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Energy efficiency of Britain’s public buildings leaves much to be desired

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Only a tiny number of public buildings in England and Wales have received an A rating for their energy efficiency under the Government’s Display Energy Certificate (DEC) scheme, according to The Guardian. Since October last year, all public sector buildings have been obliged to show their DEC, which rates the energy performance from A, the best, to G. The newspaper’s analysis of CO2 emissions found that only 151 public buildings achieved an A-rating, while over 5000 ranked G with prisons and hospitals among the least efficient. In total, over 28,000 public sector buildings in England and Wales emit nearly 14 million tonnes of carbon per year.

“This data presents a few home truths,” says Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council. “Our public building stock is leaking like a sieve, with an enormous carbon footprint and energy bills to match.” He says that the Government need to lead by example, as the largest user and procurer of buildings in the country, and launch a major refurbishment programme. “Except in the case of a small number of historic buildings, we should simply mandate improvements that would eliminate the worst performing buildings,” says King. Public sector buildings are not intrinsically bad, he says, but we know about them because figures are available. Private sector buildings such as offices and shops are likely to be just as bad.

One of the major questions raised by the analysis, says King, is how buildings are used and maintained. The headquarters of the Department of Communities and Local Government, for example, scores only an F-rating although it was designed to be C-rated. DECs should be used as a basis for improving energy efficiency, he says. The scheme should also be rolled out to private sector buildings as well, a proposal which has also been raised by the Carbon Trust.