Feature Report: Housing: Reducing Energy Consumption

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Housing: The French Energy Performance Certificate

Buildings account for more than 20% of the European Union’s CO2 emissions. For this reason, the E.U. adopted a directive on the energy performance of buildings in 2002. This prompted France to create Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) in 2006 to encourage renovation work.1

Improved insulation enhances the energy efficiency of homes. © THINKSTOCK

Saving Energy and Money

An EPC indicates a building's annual energy consumption and impact in terms of greenhouse gasGas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... emissions. It is designed to serve as a general guide, rather than to provide a precise energy performance assessment. The aim is to raise awareness about the amount of energy used by a building, its cost and its environmental consequences so that people can make an informed choice about where they want to live.

80% of French homes fall in the lowest categories on the energy performance chart

An EPC also provides information about the most effective measures to improve a property's energy performance and enhance its value before a sale, such as adding insulation or upgrading the boiler. There is, however, no legal obligation for the owner to carry out these recommendations.

Independent, Certified Experts

An environmental assessment must be carried out when building, selling or renting out a heated building in the E.U., whether a home, an office building or a commercial property. It must be conducted by an independent, certified expert, using a regulated calculation method. This can vary from one country to another, but must comply with the overall framework established by the European Union. The certificate remains valid for ten years.

France amended its regulations in early 2012 to improve the quality of its EPC system. As a result, the number of data assessed was increased to 60 from 30 and the expert certification process was strengthened via an additional test for the assessment of non-residential buildings. The French Ministry of Environment has set up an online directory to help people find a certified expert.2

 The French Energy Performance Certificate is different from the thermal performance assessment. 

There are numerous calculators on the Internet that can give you a quick, approximate indication of your home's energy consumption. However, these online tools have no legal value and cannot replace the EPC required when selling or renting a property.

How to Read an EPC

An EPC provides a description of a building and its heating, hot water, ventilation and air conditioning systems. It also indicates the building's documented energy consumption, based on energy bills, or its estimated energy consumption, based on standard conditions of use, as well as its greenhouse gas emissions.

To make it easier to read, the report includes two color-coded charts, one for energy use and the other for CO2See Carbon Dioxid emissions. Each chart has seven bands, ranging from A for the best performance to G for the worst. The report ends with energy-saving tips and recommendations for improving energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system.... The EPC varies slightly depending on whether the building is a home, an office, a public building, etc. 

Poor ratings for French Housing Stock 

Energy consumption in existing buildings in France is particularly high. According to a 2011 study by assessor network EX'IM, 3 80% of French homes are rated D, E or F, three of the four lowest categories on the energy performance chart. A-rated buildings account for less than 2% of France's housing stock. These are generally modern properties that use renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale... solutions such as solar panels and geothermalDescribes the technology used to tap subsurface heat to produce energy... systems.

It is also possible to commission a thermal performance assessment, which goes beyond the requirements of the EPC to identify sources of heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... loss and suggest an effective action plan. This is particularly recommended before starting any renovation work.

 

Sources:

(1) French Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

(2) Online directory of energy assessors (in French)

(3) EX’IM Study (in French)