standards for how to construct buildings to achieve a minimum level of acceptable performance. They typically cover health and safety, energy performance and accessibility requirements.
Building regulations only apply to new building work, and there's no general requirement for all existing buildings to be upgraded to meet these standards.
However, certain changes can trigger the need to comply - for example, if parts of a building are to be substantially replaced or renovated, or if there's a change of use. The requirements don't apply to normal maintenance and repair work.
Part L is the section of the regulations that deals with energy efficiency requirements.
Historic England has produced guidance, Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings - Application of Part L of the Building Regulations to Historic and Traditionally Constructed Buildings, to help prevent conflicts between the energy efficiency requirements in the regulations and the conservation of historic and traditionally constructed buildings.
Find out more about complying with building regulations.
Energy Performance Certificates
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is a legal requirement when constructing, selling or renting a building. An EPC is produced by an accredited Energy Assessor who uses standard software to turn data gathered at the property survey into two ratings: one for energy efficiency and one for environmental impact. Each rating is on a scale of 1 to 100, banded into grades A-G.
Below are some common questions relating to EPCs and older buildings.
What is the main purpose of an EPC?
EPCs are mainly a compliance tool rather than a design tool, for instance where an existing property is sold or rented.
EPCs do not provide a complete energy audit of a building but focus on an assessment of the building providing a list of recommended measures to improve energy performance. The type of fuel source for heating the building and providing hot water has a significant impact on the EPC rating. EPCs are also based on standard assumptions about occupancy and energy use so they do not take account of actual energy use.
As the recommended measures of an EPC are based on the cost of fuel rather than energy efficiency they can be rather misleading and may not always be appropriate for the building. This can be particularly true for older buildings where measures such as solid wall insulation may pose a risk to the fabric of the building.
The Environmental Impact Rating is based on an assessment of the amount of CO2 emissions.
Are listed buildings exempt from the need to have an EPC?
From January 2013 there has been an ‘exemption’ for listed buildings.
However, the exemption is qualified, it states: “Insofar as compliance with certain minimum energy performance requirements would unacceptably alter their character or appearance”.
What does this qualification mean?
The qualification covers works that might be carried out to the property to improve its energy performance. These are works that would require consent under Part L of the building regulations (The Conservation of Fuel and Power) and would be included in the recommendations section of an EPC report if one was obtained. If such works would unacceptably alter the building’s character or appearance, then the listed building would qualify for an exemption.
The qualification does not relate to meeting the minimum energy efficiency requirements (MEES) set out in the Private Rented Sector Regulations (2015).
How do I know if works would unacceptably alter a listed building’s character or appearance?
The energy efficiency of older buildings can be improved in many different ways. Some measures might have very minimal impact on the character and appearance of the building, such as changing to a more efficient boiler. Other measures such as adding new double glazed windows or solid wall insulation could have a substantial impact. Listed buildings vary considerably in the extent they can accommodate change both internally and externally.
The guidance produced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) suggests that “building owners will need to take a view as to whether this will be the case for their buildings”.
MHCLG also suggest owners might contact their local authority’s conservation officer if they're in any doubt.
However, the local authority may charge for such advice, if they are willing to provide it, and some local authorities do not have conservation officers.
Are buildings in conservation areas also exempt from the need to have an EPC?
Buildings in conservation areas now have the same exemption status as listed buildings.
However conservation areas have differing levels of planning controls depending whether or not they are covered by an Article 4 Direction, which limits permitted development rights.
Where a conservation area has an Article 4 Direction then planning consent would usually be required for changes to external materials which might include such measures as window double glazing.
Generally works that might unacceptably alter a building’s character and appearance in conservation areas would be those that affect the outside of the building rather than the inside.
Are there other buildings exempt from the need to have an EPC?
Other exemptions include:
- Places of worship
- Temporary buildings that will be used for less than two years
- Stand-alone buildings (less than 50 square metres of floor-space)
- Industrial sites, workshops and non-residential agricultural buildings that don’t use a lot of energy
- Some buildings that are due to be demolished
- Holiday accommodation rented out for less than four months per year
- Residential buildings intended to be used less than four months a year
Are buildings which are exempt for the need to have an EPC also exempt from needing to comply with the Minimum Energy Efficiency Requirements stipulated in the Private Rented Sector Regulations 2015?
If the building is exempt from requiring an EPC then it does not come within the scope of the Private Rented Sector Regulations. However, if the building already has an EPC then it will be within the scope of these regulations.
Is an EPC required for a Green Deal Plan?
An EPC is required for a Green Deal Plan regardless of whether the building is listed or in a conservation area.
Minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented property
From 1 April 2016 through to 1 April 2023 new regulations 'Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015' come into force for properties that are privately let.
From 1 April 2016: A tenant of a domestic private rented property may request the consent of the landlord to make energy efficiency improvements to the property.
From 1 April 2018: There is a requirement for all properties let on new or renewed tenancies to have a minimum EPC rating of E unless there is an applicable exemption.
From 1 April 2020: All existing domestic tenancies will be required to achieve a minimum EPC rating of E.
From 1 April 2023: All existing non-domestic tenancies will be required to achieve a minimum EPC rating of E.
Here are some common questions relating to these regulations and older buildings:
If I have no EPC because the building I own is legally exempt, do I need to comply with these regulations?
If a building does not legally require an EPC because it qualifies for an exemption then it will not need to comply it with these regulations.
From January 2013, there has been a qualified exemption for listed buildings so that they are not generally required to have an EPC when sold or let. This qualified exemption now also includes buildings in conservation areas.
For more details on what the ‘qualified exemption’ means see the our section on
Energy Performance Certificates.
If I have a listed property that already has an EPC do I need to comply with these regulations?
If the listed building already has an EPC, which may have been obtained before January 2013, then the property will be within scope of the regulations. If the EPC has an F or G rating then some energy efficiency improvements will be required so that it achieves a level E or above.
To improve a property which currently has an EPC rating of F or G, various measures can be considered which may have very minimal or no impact on character and appearance.
These might include:
- Installing a more energy efficient boiler
- Changing fuel source
- Adding additional loft insulation
- Secondary glazing to windows
For more information on this see our guidance on Energy Performance Certificates.
Are there any exemptions included in these regulations?
There are several issues that may qualify the property being placed on the National PRS Exemptions Register for a period of 5 years.
- The landlord being unable to obtain third party consent for the works. This might include listed building consent or planning permission from the local planning authority.
- Where the installation of measures might devalue the property by more than 5%
- Where a measure such as solid wall insulation would risk compromising the building fabric.
For a full list of exemptions and their detailed conditions see the guidance produced by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).