Rouse Hill Town Centre GPT

EXCLUSIVE: It’s been a big year for NABERS, with shopping centres flocking to the environmental rating tool, indoor environment ratings on the rise, and an expansion into the UK.

Shopping centres have been the real star of the NABERS show this year, according to the 2018-19 annual report provided exclusively to The Fifth Estate.

In just 12 months, almost 189 shopping centres in Australia have been rated by NABERS, covering almost half of all the retail area that could be certified by NABERS nationally.

It helps that the tool has been expanded to include smaller shopping centres with a GLA of less than 15,000 square metres.

The sector has traditionally taken a back seat on environmental performance and although there are signs of improvement, there’s been some resistance to the proposed expansion of the Commercial Building Disclosure Program to shopping centres.

It’s only been around for a bit over a year but over 70 buildings are now using the NABERS Waste platform to track their waste, recycling and resource recovery.

The organisation has certified 23 Waste Ratings, including one 6 Star rating, in its first year.

Also making its debut in 2018, NABERS for Apartment Buildings has been labelled the “quiet achiever” of the last 12 months. There were over 100 ratings in the 2018-19 financial year – representing the fastest growth of any voluntary NABERS tool ever.

Uptake of this tool has been driven by local councils such as City of Sydney that are integrating NABERS into their programs for improving the sustainability of apartment buildings in their municipalities.

Wellness doing well

The office wellbeing revolution shows no signs of slowing with NABERS Indoor Environment ratings growing by 63 per cent during the 2018-19 financial year, with companies such as ISPT, Brookfield, Frasers and Dexus using the tool to set health and wellbeing targets across their portfolios.

The other big news was the launch of NABERS in the UK.

In June, the Office of Environment and Heritage signed a partnership with the UK’s Better Building Partnership to adapt NABERS and its Commitment Agreement framework for the region.

The NABERS Sustainable Portfolio Report was also launched, which will help drive investment in sustainable buildings.

The energy and water performance of 27 major property portfolios is now available in an online dashboard.

“We’ve had a great response so far, with banks, investors and thousands of people using it and getting valuable insights,” NABERS director Carlos Flores said.

The dashboard will be refreshed every six months. The highest rated portfolios as of 30 June were Cbus Property (Office Energy), Lendlease and Property NSW (Office Water) and Local Government Super (Shopping Centre Energy and Water).

The organisation also released its 2019-2023 strategic plan, which included the ambitious goal of doubling the number of NABERS ratings by 2023.

The plans also involve making sure all buildings can be NABERS rated. In February 2019, the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy announced funding for NABERS to begin rating buildings in new sectors.

It’s also now possible to use NABERS Commitments Agreements to meet the energy efficiency requirements of the 2019 building code.

Becoming a NABERS assessor is more convenient than ever before as most of the training is now available online.

There was also an increase in buildings certified against the Australian government’s Carbon Neutral Certification. NABERS audited and certified nine carbon neutral ratings, including Frasers Property’s Building F in Rhodes, which is the first carbon neutral office building in Australia.

Esther Bailey, who has recently been appointed head of market development for NABERS, told The Fifth Estate the momentum builds on the “extraordinary learnings” in the office sector over recent years.

The office sector has made some of the best reductions seen globally and now the strategy among owners is to improve on achievements. “Leading property owners have net zero in their sights by 2040,” Ms Bailey said. “A bunch of them by 2030; GPT by 2020.”

Among the improved sentiment for better energy efficiency was leading companies expressing support for the new Co-Assess tool that allows a tenant to receive a NABERS assessment at the same time as the base building is assessed.

It’s time that tenants – business owners – stepped up, she said. “Business ultimately should and must take responsibility for their own emissions.”

In the next 12 months, with any hope, the review of the Commercial Building Disclosure review that requires owners to disclose NABERS ratings for offices of 1000 square metres or more when they are sold or leased will have decided to include tenant ratings.

  • With Tina Perinotto

Update: A former version of this article said that NABERS had been expanded to include smaller shopping centres with a GLA of less than 5000 square metres, not 15,000sqm.

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  1. 10 years ago tenancies accounted for 36% of total commercial building energy use. Now they can account for 50% or more. Has tenancy energy use increased? Generally – no. Energy use has stayed the same – but base building energy use has fallen – hence the change in percentage.
    I used to be opposed to mandatory NABERS tenancy ratings – now I realise I was quite wrong.
    Now I should declare potential bias – I am a NABERS assessor and teacher (in Australia and NZ) – but dont take my word for it, look at the long term results – when building owners report their performance energy ratings, they can’t help but strive to improve.
    And its the same story whether the reporting was voluntary or mandatory (by that I meant that the owners that were compelled to report via CBD legislation, over time have delivered similar extraordinary energy savings when compared to their pre CBD ‘voluntary’ counterparts)
    Not to pre-empt the CBD review process, but mandatory tenancy and shopping centre NABERS reporting has the potential to drive further real-world energy savings – and thanks to early adopters, the evidence is clear.