Energy certificates - thermal insulation in housing construction is becoming more transparent
In the future, the energy efficiency of residential buildings, as well as of buildings used for other purposes, will play a much more important role on the property market than ever before. For many years now, advertisements for domestic appliances or cars have highlighted their low energy consumption. In the same way, energy efficiency will become a major decision-making criterion in the property sector. Energy certificates, which sellers or landlords have to show to prospective buyers or tenants if they plan to sell or let a property, are designed to act as an aid to decision-making.
The issuing of demand-based energy or heating certificates has been mandatory for the construction of new buildings since 1995. Since 1 July 2008, anyone wishing to rent or buy a property has been able to demand that the owner, landlord or seller provide an energy certificate. This applies to buildings constructed before the end of 1965. Since the start of 2009, energy certificates have been mandatory for all other residential buildings in the event of a letting or sale. Commercial buildings and other buildings that are not used primarily for housing - also known as non-residential buildings - have required an energy certificate since July 2009. Forecasts predict that a total of up to one million energy certificates will be issued each year.
Why do we have energy certificates?
An energy certificate provides data on the energy efficiency of a building. The information in the energy certificate allows people to compare a building with other buildings of the same type. It allows them to make a rough estimate of the energy costs they will incur if they rent or buy the apartment or house. Prospective tenants or buyers can consider this information when deciding whether to rent or buy the property. Against a background of rising energy prices, this will enable them to choose an energy-efficient property.
All energy certificates are valid for ten years from the date of issue. They cannot be extended. They only have to be presented when a building, or a unit in the building, is to be let to a new tenant or sold. Owners, sellers or landlords who do not provide an energy certificate, do not provide it on time or provide an incomplete certificate face a fine of up to 15,000 euros.
Who benefits from energy certificates?
Both prospective buyers/tenants and owners benefit from energy certificates. Anyone wishing to buy or rent a building or apartment can use the information in the energy certificate and the so-called "benchmark" to get a rough estimate of the energy performance of the building and its services. As energy costs continue to rise, tenants and buyers should attach greater importance to good thermal insulation and modern building services. Sellers and landlords of buildings with good energy efficiency ratings enjoy a clear competitive edge here.
Finally, anyone wishing to improve the energy performance of a building needs to know how energy efficient it is. Energy certificates are thus usually accompanied by modernization recommendations for the cost-effective improvement of the energy performance of the building.
Modernization recommendations are provided for information purposes only. The owner is not obliged to implement the measures proposed. They are concise items of technical advice designed to draw the owner's attention to obvious ways of improving energy performance.
Investment in energy efficiency measures often pays off after a short time. And this is good not just for people's wallets but also for the environment and the construction industry. Because it is mainly small and medium-sized enterprises in the crafts sector that benefit when more money is invested in improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
Energy certificates are thus beneficial at all levels:
- they create more transparency and competition on the property market;
- they provide a greater incentive to conserve energy, thereby helping to tackle climate change;
- they create new jobs.
Important information for prospective tenants or buyers
1. Demand-based or consumption-based certificate for residential buildings
There are two kinds of energy certificate. In the case of demand-based certificates, the expert bases his assessment of the building on the building fabric and heating system. On the basis of the energy efficiency condition of the building, he calculates the amount of energy required for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and hot water, assuming average use of the building.
Consumption-based certificates are produced on the basis of recorded energy consumption, for instance heating bills, and state how much energy has been consumed by the users of the building over the last three years. The impact of the weather is "factored out". These certificates also state whether the preparation of hot water is included in the consumption. The assessment of a building in a consumption-based certificate also depends on the heating patterns of the individual occupants.
2. Which of the two energy certificates is permissible?
For all residential buildings with more than four units, owners may choose either type of certificate.
For residential buildings with 4 units or fewer, a distinction has to be made:
- There is freedom of choice for these residential buildings if the planning application was submitted after 1 November 1977 (i.e. the provisions of the 1977 Thermal Insulation Regulations had to be complied with) or if the building meets the requirements of the 1977 Thermal Insulation Regulations although the planning application was submitted before 1 November 1977 (for instance as a result of subsequent modernization work).
- In all other cases, only demand-based certificates may be issued for such buildings.
For a provisional period (until 30 September 2008), the aforementioned arrangements did not apply and there was freedom of choice between a demand-based and a consumption-based certificate for all residential buildings.
If the requirements regarding freedom of choice are not met, the assessor may only issue a demand-based certificate for a residential building with fewer than five units. The reason for this is that in smaller, old residential buildings that have not had any energy efficiency improvements, the individual heating patterns have a significantly greater impact on total energy consumption than in buildings with a large number of units.
3. The red zone or the green zone
With both the demand-based and the consumption-based certificate, the crucial factor is whether a building's consumption is in the green or red zone of the colour-coded scale. Green means that little energy is required for heating and hot water, whereas red stands for poor energy performance.
To enable people to judge how the building performs compared with other buildings, the energy certificate contains a second colour-coded scale with benchmarks. It shows how high the energy demand of various types of building typically is, ranging from a passive house to a non-refurbished house in multiple occupation.
4. Modernization recommendations
In many cases, although by no means always, measures for the cost-effective improvement of the building's energy efficiency are possible. If such measures represent value for money for an owner, appropriate modernization requirements must be attached to the energy certificate.
Prospective tenants and buyers may also inspect these recommendations. By doing so, they can get an idea of what modernization work would significantly reduce the energy required by the building. However, since they are recommendations, the owner does not have to implement them.
5. How can owners and landlords find a qualified assessor?
The qualification requirements to be met by persons who issue energy certificates are set out in the Energy Conservation Regulations. Anyone who has these qualifications may issue energy certificates for the purpose of selling or letting a building. There are no accreditation bodies in the federal states in order to minimize bureaucracy.
The German Energy Agency (dena), of which the Federal Republic of Germany is a co-partner, maintains a nationwide database of assessors authorized to issue energy certificates. Interested building owners or landlords can use this database to find energy assessors in their region by entering their postcode.
The Energy Conservation Regulations state that the initial qualification for assessors who issue energy certificates is that they must have had "building-related" training. This means that, for instance, architects and engineers as well as skilled craftsmen and technicians are authorized. In addition to this initial qualification, they also have to meet a further requirement, such as having successfully completed a course of further training in the field of energy-efficient building. Our FAQs on energy certificates provide detailed information about who is authorized to issue energy certificates.
- Directive 2002/91/EC on the energy performance of buildings
Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2002. Link to EUR-Lex - the access to European Union law