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Building Improvement

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Why is this important?

Alongside transport, buildings are the greatest producers of emissions in Plymouth. To reach carbon neutrality by 2030, Plymouth needs to achieve maximum energy efficiency in all homes and buildings with improvements to Plymouth’s non-domestic buildings an essential part of the climate emergency solution. There is more information on this and the city’s climate emergency action plan here

Making improvements to buildings is also vital for organisations to meet their own net zero targets, providing the opportunity to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. 

Alongside these environmental benefits, there are also some wider drivers for building improvements.

How will this benefit?

Firstly, improving the energy efficiency of a building plays an important part in managing bills, particularly rising energy costs. By reducing the environmental impact of a building, it can help to reduce usage and waste of resources such as energy. While the cost of implementing building improvements varies depending on the activity, many improvements have short payback periods and can reduce costs quickly.

All buildings must have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when it is sold or rented, including renewal lettings. The EPC shows the energy efficiency of the building ranging from band A, being the most efficient, to band G, the least efficient. In 2020, the Government’s Energy White Paper implemented a requirement that all EPC’s must reach band B or above by 2030. This will be applied through phased implementation; this includes needing to submit a valid EPCs for every property from April 2025 and reaching band C by April 2027. More detailed information on these changes can be found here.

"Alongside transport, buildings are the greatest producers of emissions in Plymouth."

Making the Business Case

Business_Case_For_Green_Building_Report_WEB_2013-04-11-2.pdf (

There are several strong arguments to support a business case for energy efficiency investments. These include:

  • Cost savings, particularly on energy bills

  • Short payback period

  • Customer loyalty

  • Staff recruitment and retention

  • Risk management- improving your energy security

Businesses in tenanted buildings

For businesses who do not own the building that they operate from, making building improvements can be trickier. The information below provides some information on how you can begin to approach this:

Green leases

A green lease incorporates clauses whereby the owner and occupier of a building take on specific requirements/obligations in relation to the sustainability of a building and its use. Where a lease is already in place, a Memorandum of Understanding can be used to provide a roadmap for the co-operation of property owners and tenants in relation to the environmental performance of a building. The action undertaken on a green lease can vary depending on what is considered expectable by both property owners and tenants and can include non-binding agreements that may include actions such as data sharing around energy usage to allow a better understanding of what energy saving measures the building may benefit from.

The following guidance provided some examples of clauses that could be implemented into a lease to help facilitate more energy efficient commercial buildings. 

Useful Resources:

NHS England » Green leases framework

Better Buildings Partnership- Green Lease Toolkit 

The Crown Estate- Retailer/Landlord New Zero Building Protocol

Energy Saving - YouGen - offers free, independent advice on efficient energy usage and installing sources of renewable energy. website also provides a range of online energy efficiency news for small business owners, including start-ups.

GOV.UK’s Energy Technology List if you are planning new plant equipment. It covers independently verified energy-efficient products such as boilers, lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

Building retrofit

Retrofit involves the introduction of new materials, products, and technologies into a building to reduce its energy usage. 

Retrofit can be undertaken at different depths, ranging from small, individual improvements to whole building improvements and can be designed to meet different requirements, such as Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) or Net Zero. 

The UKGBC defines light and deep retrofits as follows:

  • Light retrofit: Light retrofit focuses on performance optimisation, basic remodelling, replacement, or adaptation of existing building elements which tend to focus on a single aspect or feature (e.g., lighting upgrades, optimisation of building controls and operation, etc).

  • Deep retrofit- Deep retrofit focuses on significant works of size or scale that result in a fundamental change to the building structure and/or services. This can be represented as a collection of light retrofit enhancements or individually disruptive measures, such as major plant replacement.

Useful link:

UKGBC- Delivering Net Zero: Key Considerations for Commercial Retrofit

Effective actions

There are a wide range of actions that can be taken to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce energy usage. One way to focus your efforts and ensure you are making the most effective improvements is to reduce demand, reduce wastage and generate energy:

Reduce demand

A lot of reducing demand is related to behaviour change and understanding your energy usage. These are some tips that could be implemented: 

  • Understand your energy usage – how much energy are you using and when?  Identify activities or anomalies which you can adapt or prevent or reduce usage.  A smart meter can help you do this.

  • Use a live reporting software, which gives you more detailed and easier to read information about your energy usage.

  • Use CT clamps (current sensors) to measure electrical consumption at circuit, zone or equipment level to see real tie energy use.

  • Ensure that all devices and appliances are only using the minimum level of energy required – Where possible, use energy-saving modes and leave appliances switched off if not in use.

  • Look at your operations and see if any of these can be streamlined to ensure efficiency.

  • Reduce usage of heating- Over the winter months it is important to ensure that all heating is used as efficiently as possible. Ensure that windows and doors are closed and consider the timing that the heating is on.

  • Ensure that heaters and boilers are well maintained and operated can also improve their efficiency reduces energy usage.

  • Reduce usage of lighting- Ensure that lights are not left on when not needed. Installing sensors can help with this, as well as override switches.

  • Replace your lightbulbs with LED bulbs.

  • The amount of energy you use for lighting can also be reduced through replacing all your lightbulbs with LED bulbs. 

Switching incandescent bulbs to LEDs


Switching halogen bulbs to LEDs


Useful Resources:

Employee engagement resources - Energy Saving Trust for support in helping to implement behaviour change.

Five tips for better behaviour change campaigns and a new collaborative approach for success | The Carbon Trust

Carbon reduction and net zero for SMEs | The Carbon Trust- a range of resources, including sector-specific advice.

Better-Business-Guide.pdf (

Reduce wastage

This is where you are likely to start making physical improvements to your building to save energy and resources:


  • Keep boilers in good working condition 

  • Fit insulation around hot water pipes 

  • Ensure your building is well insulated    


  • Ensure that the roof, walls, and floor of buildings are well insulated 

  • Seal gaps around windows and doors 

  • Fit double glazing   


  • Limit paper use, only printing when necessary and utilising both sides of the paper. 

  • Remove disposable paper, cups, and utensils 

  • Provide recycling facilities and encourage employees to use these 

  • Communicate your material conservation commitment to employees by including this in your environmental policy and action plan 

  • Purchase from sustainable supplies were possible 

  • Develop a waste policy that looks at how you can minimise waste throughout your organisation and ensure that any remaining waste is recycled to work towards a circular economy 


  • Fit water saving devices on taps (e.g., flow regulators) 

  • Install dual-flush toilets 

  • Fix leaky taps and pipes 

  • Utilise rainwater harvesting 

WRAP has a range of resources that can help you to reduce the level of waste you produce and work towards a more circular waste model, with a particular focus on food and plastic waste. 

The world green building council outlines a few other important changes that can be considered:  How can we make our buildings green? | World Green Building Council ( 

Generate Energy


Solar panels are a good option for energy production to help reduce electricity bills and carbon footprints. The savings made on energy bills will cover the cost of the installation within 3-4 years.

While this tool is designed for domestic properties, it can provide some indication of the savings that solar panels could make for you: Solar Energy Calculator | Energy Saving Trust 

Those who need energy in the evening or overnight may wish to install a battery to store any energy they do not use during the day.

Solar Panel Purchasing Options:

There are a few options to finance the installation of solar panels including capital purchase, power purchase agreements (PPA) and community solar.

  • Capital purchase – this involves covering the full cost of the purchase and installation of the panels. It allows you to gain the full benefit of the panels with no third-party having rights to your roof/property. 

          There is the possibility of raised business rates due to the addition to the value of the property.  

To find out more -  Business Rates - Advice and FAQs (frequently asked questions) • Solar Energy UK

  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)- A PPA allows you to install solar panels without having to cover the installation costs of the panels. The panels are installed through an agreement with a third party that gives them the right to access your roof space on which they install and maintain solar panels. They own the panels and sell you the energy produced over a fixed term, at a better rate than from utility suppliers, to recover the cost of installation. The length of a PPA varies based on the size of the solar array installed and energy usage, but it is often around 10-20 years. 

  • Community ownership- This works in a similar way to a PPA. However, rather than a private company installing and owning the panels, the community does. Again, your roof space is leased by the community energy partnership who cover the cost of the installation of panels, and you purchase the energy off them for less than you would from the utility providers. The length of the agreement will vary based on the size of the panel array installed and your energy usage but on average, the agreements are another 20 years. During this time, the cost of the panels is recovered, and any profit is invested into the community to help fight issues such as fuel poverty. You can find out more about this offer and the benefits it can have for the wider community through Plymouth Energy Community: Plymouth Energy Community | Homepage

Other renewables

  • There are several other renewable energy options that can help you to reduce your environmental footprint:

  • Heat pumps- air source, ground source

  • Wind power

  • Biomass systems

  • Anaerobic digestion

Useful Links

WRAP - Circular Economy & Resource Efficiency Experts

Better Business Guide to Energy Saving

Energy efficient guides

Plymouth Energy Community

Energy Saving Trust


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