In response to feedback from the property sector, NABERS has announced it is extending the free trial of its new Indoor Environment Quality tool until 16 November 2015.

NABERS acting program manager Carlos Flores told The Fifth Estate some asset owners and managers working with the new pilot tool since its release a few weeks ago had said they would not be in a position to gain certification by the trial’s original end date of 30 September, due to the time taken to achieve a rating.

The process of getting a rating could take between four to six weeks, Mr Flores said, by the time users looked for an assessor and completed the process.

He said there were two main drivers for assessing IEQ. First, for internal purposes so asset owners and facilities managers can see where a building is performing well, and where there is room for improvement. Mr Flores said there are also buildings where re-rating is showing an improvement in performance.

The data gathered by the new tool goes beyond subjective assessments like how occupants feel about their level of thermal comfort, lighting or noise into things that are harder to detect like levels of formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds or PM10 particles in the air.

“We have seen buildings where the level of some contaminants is quite high,” Mr Flores said.

The second reason for seeking the rating is as a way of differentiating an asset in the market.

“It’s about finding the next frontier of green building,” he said.

“Australian buildings are doing well in terms of energy efficiency, we have some of the best performing buildings in the world in terms of energy use. So now people are asking, ‘What’s the next differentiating benchmark worldwide?’”

Mr Flores said the growing focus on IEQ was a global trend, and that more organisations were using the various iterations of NABERS IEQ for portfolio-wide ratings.

Sustainability managers are also finding IEQ a useful tool to show company executives that it gives buildings a competitive advantage, he said.

“When the sustainability manager is selling sustainability it is not only to the outside – the market – they are also selling it within the company, to the CEO or CFO.”

NABERS is using the trial period as a way to identify areas in the tool that can be improved. Mr Flores said the organisation would be able to act more quickly to make changes during this time, before the final version of the tool is released later in November.