According to industry insiders development of a NABERS tool that can be applied to existing multi-residential buildings is in the works.
But while that’s welcome news for those who have been lobbying towards that goal – the City of Sydney and the strata Owners Corporation Network, for instance – there could be some stiff competition emerging in the residential ratings race.
Under an agreement between Energy Inspection (owners of the AccuRate and the BERS software platforms) and CSIRO, a new version of NatHERS for existing dwellings is also in development.
CSIRO and EI have jointly invested $3 million in the development of NatHERS V3, with an aim to be developed and deployed over the next two years.
The Carbon Emissions Measurement Tool will include both the existing NatHERS rating rules and also have an extended capacity to measure carbon abatement.
In a statement on its website, EI said the tool will allow assessors to model new building thermal performance and also predict the carbon emissions and energy bills of a dwelling once the building is occupied.
The company also said it estimated the “future expansion of residential building mandatory disclosure legislation to the states [beyond the ACT], together with proposed new mandatory carbon abatement upgrade measures to be implemented prior to sale [or lease] and leveraging existing Energy Efficiency Obligation schemes such as the VEET scheme and the NSW ESS, would create more than 1600 new on-site residential building mandatory disclosure assessor jobs, and 10,000 new energy efficiency/solar PV/battery storage installation/supplier jobs Australia-wide”.
ASBEC chair Suzanne Toumbourou said the possibility of both a NABERS tool for multi-residential properties and the development of NatHERS V3 were in line with ASBEC’s call for residential sector sustainability to be addressed.
The three key areas for priority identified by the organisation in its National Framework for Residential Ratings policy position were a need for minimum energy performance standards, benchmarks to inform the market and communications around the value of sustainability initiatives.
The development of tools for multi-resi existing dwellings is something Green Strata founder Christine Byrne said has to happen.
“Ultimately, we also need mandatory disclosure,” she said.
Ms Byrne said her organisation was aware that many strata owners and owners corporations wanted to know their energy performance, “but they have got nothing to put their hands on” in terms of tools.
She said a NABERS-type tool could help by giving people an indication of what needs to be done to improve a rating, and become another impetus for undertaking upgrade activities.
Ms Byrne also thinks the real estate agents, who currently “don’t like to mention levies” for energy and water, would have to engage with performance ratings. It made a difference in the commercial property space, she said.
While she expects a NABERS tool would apply only to common property, not individual apartments, it would still have value by giving an indication of the level of recurring energy and water costs for common property.
A rating would indicate optimal performance, and that would mean lowest cost, Ms Byrne said.
Why two tools?
But some within the energy efficiency industry wonder if yet another tool is really needed.
According to an industry insider, “If NABERS is indeed planning to develop a residential rating tool for new and existing dwellings, it’s just going to make that space even more crowded and fragmented than it already is.”
The source said that with a “formidable” NatHERS V3 in development, and the Victorian Government close to rolling outs its Residential Efficiency Scorecard, “it’s hard to see the business case for a third tool” from NABERS.
“Why can’t NABERS coordinate their efforts with EI/CSIRO and the Victorian government to come up with one decent and widely respected rating tool and scheme?” the source said.
“That is what ASBEC has been calling for with their National Framework for Residential Ratings, and that is what the industry desperately wants.”