Monday, 1 September 2008

NABERS update

The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a voluntary rating system for the property industry providing a reliable measure of the actual environmental impacts of buildings on an easily understood scale of one to five stars.

The home rating tool, NABERS Home, has been available in variously improved forms for some time, providing householders with a measure of the water and energy performance of the home. It has also been trialled by local government and state housing authorities as a ‘snapshot’ of community sustainability.

More recent is the performance-based rating system for office buildings, NABERS OFFICE. NABERS OFFICE allows existing office premises throughout Australia to be benchmarked for their operational impacts on the environment. Importantly, it now incorporates the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating (ABGR) scheme to measure and rate energy and greenhouse efficiency. A water rating component, using the same methodology, is used to benchmark water efficiency. Other environmental indicators are currently being developed within NABERS OFFICE to provide a complete environmental performance benchmark, including waste, indoor environment, transport and site management.

According to a recent news release by RICS Australia, since the energy rating scheme was launched in 1999, 478 buildings have rated their greenhouse performance, making up 31% of the commercial office space in Australia. Since NABERS OFFICE Water was launched in April last year, 134 buildings have rated their water efficiency, making up 8% of the available national office space.

Building managers, owners and tenants can self-assess the energy and water performance of their base building, whole building or tenancy at no cost using the on-line NABERS OFFICE performance rating calculators. However, any public use of NABERS or ABGR must rely on an official rating done by a government-accredited assessor.

NABERS Energy and Water ratings for Hotels now available, beginning the expansion of the range of NABERS rating tools to handle variety in building types.

The alternative GreenStar rating scheme promoted by the Green Building Council of Australia has expanded rapidly since its much later inception, by offering a number of additional tools, including an ‘as built’ version of the original GreenStar Office. However, it is probably still fair to say that this industry sponsored scheme remains focused on providing a rating of intended performance of buildings. This ‘declared performance’ can serve very well to position projects in a competitive marketplace, but may or may not be eventually realised in practice.

In contrast, NABERS and ABGR ratings are based on the actual environmental impact of offices over a twelve month period and they are valid for one year. The premises need to be assessed annually to keep their accreditation and continue to promote greenhouse and water efficiency credentials.

It is worth taking another look at NABERS. It may not be as well backed by publicity and promotion as GreenStar, but in spite of its long-delayed full commercialisation, the government promoted NABERS now shows promise of matching and even overhauling the development industry scheme.

Click here to read more about NABERS generally, and to link to the web-based tools.

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