Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) apply to all privately rented property in England and Wales, but what are they, and how do they impact house builders and housing associations?
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards essentially encourage more developments which use low carbon technologies that help tackle issues such as carbon emissions from heating.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards seek to enhance the standard of older building stock by encouraging landlords and building owners to reduce their carbon emissions through EPCs. EPCs rate a building's energy efficiency from ‘A’ to ‘G’ and remain valid for 10 years.
The overall standard of energy-efficient homes in the UK is gradually rising. As of 2022, housing energy standards in England and Wales resulted in an average score of ‘D’. With flats and maisonettes leading the charge towards net zero.
What are the minimum energy efficiency standards?
The MEES standards for England and Wales work based on the introduction of EPCs (energy performance certificate) that are mandatory for any home to be sold or rented.
On April 1, 2018, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards regulations became part of the UK government's strategic initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 significantly. It meant that:
- Since 2008, it has been law for house builders to provide all newly built properties with an EPC—in line with Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) requirements, to advise on energy efficiency.
- Landlords, including housing associations, can only grant or renewing a tenancy if the home is rated ‘E’ or better on their Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). From April 2023, this ruling will also apply to all commercial buildings.
The Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings Bill is currently going through parliament, which includes provision that all rented property needs to comply to EPC certificate 'C' or above after 2028.
Which buildings are exempt from Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards?
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards regulation is mainly aimed at rented property at this point. At present, landlords and housing associations cannot lawfully let any residential property with an EPC rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’, which is considered substandard in terms of energy efficiency.
However, there are exceptions to this process:
- Listed buildings, temporary buildings (used for two years or less), places of worship, and any due for demolition are currently classified as out-of-scope.
- For privately purchased property bought to let, new owners must register the exemption before completing the purchase. Once six months have elapsed, they either must bring the property up to an EPC rating of ‘E’ or higher, or register another exemption—using the PRS Exemptions Register for example if retrofit costs exceed £3,500.
House building with energy efficiency in mind
The MEES regulations are not applying to new built homes. However, new build homes are now generally speaking a lot more energy efficient than all existing homes in place. Inside Housing showed that new homes in the second quarter of 2021 83% EPC. Only 2% of homes achieved EPC A, but also still 1% was delivered with EPC E.
Development statistics show that for house builders, energy efficiency doesn’t just simply happen. Designing an eco-friendly property that goes above and beyond MEES regulations, especially with energy consumption and bills under such scrutiny, is hugely important. Installing modern, effective technologies and systems to reduce a property’s carbon footprint is a major aspect of modern development.
Insulation, air quality, and temperature control, both heating and cooling, are vital in every home. More than this, though, properties can take advantage of natural resources, such as light and environmental designs, to incorporate energy-boosting solutions into their floor plans and layout.
At site analysis stage, it helps to review the energy efficiency of existing properties as an opportunity to understand which types of homes are consistently lacking a high standard. Tools like PlaceChangers site insight quickly generate an existing baseline.
Improving energy efficiency in the housing association property
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards are an integral component of the UK government's effort to reduce carbon emissions and go beyond new homes and retrofit renovations; through focus on rented property, MEES directly impact housing associations and, as a result, tenants.
For example, renting out a building without an energy efficiency rating will be difficult, if not illegal. By not meeting government standards, tenants could potentially be forced out of a property and opens the landlord to legal challenges and inability to operate.
Housing associations must assess their portfolio's energy efficiency and identify areas that do not meet the minimum criteria to improve the living standards of current and future residents. They should also consider how this will impact their ESG credentials, as they aim to achieve net zero energy targets by 2050.
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