Planning to renovate? You need to know about NZEB

New energy efficiency regulations will make larger scale renovations more expensive but the upside will be lower energy bills

From this month anyone building a new home or carrying out large scale refurbishments will have to comply with new rules aimed at improving energy efficiency levels across the country.

From this month anyone building a new home or carrying out large scale refurbishments will have to comply with new rules aimed at improving energy efficiency levels across the country.

 

November brings with it not just the kind of chilly weather that tends to sneak in through leaky windows, floorboards and doors, but also new regulations aimed at dealing with these very issues.

From this month, anyone building a new home, or carrying out large scale refurbishments to an existing home, will have to comply with new rules aimed at improving energy efficiency levels across the country. New homes will have to comply to Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) regulations while older homes are also being targeted.

So what are the NZEB regulations and how will they affect you? Well, if you’re living in a turnkey home or a new build, you needn’t worry, but if you were planning to do a refurb job in the near future, there are suddenly some considerations before you start picking the kitchen cabinets.

NZEB is aimed at builders creating next generation homes, but also at owners of existing housing stock with poor levels of energy efficiency.

It won’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s shivered in an Irish country cottage or grown up in a traditional semi to learn that most of Ireland’s housing stock is not energy efficient: 78 per cent have a BER energy rating of C2 or worse.

Under the new rules, which came into effect on November 1st, homeowners who plan to renovate more than 25 per cent of the “envelope” or surface area of their home must bring the entire property up to to a B2 BER rating.  

The “envelope” is the combined area of every surface of the house that leaks heat; so external walls, windows, doors, ground floor, and roof or ceiling.

If thinking about renovating, the first thing you should do is get a BER done to determine your home’s BER rating, says quantity surveyor Lisa O’Brien, one time QS on RTÉ’s Room to Improve.

“The assessor will specify what you need to do to bring the property up to a B2 rating, essentially a prescription, custom-designed to your house type, orientation and aspect.”

For a fee of €350, Mark Shirley, director of Carlow-based 2Eva Energy Consultants, will do such a building survey and provide you with a report as to what materials are required for your house type to be compliant with the new regulations, as well as outline costs and advise on how to qualify for the grants available, such as those offered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

It offers small grants for home improvements that boost energy efficiency, such as insulation (€400 grants available). But to avail of these, you must hire a SEAI-approved contractor to carry out the works – you won’t be eligible for the rebates if you carry out the works yourself.

Budget well for older homes

Renovations are likely to become more expensive in homes that have less than a D1 rating, says Sean McCann, director at McCann Moore Architects, based in Mount Merrion, Dublin.

To insulate a G Ber-rated, he suggests you either dryline the interior - all dividing walls, floors and the ceiling - or add exterior insulation. Lisa O’Brien says you can expects to budget external insulation at about €150 per sq m, while internal insulation and the necessary paintwork arising afterwards will cost in the region of €70 per sq m.

Some figures from jobs O’Brien has recently overseen:

The refurbishment of a 1930s, four-bedroom semi in Glenageary of 120sq m (1300sq ft), externally insulated, with new windows and insulation for the attic as well as a new gas boiler to meet the now required 90 per cent efficiency, brought its refurb costs to between €70,000 and €75,000.

A traditional three-bed stone farmhouse in the midlands, 185sq m (2,000sq ft) eeded a different approach, that included breathable internal insulation (more expensive), traditional-style sash windows and restoration of existing shutter boxes, over €1,000 per window, which brought its outlay into the region of €95,000 to €100,000.

For those looking at smaller properties, O’Brien estimates that in a typical two-up, two-down period redbrick of between 65 and 75 sq m, the costs to retro-fit will be n the region of €78,000. That figure, she says, would include a lime render to dry-line, attic insulation, new windows, new boiler, rewiring, replumbing, replastering and painting. New flooring, kitchen and bathroom would be extra.

When working out a renovation budget, she suggests you allocate 75 per cent of it to upgrading the structure, its layout and its energy efficiencies, which leaves only 25 per cent for what she calls “the niceties,” in other words, all the stuff clients send her from their Pinterest searches.

An end to open fires?

Put another briquette on the fire while you can. These new regulations could spell the beginning of the end of the open fireplace.

It’s going to be tricky, says Sean McCann. “If your works exceed the 25 per cent threshold an existing open fire will become an issue because of the air permeability.” A glass-fronted open fire or a wood-burning stove will be acceptable though, he says.

It’s not surprising to hear that buyers are becoming wary of properties that need extensive refurbishment, according to Pat Mullery, director at estate agents DNG Terenure. “Tradespeople are in short supply and refurbishment costs have gone up. Planning permission can take up to 12 months to come through and it may take three to four months for your builder to become free to start.

“For those buying homes in the less than €500,000 bracket and on a limited refurbishment budget achieving a B2 Ber rating is going to be problematic,” he says. 

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