EU Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2002 on the Energy Performance of Buildings

BER Certificates – A Proposal for What’s Next ! (VI)

2009-06-08:  The other day, I received an impassioned e-mail … an extract …


” We are an energy rating company involved in a campaign for enforcement.  Yesterday, we made a presentation to SEI (see attached).  It was the result of a 2-month attempt to meet with the DEHLG and SEI.  You are right in your article about them ‘not WANTING to know’.


My only question is: do you have any ideas on what’s next ? ”




The BER Gold Rush Soap Opera so far …


There are thousands of BER Assessors out there around the country … each having paid a ‘pretty penny’ for training, for exams, and for registration … and work on the ground is very scarce.  A significant number of those Assessors have an inadequate understanding of building construction … while some of the people who are involved in providing Validated BER Training Courses are, to put it mildly, similarly unendowed.


Energy Ireland (SEI) is the Issuing Authority, but it has absolutely no experience as a Control Authority.  And has anyone bothered to read the relevant Legal Disclaimer on the SEI WebSite ?   It does, however, have a large marketing budget … those smarmy, wall-to-wall radio advertisements, which refer to the ‘property game’, continue to irritate my sensitive ear drums !


Apparently … 20% of BER Assessments are turning out to be faulty, i.e. they have not been properly carried out by Registered BER Assessors.  In other words, 1 out of every 5 BER Certificates needs to be thrown in the paper recycling bin.  Furthermore … I have discussed in one of my first posts how there is only a very tenuous relationship between a BER Certificate and the ‘real’ energy performance of a specific building.  And in relation to ‘real’ buildings … there is a general non-compliance rate of 70% on Irish Building Sites with the minimal energy performance requirements in Part L of the Irish Building Regulations.


SEI’s Register of BER Assessors is unreliable.


What a magnificent waste of time, energy and money !




Some Comments on a Recent BER Certificate … 


Sitting on the desk to the left of my computer keyboard is a recent Building Energy Rating (BER) Certificate and its accompanying Advisory Report … issued sometime during the second half of May 2009 … for a private, single-occupation dwelling house somewhere in Leinster … and using the DEAP Version 3.0.0 computer software.  I do not wish to identify the specific Certificate.


This particular BER Certificate Documentation comprises:


         the actual BER Certificate ;


Can I be sure that the correct choices were made with regard to the software input information/data ?   No.


         its accompanying BER Advisory Report.


Not missing any marketing trick, and in stark contrast to the actual BER Certificate … there is an Energy Ireland (SEI) Logo at the top of the first page of the Advisory Report … and an elaborate footer with SEI contact information on the last page.


Meanwhile, there is not one single mention of Statutory Instrument No. 666 of 2006: European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006 anywhere in the Report … nothing to explain that SEI is the Issuing Authority for the purposes of this national legislation … or that there is such a thing as a BER Register … etc, etc, etc.


The Advisory Information provided in the Report is too vague to be useable … and there are silly typographical errors.


Did the BER Assessor request any information from the owner about the house ?   It is impossible to tell whether he/she made any such request.


Am I assured that the BER Assessor had an adequate understanding of building construction ?   Definitely not.


[ Specific comments about other issues might identify the actual BER Certificate. ]




What’s Next ?


The following remarks are directed at those BER Assessors, building owners, landlords, building professionals and general punters who do wish to spend their money on something worthwhile … something which has meaning, and is useful.


Energy Labelling of Buildings, just as in the case of other energy using/consuming industrial products … is positive and very worthwhile.


The legal basis established by European Union (EU) Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 16 December 2002, on the Energy Performance of Buildings … is a good start.


I would much prefer if this Directive were linked in more directly to the Extensive Framework of the Construction Product Directive … EU Council Directive 89/106/EEC, of 21 December 1988, on the Approximation of Laws, Regulations and Administrative Provisions of the Member States relating to Construction Products.  The reason that this has not already happened is because of a startling lack of horizontal integration between the different Directorates-General in the European Commission.


If there are problems with how the BER Legislation is operating at national level in Ireland, it is not the fault of Brussels or Directive 2002/91/EC … it is our problem … and it is up to us to remedy the situation.


There are 3 Immediate Priorities for Building Energy Rating in Ireland:


         increase accuracy ;

         reduce uncertainty ;

         improve reliability.




An Initial Proposal


Without amending any legislation … and without reference to the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG), Energy Ireland (SEI) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) … none of which have shown any proper leadership in relation to these issues, but seem interested only in playing games …



1.  The BER Certificate


Attach a Single-Page Appendix to the actual BER Certificate which clearly shows the Input Information/Data selected by the Registered BER Assessor.  Include a Statement of Measurement/Calculation Uncertainty concerning the Energy Rating Process … and a Statement of Competence in Building Construction, with the Assessor’s Signature … at the bottom of the page.


Show the Page Number on the Certificate as Page No.1 of 2 … and on the Appendix as Page No.2 of 2.


A BER Certificate should not be valid without this Appendix.



2.  The Accompanying BER Advisory Report


Generally … tighten up the information provided in the Report, make it easier to understand … and make it more useable !   DO NOT TIE energy performance, or any other aspects of building performance, to the minimal – ‘abysmal’ – performance targets described in the guidance texts of Technical Guidance Documents A-M in the Irish Building Regulations.  We have to aim much, much higher !!   The European Union’s 2020 Climate Change Targets will be heavy going for Ireland, even if there is no agreement in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.  And … insert Page Numbers !!!


Include Additional Components in the BER Advisory Report:


         Findings of a Formal Interview/Questionnaire Survey with the building owner, landlord or manager – some questions should have an open format ;

         Results of Infra-Red Thermography and Air Seepage Testing – discussed at length in previous posts ;

         Results of a Radon Test – as already discussed, an important indicator of Indoor Air Quality and whether or not there is adequate Ventilation in the building.







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BER Certificates & Poor Indoor Air Quality (III)

2009-02-27:  Energy Labelling of Industrial Products is an essential means of raising consumer awareness about energy efficiency and conservation.  I like being able to wander into an electrical shop anywhere in Ireland, Italy or Turkey, for example … and to compare the energy performance of different makes of washing machines, dishwashers or fridges … and even of apparently similar products in the different countries.


I can easily visualize these small industrial products being brought into a test laboratory, and then being put through their paces.  It is a credible system.


This is NOT possible, however, with a building.



EU Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 16 December 2002, on the Energy Performance of Buildings … is a short document of 7 Pages.  Its Preamble takes up slightly more than the first 2 Pages, and there is a 1 Page Annex at the rear.  Its language is clear and straightforward (see the example of Article 4 below).


[What I fail to understand is how and why the Irish National Legislation which implements the Directive … Statutory Instrument No. 666 of 2006: European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006 … is so clumsy, awkward and full of flaws … offering us yet another example of failed ‘light-touch regulation’.  It may also be unconstitutional.]




The EU Directive has something important to say about Indoor Air Quality


Article 4 – Setting of Energy Performance Requirements


1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that minimum energy performance requirements for buildings are set, based on the methodology referred to in Article 3.  When setting requirements, Member States may differentiate between new and existing buildings and different categories of buildings.  These requirements shall take account of general indoor climate conditions, in order to avoid possible negative effects such as inadequate ventilation, as well as local conditions and the designated function and the age of the building.


[Quick flashback to a generation ago … the panic, throughout Europe, to conserve energy in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s led to a dramatic reduction in rates and quantities of direct, natural ventilation to the habitable spaces of buildings.  This, in turn, had an adverse impact on Indoor Air Quality, and led to a sharp rise in Asthma among building occupants.]




In Ireland, today, problems concerning Poor Indoor Air Quality continue to occur … typically during the Winter Heating Season.  There is a natural tendency to keep windows closed and to seal permanent ventilation openings.  Accidental indoor air seepage to the exterior is also being reduced in our newer building stock.


Poor Indoor Air Quality, an important factor in relation to building related ill-health (also known as ‘sick building syndrome’), can cause serious health impairments and severely restrict a person’s participation in everyday activities, e.g. work.


Symptoms and Signs may include:

         irritation of eyes, nose and throat ;

         respiratory infections and cough ;

         voice hoarseness and wheezing ;

         asthma ;

         dry mucous membrane and skin ;

         erythema (reddening or inflammation of the skin) ;

         lethargy ;

         mental fatigue and poor concentration ;

         headache ;

         stress ;

         hypersensitivity reactions, i.e. allergies ;

         nausea and dizziness ;





The following 2 Performance Indicators of Good Indoor Air Quality, developed with the aim of protecting human health, are recommended:


         Carbon Dioxide (CO2) concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 to 500 parts per million – but should at no time exceed 800 parts per million ;


         Radon Activity (including Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 to 40 Bq/m3 … but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3.





The concept of Protecting Human Health is altogether different from the concept of Assessing Risk to Safety.


In Ireland, testing for Radon Activity in buildings must take place during the Heating Season, i.e. the months of November through to March.  What is the use of testing during July, for example, when windows will be wide open ?   Who would even think of doing that ?   I wonder.


Measurement Uncertainty of the standard Alpha Particle Etched-Track Detector distributed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is as follows:

         under laboratory conditions: …………………… in the order of …… +/- 10%

         under tightly controlled site conditions: …. in the order of …… +/- 20%

         under typical conditions of use: …………….. well in excess of … +/- 30%


Unfortunately, until the RPII includes proper statements of Measurement Uncertainty in its Test Reports … our Organization cannot recommend RPII Radon Testing Services, and we will not accept RPII Test Reports as proper evidence of Radon Test Results.







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BER Certificates, Legislation & Thermal Comfort (I)

2009-02-20:  The recent comment submitted by Mr. Robin Evans regarding the use of Infra-Red Thermography as an aid to BER Assessment … and the high level of confusion and misinformation in the marketplace, which I have now had an opportunity to examine more closely … have forced me to conclude that a series of posts on BER Certificates would be good for the system – ‘my’ system !


There are many pieces in this jig-saw puzzle, but the final picture is wonderful … please believe me.



Before I start to assemble anything, however, a few small details …


         Infra-Red Thermography.  This is a valuable technical aid during any Energy Survey of any Building.  It is remarkable how much information can be gathered by a good, high-resolution Infra-Red Camera.  But, it must be used competently …  Because we are working in ambient temperature conditions, i.e. between -10OC and +30 OC, it should be a Long Wave Infra-Red Camera (≈ 8-12 microns).  The temperature difference between the inside of the building and the exterior should be at least 10 degrees C … it would be better with 15 degrees C.  The Camera Operator should be fully familiar with the operation of the Camera and its associated computer software, etc … and he/she should know what they are looking at.  In other words, some sort of architectural background is essential … not only are images taken outside the building, but they are also taken inside the building !   Any Camera Work should be done after dark.  It is not necessary to do a midnight to 4 o’clock in the morning shift … 8 o’clock in the evening until midnight is perfectly fine.  By the way, none of this work can be done in just 30 minutes.  Finally, Infra-Red Work is best carried out, in Ireland, during the Heating Season, i.e. the months of November through to March.  Depending on the year, it may be possible to squeeze in the end of October and the beginning of April.


In the old days, I used to work as part of a Multi-Disciplinary Team of 4 People (not all males !), comprising a Civil Engineer, a Physicist/Expert in Measurement, an Engineering Technician with a background in Social Science, and myself as Architect/Fire Engineer/Technical Controller.  They were great days !



Robin … in order to provide this service for the owner of a typical suburban, semi-detached house … €100 (Euros) is a little on the low side, even as a ‘lost leader’.


And … the Irish Public are indeed blissfully unaware of the efficacy of Infra-Red Thermography.  The ‘powers that be’ in Ireland, i.e. the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG), Energy Ireland (SEI) and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), are not at all interested in the ‘real’ energy performance of buildings.  They have a vested interest in not being interested.  Suddenly … the image of an ostrich, with head deeply embedded in sand, floods my mind …

Colour Clip Art Image of an Ostrich, with head deeply embedded in sand. Meanwhile, in the background, an hourglass signals that time is running out !
Colour Clip Art Image of an Ostrich, with head deeply embedded in sand. Meanwhile, in the background, an hourglass signals that time is running out !


         BER Certificates & EU/National Legislation.  Mr. Charlie McCreevy, Ireland’s EU Commissioner, during one of his many ‘direct, pragmatic and neo-liberal’ talks in Dublin, used the following magnificent phrase in relation to the national implementation of European Union Legislation in the different EU Member States … ‘National Gold Plating and Divergent Implementation’ … some important words to remember !   However, I learned this valuable lesson myself a long, long time ago.


Irish National Legislation:  Statutory Instrument No. 666 of 2006: European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006.


These Regulations may be unconstitutional.  A prime example … Section 23 (1) states that a person authorised by Energy Ireland (SEI) under the Regulations … ‘may enter, inspect and examine a building or any part of a building for the purpose of forming an opinion as to whether or not a BER Data File or BER Certificate issued for the building, or part of the building, is warranted’.  In relation to a private, single-occupation dwelling house … this provision is entirely unacceptable !


The Register of BER Assessors on the SEI WebSite is not reliable.


Because of ‘national gold plating and divergent implementation’ in Ireland, it is necessary to be familiar, also, with the originating EU Secondary Legislation.


European Union Legislation:  EU Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 16 December 2002, on the Energy Performance of Buildings.


Both pieces of legislation can be downloaded from the SDI WebSite … here.



         Thermal Comfort in Buildings.  The starting point for any discussion about this subject should be an International Standard, which is also the European Standard and the Irish National Standard … ISO 7730  Moderate Thermal Environments – Determination of the PMV and PPD Indices and Specification of the Conditions for Thermal Comfort.


This Standard establishes the following important general principle … and is also critical in relation to people with activity limitations who use/occupy/visit buildings: Man’s/Woman’s Thermal Sensation is mainly related to the thermal balance of his/her body as a whole.  This balance is influenced by his/her physical activity and clothing, as well as the environmental parameters: air temperature, mean radiant temperature, air velocity (i.e. draughts) and air humidity.


Air Temperature, alone, is definitely not an Indicator of Thermal Comfort in a building.



         Technical Control of Construction.  The 2005 & 2008 NIST Reports on the 9-11 WTC Incident have presented us with some stark language … ‘NIST urges state and local agencies to rigorously enforce building codes and standards since such enforcement is critical to ensure the expected level of safety … unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’


With regard to Private Construction in Ireland … Building Control Authorities in Ireland are, purposefully, not sufficiently resourced to be ‘effective’.  See my earlier Post, dated 2009-02-12.


With regard to Public Construction in Ireland … self-regulation is no regulation !  Government Departments, the Office of Public Works and Local Authorities can, far too often, be complacent, careless and/or stubborn concerning compliance with even the minimal performance levels specified in building regulations, codes and standards.







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