$400k government funding for NABERS apartment rating tool

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One Central Park by Ateliers Jean Nouvel and PTW Architects in Sydney has a Green Star rating of five.

One Central Park by Ateliers Jean Nouvel and PTW Architects in Sydney has a Green Star rating of five. Image: Simon Wood

The federal and state governments have announced $400,000 of funding for a new environmental performance rating tool for apartment buildings Australia-wide.

The project is part of the federal government’s Australian National Energy Productivity Plan’s 2030 targets to reach a 40 percent increase in the productivity of Australia’s energy usage.

The tool will be developed by the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) and will follow a six-star rating scale. It is the first multi-residential energy rating  tool for NABERS, which has existing rating tools for commercial buildings and homes.

The tool will be applicable to existing apartment buildings across Australia. A building must have 12 months of operational data before they can be rated, however new buildings can enter into a “NABERS Energy Commitment Agreement,” which would see the building owner commit to achieving a rating of between four and six stars.

NABERS Energy for apartment buildings will assess the energy performance of central services, with potential retrofits including upgrades to lighting, HVAC systems, pool pumps, hot water systems, sensors and building management systems.

Existing NABERS tools have allowed owners of commercial buildings to better understand their assets’ performances and provided a metric, which various policy and incentive schemes have stemmed from. 

NABERS Energy for apartment buildings is also expected to include a NABERS Water tool to help apartment building tenants assess and improve their water performance.

The office sector is saving more than $100 million a year in power bills compared to 2010, according to figures from NABERS. This has resulted in annual carbon dioxide emissions savings of more than 635,000 tonnes – the equivalent of taking more than 160,000 cars off Australia’s roads.

CEO of the Property Council, Ken Morrison, said the property sector was a strong advocate for a transition to a “net zero” emissions economy, and for more ambitious sustainability practices in the residential sector. 

“We [the Property Council] support the development of coherent national initiatives such as this, and encourage governments to bring this level of coordination to other residential sustainability policies where initiatives are often fragmented and inconsistent among jurisdictions,” Morrison said.

Luke Menzel, CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council, said,“This is a great opportunity to extend the benefits of energy efficiency to a whole new part of the market. In the office sector, NABERS provided a ‘common language’ that made energy efficiency tangible for building owners and tenants. As a result, energy efficiency is now understood as more than just a cost-saving strategy; it’s a way to improve amenity occupant health and leaseability, which has had a huge impact.”

NABERS Energy for apartment buildings will go through a development phase over the next few months. A pilot phase is expected to run in 2017.

Other energy rating tools used in Australia include Green Star and NatHERS. According to a statement on the Energy Inspection (EI) website, CSIRO and EI have signed a deal to develop a third version of NatHERS that can rate existing dwellings. The project will be funded through a $3 million joint investment from the two organizations.

Green Star has Green Star – Design and As Built ratings, which assesses the sustainability outcomes from the design and construction of new buildings or major refurbishments across nine categories: management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions and innovation.

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