Under European law the British government must implement the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) by 4 January 2006.
The most critical articles for Britain are 7, 8 and 9, which cover energy performance certification, inspection of boilers and inspection of air conditioning systems.
The directive gives member states an extra three years to implement these sections if they 'believe there are insufficient qualified or accredited experts anywhere within the European Union' to implement them fully.
Inspection work under these three articles must be carried out 'in an independent manner' by 'qualified and/or accredited experts', who 'can operate as sole traders or be employed by public or private bodies'.
Thousands of extra inspectors will need to be found, trained and approved before these sections can be implemented.
With less than 15 months to go even the government has accepted that implementing articles 7, 8 and 9 will have to be deferred, and that it will need European Commission permission to do so.
This leaves the first six articles, which will be implemented on 4 January 2006 through an early amendment of Part L of the Building Regulations.
In practice these will be applied first to newbuild, and will raise energy performance standards by around 25%. But major refurbishment projects and house extensions will also come under scrutiny (see box).
And a lot of the necessary methodology to apply article 3 still does not exist and no one is volunteering the cash to develop it.
Calculating the energy performance of buildings ranging from domestic dwellings to entire office complexes will need sophisticated tools.
Developing and finalising these before the end of next year will be very difficult, even if the government suddenly stumps up the cash.