8 July 2010 – Late last month we witnessed two important milestones for Australia.  The first was the appointment of Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The second was Parliament passing the building energy efficiency legislation through the Senate.

How the new Prime Minister shapes Australia’s history remains to be seen, but the Green Building Council of Australia is confident that the new Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill 2010 will positively shape Australia’s built environment.

The Green Building Council of Australia worked very closely with both sides of politics to ensure this bill was passed, and is delighted with the positive result.

The new legislation means that building owners and lessors will be required to disclose an up-to-date Building Energy Efficiency Certificate when they sell, lease or sub-lease office space of more than 2000 square metres.  This is expected to come into operation in October.

Disclosing this rating will ensure companies have access to consistent and meaningful information about a building’s performance, making it easier for them to purchase or rent more energy efficient office space.

These measures will also provide strong market-based incentives for owners to improve their properties with cost-effective energy efficient upgrades, which will in turn increase their return on investment.

Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, has said that the Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Scheme will drive energy efficiency by introducing a market incentive for upgrades in large commercial buildings.

A report released earlier this year by ClimateWorks Australia found that the nation can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 at an average annual cost of A$185 per household, and that this reduction can be achieved using technologies that are available today.

The most cost-effective abatement opportunity, ClimateWorks’ Low Carbon Growth Plan report found, was retrofitting commercial buildings such as offices, shopping centres, schools, public buildings and hospitals.  Removing, replacing or downsizing inefficient equipment to reduce energy waste would deliver the most value.  This was followed by retrofitting heating, ventilation and cooling systems, appliances, lighting, water heating and insulation.  ClimateWorks found that three quarters of the emissions reduction opportunities identified are profitable to investors, even without a carbon price.

Of course, energy efficiency is only one aspect of environmental performance. The GBCA’s Green Star rating tool incorporates a number of aspects of environmental performance, in addition to energy efficiency: water efficiency, indoor environment quality and emissions, as well as management, transport, materials, land use and ecology, and innovation.

Our next task will be to work closely with the Australian Government to ensure other building types and metrics are introduced into the scheme over time.