After a world leading start and several years of consultation the NABERS  Indoor Environment tool has been revised and updated in response to industry concerns over its effectiveness.

The Fifth Estate previously reported that the Property Council of Australia in 2013 requested the former iteration of the NABERS IE tool be withdrawn, calling it “deeply flawed” and pointing to low industry uptake.

After a review and extensive industry collaboration, the tool has now been updated, including:

  • updates to the star rating
  • updates to the score calculation
  • updates to the rating report
  • a technical update to align the tool with the latest in IEQ standards

The revised version is soon to be released as a pilot, with NABERS planning a nationwide “IE roadshow” for assessors to learn more about changes to the tool.

The half-day sessions to be held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane will cover the importance of IEQ, why the tool has been revised and the changes that have been made.

According to director of Viridis Jonathan Dalton, who will present at the Brisbane roadshow and is on the NABERS technical working group that provided technical and strategic direction to enhance the rating tool, the original IE tool was world-leading when it was released.

Before the tool, he said, worldwide there was very little in the way of standards that quantified what was good about the IEQ of a building, rather there were only standards that quantified what was bad in terms of lighting or indoor air quality.

There have, though, been issues with the IE tool. He said the low uptake of the tool was due to it being geared towards experts. For example, the old version gave a star rating, but didn’t convey the knowledge behind that back to the user, so users couldn’t perceive the value of the rating and effectively quantify how the star rating would change if an element of indoor environment was improved.

Mr Dalton said the new tool attempts to express in common language where a building is going well (or not) and if an element of IEQ is changed, how that then will affect the star rating.

He said there had been a lot of interest in the tool’s revision among industry , “when you look at the process NABERS have gone through – and it’s gone on for years – and the huge number of stakeholders involved…”

IEQ was becoming increasing important, he said, noting a large change in the industry since the NABERS IE tool was released. At first it was only Green Star-rated buildings, with not much general interest in the industry about pursuing an IEQ rating.

“Now looking at the industry and particularly at the tenders for leasing space that are coming out, it is something companies say they are looking for – still mostly space over 1000 square metres and government [and large companies] – but there is definitely an awareness there,” Mr Dalton said.

“Big property developers are doing IEQ assessments and monitoring them, not so much for reporting to tenants but I think so they know what’s going on in the building, to cover themselves in case something goes wrong.

“IEQ is also a good indicator of building health – [if it is low] it can be a general indicator the building will potentially be using a lot of energy, or have maintenance issues, or is not being operated or occupied properly.”

Other members on the NABERS IE technical working group:

  • Adam Garnys (CETEC Pty Ltd)
  • Amy Hogan (Colonial First State)
  • Bruce Precious (The GPT Group)
  • Chris Horan (QED Environmental Services)
  • Christhina Candido (Sydney University)
  • Christopher Chuah (ISPT)
  • Claire Bird (OCTIEF Pty Ltd)
  • Claire Pomroy (Arup)
  • Gary Whatling (Jones Lang LaSalle)
  • Haico Schepers (Arup)
  • Joel Quintal
  • Joseph Scholz (QED Environmental Services)
  • Jungsoo Kim (Sydney University)
  • Kate McAlpine (Sydney Airport Corporation Limited)
  • Kathryn Healey (ADP Consulting)
  • Leena  Thomas (University of Technology, Sydney)
  • Richard de Dear (Sydney University)
  • Shaun Condon (Investa Property Group)
  • Vyt Garnys (CETEC Pty Ltd)
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