The uptake of the NABERS rating system by shopping centres, the indoor environment and hospitals have gone through the roof according to the national Australian rating system’s annual report. 

Released on Wednesday, the report confirmed the growing interest in health and wellbeing in the built environment, with the number of buildings using the Indoor Environment rating tool increasing by 32 per cent from the year before.

The health sector has jumped aboard the new NABERS tool for public hospitals, with 274 hospitals rated in its first year of operations. First launched in 2017, this is the fastest uptake of a NABERS tool to date, the report said.

A record 148 shopping centres were certified in 2017-18 – nearly half of the floor area of all Australian shopping centres larger than 15,000 square metres. 

The report states that this is a “very significant figure” for a voluntary rating tool – higher even than the proportions of office buildings under the mandatory Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program when it was first established in 2010. 

The office market also continues to perform well. In 2017-18, the office market saw a three fold increase from five years ago in high NABERS Energy ratings, with more than 100 office buildings Australia-wide awarded 5.5 stars or higher.

Since the CBD was expanded to capture smaller buildings there has been an expansion of the program by 18 per cent

The report said 169 of these smaller buildings (between 1000-2000 square metres) obtained their first ever NABERS Energy rating through the national program, which requires sellers and lessors to reveal energy efficiency information to prospective buyers and tenants.

Director at WT Sustainability Steve Hennessy told The Fifth Estate said that the NABERS tools are effective because they help organisations realise when there is “room to improve”.

“You’ve had huge improvement just because people are starting to think about performance. That’s amazing. No one is telling them to get a better rating,” he said.

He also believes “competitive spirit” should not be underestimated as motivation for pursuing new and higher ratings. 

The new NABERS toolkit

The last financial year marked the launch of three new tools for the government-backed organisation: a water and energy certification for apartment blocks (NABERS for apartment buildings), a new delivery mechanism to make NABERS commercial tenancy ratings easier and cheaper (NABERS Co-assess), and a revitalised certification tool and platform for waste (NABERS Waste).

Steve Hennessy said that the new Co-assess tool will be a “game changer” 

“NABERS have been successful at getting building owners to change energy [performance]. Base building energy goes down but tenant energy stays the same,” Mr Hennessy said. 

He said the new Co-assess tool will allow tenants to become certified in affiliation with the base building rating at “extremely low” cost. The aspiration is that “tenants will start getting certified and start doing something about [their energy efficiency performance].”

Carbon neutral certification

Last year NABERS also launched one of the world’s first carbon neutral buildings certification to simplify the process of becoming carbon neutral. This was launched in partnership with the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) and the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

Mr Hennessy said it’s “no coincidence” that NABERS have announced its zero carbon certification and major property companies have also announced that “this is where they are going”. 

“I reckon we’ll see a lot more of this from the major property players.”

On Wednesday NABERS was expected to brief a group from Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) about new offerings and developments.

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  1. The significance of the trend towards voluntary use of the NABERS tool suite should not be underestimated. It talks to the quality of the ratings, the efficiency of its administration and the value the market perceives can be gained from benchmarking and improving performance. The team can be justifiably proud of their achievements, most importantly the depth and quality of the collaboration with the sector