28 September 2009
Fall in ac inspection figures drives classes for trading standards
FIGURES from energy services firms show a fall in the number of new inspection contracts placed in recent months, despite the fact that tens of thousands of inspections, which were required by January 4, 2009, are still to be carried out.
It is estimated that fewer than 1,000 buildings are compliant - less than 2% of the 50,000 in England and Wales which are believed to have required a first inspection by the January 4 deadline.
CIBSE admits there is some debate about the exact figure of how many inspections have been carried out, because there is currently no requirement to lodge certificates.
Industry insiders have suggested the drop off in inspection work contract requests in the last few months, reflects a lack of awareness or unwillingness to comply with the inspection requirements of the Energy Performance in Buildings Regulations.
Darren Bryant of Efficient Air, one of the firms reporting a decline, said: 'Cost savings, which companies can achieve, are being lost because until now there has been little or no enforcement of the regulations and companies seem to be hesitating. From our experience there are a number of factors stopping companies taking action. Some facilities management companies are not able to convince their clients of the need to act in the face of a lack of enforcement action by trading standards bodies. Furthermore, other companies are unsure how they can find assessors who can provide genuinely useful advice rather than those who have little or no practical experience.'
The latest figures have prompted CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) to start an awareness campaign for trading standards officers who must enforce the regulations.
Jacqueline Balian,, managing director of CIBSE Services, said: 'While we can, and do, keep trying to raise awareness among clients, we are aware that many low carbon energy assessors, facilities managers and other advisers find it difficult to persuade some clients to act unless there is clear and imminent danger of legal action resulting in a meaningful fine and damage to reputation'.
She added: 'CIBSE will be mounting an awareness and enforcement campaign which aims to equip trading standards officers to check that relevant buildings do have inspection certificates, and that they are minded to prosecute where such certificates are not available.'
Richard Hipkiss of i-Prophets Energy Services, has also noted a drop in new inspections. He said: 'Until there is increased enforcement building operators and owners will not understand the benefits that inspections can bring, so I welcome CIBSE's intervention to draw TSO's attention to these matters. CIBSE will be explaining to TSOs how they can judge what type of building is likely to have a system of a size which currently requires inspection. I believe that when TSOs understand this it will be relatively simple for them to take action, after all, they have to reach their targets just like everyone else.'
All ac systems with a cooling capacity of 250 kW were required to have been inspected by an accredited ac inspector by January 6, 2009. All ac systems with a cooling capacity of more than 11kW must have been inspected by January 2011.
A survey carried out by CIBSE earlier in 2009, revealed 30% of energy assessors estimated that less than 10% of their clients were aware of the air conditioning inspection requirements.
CIBSE low carbon energy assessors are accredited to carry out inspections of complex air conditioning systems, produce Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).