For today's landlord or asset manager choosing an energy assessor presents something of a quandary, on one hand it's a legal requirement that is demonstrably improving the non-domestic building stock (something which has nigh-on universal support) but on the other there is a confusing offering from some of the service providers who come out at the top of a Google search, not all of whom are necessarily all they appear to be. We've boiled our insight down to five things to keep an eye on to help you cut through the noise.
1. Pound signs: The proliferation of performative pricing
A casual online search for non-domestic EPC providers brings up many bold claims of great value prices - often 'starting' from as little as £89 - £200 for a commercial energy assessment. This unfortunately apes the manner in which the domestic EPC market has raced to the bottom of the bargain bucket, tarnishing its reputation along the way. Whilst one can argue that basing a home assessment by the number of bedrooms is a fairly reasonable pricing framework it becomes absolutely ludicrous to try and apply that to the infinitely more varied commercial stock. Simple maths should tell you that no one is going to take the time and expense of travelling to your premises, assess it, spend hours more processing the gathered data and then pay lodgement fees only to be left with spare change, at best. Ask yourself, if a tradesperson purported to paint any building for £200 would you genuinely believe that to be the final price payable? Of course not - it's bait.
A simple rule of thumb with commercial EPCs is that the more time and effort that gets spent on them, the better the final score will be.
A reputable provider will instead tailor a quote to your specific building and what you're hoping to get out of it, whether you have a small shop and just want the rubber stamp for a lease renewal or if you have a monster industrial site that requires a non-lodged EPC and inter-disciplinary consultancy before remedial works take place. The bottom line can look very different indeed and hypothetically if you were able to secure a large assessment for a meagre sum you have to ask yourself whether you were going to receive that assessors' best efforts.
2. Turf Wars: Unrealistic coverage = substandard subcontracting
Along with fanciful pricing the next large red flag you should watch out for are the companies which proudly offer a 'nationwide' service. We hate to break it to you but there simply is no company in this industry with an army of employees inexplicably in every postcode in the land. Several sites which rank highly on Google fall into this category and whilst their dedication to SEO is commendable it's somewhat misleading. Instead of focusing their time providing high-quality assessments for clients they prefer instead to farm out legitimate enquiries for work to independent local assessors. Invariably this involves beating the independent assessor down on price whilst talking the price up to the client and pocketing the difference, its a parasite sub-industry all of its own.
As a start-up we briefly experimented with taking on this work, accepting a lowball sum to assess a 'GP surgery' which turned out in fact to be more akin to a small hospital - that put a swift end to it.
The point above speaks for itself, why would you want a potentially demoralised and underpaid assessor to be judging one of the vital metrics of your asset? The gig-economy arguably has its place but that should be very far away from these important legal assessments.
The assessor you choose should operate in a defined and realistic area, in our case that's London and perhaps a bit beyond into the home counties. Unfortunately we're not going to trek to Birmingham to assess a William Hill betting shop, nothing about that stacks up nor are we going to call a local assessor and take a cut off of them. Good local assessors know their marketplace best, they know the commercial property agents and often know the buildings in question.
3. Skin in the game: Just who is your assessor?
Thanks to a robust training and accreditation system we can thankfully rule out fraud in the marketplace, only qualified individuals who are subject to regular audits, undertake statutory CPD and are full members of one of the officially recognised bodies can lodge EPCs on the government register. You should look for one of the following on your assessors' branding:-
Beyond professional qualification it's important to establish how well they operate, look for a wider online presence - LinkedIn is very handy for this.
LinkedIn is a godsend for industries like commercial property, particularly the marketplace as exists in London, there are few degrees of separation and everyone has worked with or knows-someone-who's-worked-with everyone at some point or other. It's par for the course to perform a quick bit of LinkedIn due diligence before entering into any negotiation more often than not this results in "oh they know such and such". It's one of the things that makes working in commercial property in London fun but it also acts as a casual safety mechanism to weed out bad actors.
Conduct the same simple research of your energy assessor as you would with a commercial property agent or contractor working on your property.
All to often commercial EPC assessors fall into the category of the proverbial 'Gary from Billericay' (apologies to any assessors called Gary from Essex's most beautiful town) in that they present no real detectable corporate presence, vaguely recommended by someone and perform their assessment and vanish in a similarly speedy manner. There's not necessarily anything intrinsically wrong with that but wouldn't you prefer someone who's known to you or people you know? Someone that can't afford reputational damage and thus guarantees you the best possible service. For the record - here's me - if you've worked in or around London Property for a while the chances are we have some friends in common.
4. Over-offering: Everything everywhere all of the time
Synonymous with unrealistic-coverage is the red flag of over-offering, not content with providing perhaps both domestic and non-domestic EPCs (an entirely logical speciality for a business) is the phenomenon of the companies that offer every conceivable building assessment.
Like a menu with too many dishes the quality of the whole offering is called into question.
Unless you can see that the company is a multi-disciplinary firm with an appropriately large workforce this again raises the spectre of casual subcontracting writ large. Full disclosure (and before any calls of hypocrisy are made) - we recently expanded our offering to include BREEAM and WELL assessments but these are clear and logical expansions in the arena of energy assessment for commercial buildings, but it would stretch plausibility if we were to try and convince you that we're also great at gas certification or fire regulations.
5. Case Studies: If they've got it, why aren't they flaunting it?
Tying in with the previous points - there is a notable absence in many of the 'do everything everywhere' companies websites of any case studies illustrating their past work on notable buildings. Why on earth is this? We're insanely proud of our portfolio showcasing our best projects and are frantically uploading more examples each week. The absence of such evidence should ring alarm bells for a prospective customer.
When the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra instructed us it was such a massive vote of confidence - we screamed it from the rooftops.
By definition an EPC assessors' work is a matter of public record and despite the fact that not every job can be a glamourous building in a high-brow area - indeed most are not, why do they not mention the eye-catching percentage which are? Again it's a matter of farming out work, they can't take credit when the work was done by a casual subcontractor (our friend Gary) and he similarly doesnt have the online presence to warrant it, or worse still he's done a rushed job, used default metrics and the building hasn't attained a truly representative score.
As the battle for NetZero gathers pace and the importance of EPCs continues to rise there can be no room left in the market for the casual box-ticking EPC assessors of yesteryear.
Summary - which commercial EPC assessor?
This article hasn't been written as an attack on the overwhelming majority of decent EPC assessors out there dilligently working to improve the built environment - its a guide to help you find them. If in doubt follow the checklist:-
Who are they?
Are they local to your building and can you see a clear online presence?
Are they qualified and registered with an accreditation body?
Do they investigate your requirement before producing a quote?
Can you see similar buildings to yours in their portfolio?
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