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Comparing the energy efficiency of public buildings

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Martin Rosenbaum | 09:09 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The least energy-efficient public buildings in England and Wales include a leisure centre in Birmingham, Defra's Central Veterinary Laboratory, and a coal mining museum in Yorkshire.

display energy certificateThis is according to data just obtained by the BBC from the Department of Communities and Local Government - data which until earlier this month it would have been illegal to provide in this way.

Since last October, larger public buildings with many frequent visitors have needed to have Display Energy Certificates (DECs) setting out their annual carbon dioxide emissions and comparing their energy efficiency to properties of the same kind.

These certificates must be displayed so they are clearly visible to the visiting public. And the information they contain is also stored on the Non-Domestic Energy Performance Certificate Register - if you happen to know a building's 20-digit certificate reference number, you can enter it in the register database and retrieve a copy of the certificate and the advisory report on how the building's efficiency may be improved. To that extent, the data has always been public.

But suppose you wanted to see all the information on the register in one go, perhaps to compile a league table comparing the efficiency and CO2 emissions of the over 28,000 public buildings covered?

The regulations which introduced this scheme prohibited the register operator generally from disclosing data which would identify particular properties, except in response to a reference number.

So, until a few days ago, if you wanted to compare all the buildings on the register, you had two somewhat time-consuming and tedious options: you could visit the 28,000-plus buildings, look for the doubtless prominently displayed certificate, and note down the details; or, if you had a means of finding out their reference numbers, you could enter them, one by one, into the database and retrieve the data.

However, new regulations came into force a fortnight ago which now allow this material to be divulged.

In response to my request under the Environmental Information Regulations, the Department of Communities and Local Government has sent me a large spreadsheet [MS Excel, 8.14Mb] listing all the properties on the register, their energy efficiency rating and their CO2 emissions, so that it is possible to analyse this to compare all the buildings on it.

The buildings with the highest operational energy rating are those judged to be the least energy efficient, compared to similar buildings (the average building of that kind should score 100). They are divided into seven bands from A to G, with A the most efficient and G the least.

The data obtained also specifies the buildings' total CO2 emissions. Most of the public buildings emitting the highest quantities of carbon dioxide are hospitals, which may be linked to their large size.

Image of a Display Energy Certificate from the Non-Domestic Energy Performance Certificate Register. A previous version of this post had a placeholder image of a school mentioned in the spreadsheet.


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