Feb 8, 2017

Building standards: NABERS and Australia's sustainability profile

Alice Young
3 min
How efficient are Australia’s buildings? The number of voices asking this question has grown considerably in recent years, with government, bus...

How efficient are Australia’s buildings? The number of voices asking this question has grown considerably in recent years, with government, businesses and citizens all becoming increasingly concerned with the impact their buildings are having on the greater environment. And, with the Australian Government looking to achieve a 40 percent productivity increase in national energy usage by 2030, the question has become one of national concern.  

Set up over a decade ago, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is managed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and is stepping up to the challenge of providing the answer to this ever pressing question. By collecting and comparing data, the organisation enables its users to take stock of energy usage and follow up with improvements to boost their future rating.

Rating Australia

At its core, NABERS uses a nationally applied rating system to measure the environmental performance of Australian buildings, homes, and tenancies. NABERS takes a number of factors into account when it comes to making assessments; it measures such variables as energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality. NABERS uses a rating system that goes from one to six stars – the latter representing exemplary, market leading performance, and a one star performance indicating that serious room for improvement is required.

How does NABERS rate the performance of a building? Over a long time period (typically 12 months) the organisation collects data from a range of variables, including energy or water bills, or waste audit. Specifically, the rating considers five key factors which comprise climatic conditions, hours of use, the level of building service provision, energy sources used, and the size and occupancy of the building. Furthermore, the program compares building performance with benchmarks that represent similar buildings in the same location.

For its varied user base, the accredited rating shows both what is working and what needs to be improved; businesses can set targets to be completed in the year before the next review and can thus make meaningful energy changes while saving money.

Building skills

In order to ensure that its ideology propagates as far as possible, NABERS provides an accredited online ‘Essentials’ training course. The company states: “The course is essential for anyone involved in commercial property, such as owners, managers, tenants, real estate agents, lawyers, valuers, and consultants, as well as professionals in sustainability and energy management. It is also becoming increasingly relevant for professionals working in the finance industry.”

The course consists of six, 30 minute modules that cover every aspect of NABERS ratings. Learners will come to understand more about the objectives of NABERS, how its star ratings work, energy targets, self-assessments and auditing. 

Alongside the Essentials course, NABERS also provides training specialised to a number of important industries, particularly for assessors working in shopping or data centres – two key energy consumers that stand to benefit from the transparency that ratings typically bring. The organisation also offers Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) training that allows recipients to assessors apply for Building Energy Efficiency Certificates (BEECs) on behalf of building owners, conduct CBD Tenancy Lighting Assessments, and provide assessor supporting statements for exemption applications. Knowledge is also disseminated through its website, which makes a number of helpful tools available to users, which are divided into case studies, a resources library, a helpful glossary of terms, and a section dedicated to tips and tricks.

With a clear goal to maintain the current interest in building emissions, NABERS is leading the nation towards a new, sustainable future. By offering so much more than buildings accreditation, the organisation has grown to become a one-stop-shop for people and businesses seeking to learn more and deliver positive, long-lasting change.


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Jun 25, 2021

UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC

Dominic Ellis
5 min
The UK must put an end to a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices warns the Climate Change Committee

The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.

While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.

"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."

The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.

  • Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
  • Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
  • Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
  • Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.

In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies. 

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society. 

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."

Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).

Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

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