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Certification of the qualification level of supply chain actors such as architects, energy or engineering consultants, energy service companies, and installation contractors, regarding energy-efficient design, building analysis, construction, or installation both increases their incentives to undergo training (because they will benefit from improved credibility among potential customers) and helps investors in their search for properly skilled and trustworthy service providers.
According to ILO (2011), the number of certified experts on energy-efficient buildings across countries continues to grow, whereupon the implementation and accreditation of certification differs from country to country (ILO 2011; Olloqui & Hartless 2009). Generally it can be said, that the success of regulatory measures such as Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), mandatory Energy Performance Certificates & equipment labels, but also of voluntary green or energy-efficient building labels and financial incentive programmes is interlinked with the implementation of qualification and certification systems (ILO 2011).
A particularly close link is the one to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) schemes. Training and certification of qualified actors is an absolute must for the successful implementation of an EPC scheme and should be included in it.
Certification of qualified actors is key to ensuring both accurate services (e.g. energy performance ratings) and investor/user confidence in these. It directly benefits the experts that are awarded. They can use the certification for increasing their credibility and thereby for getting better and/or more jobs. Investors benefit from the certification, as they get support in their search for properly skilled and trustworthy service providers. Furthermore, also the certification bodies benefit as they can increase their business the more certification is demanded.
Provided that certification of qualified actors triggers improvement actions, manufacturers of energy saving equipment, components and materials, construction companies, as well as users and residents of buildings all benefit indirectly.
The certification of qualified actors is closely linked with education and training. A prerequisite for being awarded with a certificate is passing exams or undertaking training courses. Most training courses have short durations (about 3 days), however, it is often necessary to have certain pre-qualifications.
Policy-makers should make sure that an independent organisation regulates the market for awarding qualifications and certification (e.g., Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) in the UK). Secondary to organisational issues, such an organisation can be responsible for monitoring activities. For example, in the UK four regulatory authorities are responsible for regulating external qualifications and certification and are systematically monitoring the performance of awarding bodies against the requirements set out in the relevant regulatory criteria (Ofqual 2007).
In addition to the monitoring and evaluation of the certification awarding bodies, it is also necessary to have a look at the valid duration of certificates awarded. Most of them require a renewal after two years, for example.
As with other measures aimed at increasing the qualification and know-how of experts, it is difficult to quantify the energy saving impact of the certification of qualified actors. Certification of an expert does not necessarily lead to energy savings. However, the expert’s know-how was improved (depending on the training necessary to receive a certain certification) plus confidence in the work undertaken by the expert grows. Therefore, chances are good, that a growing number of improved energy efficiency projects become implemented, compliance with MEPS and accuracy of EPC improves as well, and energy savings will thereby increase.
Certification of qualified actors is key to ensuring both accurate services (e.g. energy performance ratings) and investor/user confidence in these.
Worldwide implementation status
Certification of qualified actors takes place in nearly all countries around the world. The implementation and accreditation of certification differs from country to country (ILO 2011; Olloqui, Hartless 2009). Generally it can be said, that the extent to which regulatory measures are implemented is interlinked with the implementation of qualification and certification systems (ILO 2011).
In some countries, national qualification systems exist (e.g. Bulgaria or Slovenia (Olloqui, Hartless 2009)). In countries without such systems, not-for-profit organisations often offer training courses and award certification(e.g. the Building Performance Institute in the US or Green Building Councils in various countries like the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Spain (ILO 2011)).
Additionally, there is some internationally recognised voluntary ‘Green Building’ certification. These also include energy performance ratings and methods, but do not guarantee high levels of energy efficiency, as high ‘Green Building’ ratings can also be achieved through high scores in other features. Such ‘Green Building’ certification include e.g. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) professionals who become accredited by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI, ), BREEAM International assessors who become accredited by BRE global ( ), or the DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) certification for building industry experts wishing to consult to and audit projects in countries which do not currently use their own specific adaptation of the DGNB System ( ).
In Ireland, the Building Energy Rating is the transposition of the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which requires all Member States of the European Union to include Building Energy Performance Certificates in their national laws. The scheme provides training and accreditation for assessors, so a high-quality Building Energy Rating can be guaranteed.
Read more in our bigEE good practice policy example on Ireland’s BER.
Most certification schemes are found at a national level, because the Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) or Minimum Energy Performance Standards for buildings that they often support are national policies. However, if the certification supports a local or regional policy or measure (e.g. a financial incentive programme), it may also be local or regional in its scope. On the other hand, many of the voluntary ‘Green Building’ certification projects are trans-national.
Certification of qualified actors mainly focuses on the commercial sector (consultants etc.) but also on industry.
The energy performance of buildings and their energy-efficient design, as well as building-related technologies and even appliances in general, can be covered by the certification of qualified actors.
The certification of qualified actors is closely linked with education and training. A prerequisite for being awarded with a certificate is to pass exams or attend training courses. Most training courses have short durations (about three days), however, it is often necessary to have certain pre-qualifications.
Another close link is to EPC schemes. Training and certification of qualified actors is an absolute must for the successful implementation of an EPC scheme and should be included in it. The same is the case for MEPS for buildings or energy (efficiency) building codes. Energy audit, advice & assistance during retrofit programmes to provide building owners with individual tips on energy efficiency actions and their cost-effectiveness or Energy advice & assistance during design and construction of new buildings will also gain a lot in effectiveness and credibility through certification and accreditation of energy consultants providing such services. Similar benefits are possible for financial incentive or financing programmes supporting investment in energy efficiency in buildings, when they require and support such advice & assistance services as a prerequisite for the financial incentive or financing. Policies and measures for the promotion of energy services for energy savings, such as energy performance contracting, will benefit from the certification of ESCOs.
The following pre-conditions are necessary to implement certification of qualified actors:
Agencies or other actors responsible for implementation
In some countries national qualification systems exist (e.g., Bulgaria or Slovenia (Olloqui, Hartless 2009)) and national authorities are responsible for the design and implementation of certification awarding.
In countries without such systems, private (not-for-profit) organisations in co-operation with/on behalf of national authorities can offer training courses and award certification.
At least some seed funding for building up a certification system will be required. Later the aim should be to cover the costs of running the scheme from fees for the certification itself, although this attempt should not compromise the demand for and thus the effectiveness of certification.
Some public agencies that require certain certification by their staff members, reimburse the costs for receiving certification (e.g., the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), ILO 2011).
First, the need for a certification scheme needs to be assessed: are there other policies or measures that would require or benefit from certification of qualified actors? Such policies could be Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), programmes supporting energy audit & advice & assistance during retrofit or energy advice & assistance during design and construction of new buildings, as well as financial incentive or financing programmes supporting energy efficiency investments. Of course, the education and training programmes providing the qualifications to be certified must also be in place already or be created as part of the certification scheme.
The potential demand for certification should also be estimated in this first step.
Secondly, the certification scheme needs to be designed; including among other things - the responsible agency/agencies, qualifications to be certified, requirements to be fulfilled by applicants, tests to be passed, and fees.
While an energy savings target does not seem appropriate for a certification scheme alone, it can have a target for the number of participants awarded the certification and the quality level of their qualification.
Countries may benefit from exchange of experience on successful certification schemes as well as problems and how to avoid or overcome them.
The more countries that accept a certain certification, the more important the certification becomes.
Policy-makers should make sure that an independent organisation regulates the market for awarding qualifications and certification (e.g., Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) in the UK). Together with the organisational issues, such an organisation can be responsible for monitoring activities. For example, in the UK four regulatory authorities are responsible for regulating external qualifications and certification and are systematically monitoring the performance of awarding bodies against the requirements set out in the relevant regulatory criteria (Ofqual 2007). Regarding Ofqual 2007, “the nature, scope and frequency of the monitoring activity, will be determined by information on a number of factors:
Such monitoring could be done either by (Ofqual 2007)
Awarding bodies are required to produce an action plan to show how they will deal with accreditation conditions imposed as a result of a monitoring activity.Next to monitoring and evaluation of the certification awarding bodies it is also necessary to have a look at the validity period of certificates. Most of them require a renewal after e.g. two years. For example, the LEED professional certificate has to be renewed every two years and requires either retesting or a certain number of ongoing hours of specialied training (including contribution to LEED projects, articles or books, etc.) (GBCI 2011). In the event of choosing continuing education, respective hours have to be reported to GBCI. GBCI audits 5-7% of LEED professionals who maintain these ongoing specialised education courses.Indicators for monitoring energy savings will usually be based on activities benefiting from other policies that require or benefit from certified actors, such as EPCs, MEPS, energy advice or financial incentive programmes.
As is in the case of monitoring, an independent organisation could also take care of evaluation processes. For example, in the UK, awarding bodies have to carry out self-assessments in order to ensure continuous improvement of their operations.
Although important, it is not easy to evaluate energy savings, as the certification of qualified actors does not directly and not necessarily lead to energy savings. The evaluation of the savings from certification will normally be part of the evaluation for other policies that require or benefit from certified actors, such as EPCs, MEPS, energy advice or financial incentive programmes.
Design for sustainability aspects
Sustainability aspects should be part of the respective training for being awarded with a certificate. Often, for example, such aspects are part of ‘Green building’ certificates (e.g. BREEAM), so that they have to be taken into account by the certification of qualified actors.
When certification systems are introduced, a new market for qualification and certification might emerge. Due to the higher demand for certification and qualification of actors, effects in the labour market (i.e. trainers, certification awarding bodies personnel) may also occur.
The following barriers are possible during the implementation of the policy
Especially in those countries, where no specific inspection procedures or building energy performance certificates etc. have not been developed yet (or are not mandatory), or where the certification needs are either unclear or not required by law or policy, the certification may not be highly in demand.
The following measures can be undertaken to overcome the barriers
A good prerequisite for a certification system of qualified actors is the existence of widely accepted or even mandatory energy performance certificates for buildings, systems etc. Based on the requirements of these certificates or of other policies, such as MEPS for buildings and equipment, energy audits, or financial incentives, a high quality qualification and certification system for actors can be implemented and expect high demand of usage.
As with other measures aimed at increasing the qualification and know-how of experts, it is difficult to quantify the energy saving impact of the certification of qualified actors. The certification of an expert does not necessarily lead to energy savings. However, the expert’s know-how became improved (depending on the training necessary to obtain a certain certification) plus confidence in the work of the expert grows. Therefore, the chances are good, that an improved and a growing number of energy efficiency projects become implemented and energy savings were increased. In addition, improved quality of design and construction will (1) improve compliance of buildings as designed with legal requirements for energy efficiency (Minimum Energy Performance Standards or energy (efficiency) building codes; Energy Performance Certificates) and (2) compliance of buildings in their actual construction and operation with what was intended in their design. This may lead to considerable energy savings in reality that would not materialise without the training and certification of experts.
With regard to implementing a new certification scheme on a national level, it would be more cost-efficient to fall back on existing, internationally accepted ones. Certification schemes for energy efficiency qualifications can learn from those for ‘Green buildings’. For example, the German DGNB co-operates with local partner organisations in other countries to offer international courses for DGNB Registered Professional, Consultant or Auditor accreditation (DGNB 2012).
Another example is BREEAM, that “is used in a range of formats from country specific schemes, adapted for local conditions, to international schemes intended for the certification of individual projects anywhere in the world.” ( ). National BREEAM schemes are in place in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
The various ‚Green building’ certification schemes also provide information on the costs to be expected for participants. In most cases experts that want to be awarded with certificates have to pay for it themselves. The costs for the respective training courses and the certification may vary.
Becoming a Leed Green Associate for example includes the following fees: ( ):
Application fee: $50
Exam fee (per exam appointment):
Members and full-time students: $150
All others: $200
CMP (Credential Maintenance Programme) renewal fee: $50 every two years
The course fee (including all course material, the examination and test assessment) of the three day course for becoming awarded as a BREEAM International assessor is £1475 plus VAT.
The same as with the energy saving impact of the certification of qualified actors, it is also difficult to quantify their cost savings and hence their net benefits. We are not aware of any such evaluation. However, although they are more of a supporting measure to other policies, they are none the less important.
Try the following external libraries:
|Energy Efficiency Policy Database of the IEA|
|The Building Energy Efficiency Policies database (BEEP)|
|Clean Energy Info Portal - reegle|