3 November 2010 – At last Australia is getting serious about energy efficiency and climate change mitigation.

On Monday, the new national Commercial Building Disclosure program came into effect, meaning that now most sellers or lessors of office space of 2000 square metres or more are required to obtain and disclose an up-to-date energy efficiency rating.

During the first year of the program, a valid National Australian Built Environment Rating System, or NABERS Energy base or whole building rating can be disclosed, but from 1 November 2011 a full Building Energy Efficiency Certificate, or BEEC – which includes a NABERS Energy star rating, an assessment of tenancy lighting and general energy efficiency guidance – will need to be disclosed.

There are challenges in applying a performance rating tool across the entire commercial building sector but the property industry has been demonstrating that it can meet and exceed changing standards for a number of years.

Green building is not only one of the world’s fastest growing industries – it’s also one of the fastest changing industries. This means that rating tools are continually improving, evolving and adapting to the dynamic and fast-paced marketplace in which they operate.  The three leading rating tool in the market place – Green Star for design, NABERS for performance and NatHERS for residential – are evolving and improving, but are part of an increasingly integrated strategy for energy efficiency in buildings.

In February of this year, the Green Building Council of Australia, together with the federal government and the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, which administers NABERS, agreed to deliver a more consistent and compatible approach to building rating.  A memorandum of understanding outlines our commitment to develop a common language for both suites of rating tools and the metrics that underpin them, and signals a greater synergy between the assessment of building attributes covered by Green Star, and performance of key impact areas such as energy, water and waste, which are assessed by NABERS.

We are working closely to ensure the tools become more closely aligned, more intuitive and keep pace with the rapidly evolving industry – but we need the support of all sectors of the industry, from government and private developers right through to industry bodies representing planners, architects and engineers.

The CBD program represents a quantum leap in our energy efficiency efforts.  While there will be challenges during the implementation phase, measuring and reporting energy efficiency in buildings is a solid first step on the road to a low-carbon economy, and we will continue to work with the Australian Government to ensure other building types and metrics are introduced into the scheme over time.

Robin Mellon is executive director – advocacy and international, Green Building Council of Australia