London calling: NABERS, actually

NABERS, the NSW born and nurtured environmental rating scheme that’s become the gold standard for green buildings in Australia will soon be heading to the UK, with one of its original architects Dr Paul Bannister to be involved with the project.

The National Australian Built Environment Rating System is already licensed for use in New Zealand. Pilot ratings have been performed in India, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

The Office of Environment and Heritage, which runs the program on behalf of the federal and state governments, has signed a partnership with the UK’s Better Building Partnership to adapt NABERS and its Commitment Agreement framework for the region.

The BBP is a not-for-profit organisation on a mission to improve the sustainability of the UK’s existing building stock. It will fund the majority of development costs, with OEH providing the intellectual property and expertise.

The initial Memorandum of Understanding will allow work to start adapting, trialling and implementing the NABERS Energy for Offices program so existing and new office developments in the UK can be certified.

“This partnership highlights NABERS as an international best-practice example of how to deliver energy efficient buildings. Having worked with the BBP for many years we’re thrilled to be supporting them in this first step in bringing our knowledge and expertise to the UK.” Office of Environment and Heritage’s NABERS director Carlos Flores said.

The project’s technical team, led by Robert Cohen at Verco, will be joined by the original developer of the NABERS Energy and Water rating systems, Dr Paul Bannister, who is returning to the energy efficiency industry after a break to be part of the project team.

The first step will be creating a benchmark that represents the average performance of UK buildings and adapting the program for the differences in climate and the way buildings are used.

Once the industry has become comfortable with the program the plan is to secure a licensing arrangement to keep NABERS running in the region long-term.

This will benefit Australian building sustainability companies, which will be able to export their skills in NABERS assessment and building management services to UK companies.

The buildings certified in the UK will also bring additional revenue to OEH, (to be absorbed on 1 July into the wider NSW planning and environment cluster) which will be reinvested in Australian NABERS operations.

“The NABERS Steering Committee, which includes most governments across Australia and 11 peak industry bodies, were very involved in this process. They were very supportive and helped us shape this partnership so it can become a highway for companies in Australia and the UK to share expertise and move faster towards a more sustainable future,” Mr Flores said.

Better Buildings Partnership chief executive officer Sarah Ratcliffe said that “having identified a clear and urgent need for a similar approach UK, the BBP is delighted to enter into this ground breaking partnership which focuses on operational outcomes delivering better buildings and driving market transformation”.

The expansion of NABERS to the UK has been in the works for some time, with the BBP and other UK organisations collaborating for the past three years to test the feasibility of bringing NABERS Commitment Agreements for new buildings to the UK.

Mr Flores told The Fifth Estate that the move will lead to ongoing collaboration with the UK.

“Many property companies in Australia have reduced carbon emissions significantly, some reducing emissions by over 50 per cent in the past decade. The scale of the change in sectors such as Australian offices is truly special, and opens the door for more international collaboration in the next few years.”

NABERS started in 1998, before its expansion under licence to New Zealand in 2012. Pilot ratings have been performed in India, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

It pits buildings against similar buildings to see how they do on energy performance and other impact areas, such as water and waste.

NABERS released its five-year strategy in April, which includes plans to expand into sectors that aren’t participating in the program such as schools, industrial buildings, retail stores, healthcare buildings and more.

Doubling the number of NABERS ratings is also a priority by driving uptake and improving existing tools.

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  1. Andrew, notwithstanding the absolute truth of your letter to the CIBSE Journal in Feb 2013, the London based BBP did develop a NABERS style base building rating for the UK market in 2012 (called a Landlord Energy Rating) We have been working hard ever since then to reach the point described in this article. We have a long way to go to match Australia’s success, but we now have a fantastic foundation from which to continue the journey.

  2. That’s so ironic… Many may not know but when the Vales came to Australia to work on it. It was going to be called ABERS (Australian Building Energy Rating Scheme) they added the ‘N’ as a joke Neighbours being so popular in the UK…