How the National Australian Built Environment Rating System is ramping up the country’s sustainability profile
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.
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.
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.
Read the January 2017 issue of Energy Digital magazine.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.