Everybody needs good NABERS
31 August 2018
NABERS for Apartment Buildings launched in June 2018 and it’s set to shake up the real estate industry as sustainability becomes a higher priority for all stakeholders.

The National Australian Built Environment System (NABERS) is a rating system, administered by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), that measures the environmental performance of Australian buildings.

Introduced in 1998, NABERS has been extremely effective in stimulating energy efficiency in the commercial buildings sector. Figures from the OEH show the office sector is now saving more than $100 million a year in power bills compared to 2010.

Now, NABERS for Apartment Buildings looks set to have a similar impact on the residential sector.

What is it?

NABERS for Apartment Buildings scores the energy performance of services like heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, pool pumps, hot water systems and lighting for common areas, which can account for more than 50 per cent of total energy use. Working on a six-star scale, three stars is deemed average while six is market leading.

“The government is committed to improving the environmental performance of buildings, and extending NABERS into the residential sector was a natural progression,” OEH’s Supratik Ghosh says.

“The built environment accounts for around 40 per cent of Australia’s emissions, and while residential apartments represent the fastest growing segment in the built environment, it’s an area that’s remained largely untouched by government policies and programs.

“Importantly, it’s something that many city councils strongly support and are committed to incorporating into their future planning strategies.”

While still early days, Ghosh says uptake of the new rating scheme has been very promising.

“We’ve already certified almost two dozen buildings and currently have 50 to 60 more in the pipeline,” he says. “And as more assessors come on board, we expect these numbers to keep increasing.”

What are the benefits?

“The main benefit to owners’ corporations is that the rating allows them to understand the opportunities available to them in terms of how their strata scheme operates,” Ghosh says. 

“There’s a significant opportunity to identify and implement energy and water savings, lower utility bills and put downward pressure on strata levies.”

The OEH also expects the rating will be used for risk assessment by buyers and investors, as a higher star rating will imply smaller risks in terms of levies from energy and water outgoings, and indicate how well the owners’ corporation manages the building.

According to Dean Eades, Director at Southern Strata Management and member of the REINSW Strata Management Chapter committee, NABERS for Apartment Buildings will allow owners’ corporations to meaningfully measure their building’s performance.

“It’s a KPI of a well-functioning building. I expect it will be adopted quickly by forward-looking strata schemes, as it is a relevant tool for investment comparison,” he says.

“The rating can help build trust between strata managers and their clients, and shift the relationship from a secretarial-type role to being trusted advisors.”

Eades also predicts developers will quickly jump on board, as the NABERS rating will be seen as an important marketing tool.

How does it work?

As with commercial buildings, NABERS for Apartment Buildings’ ratings will be based on data gathered over 12 months of continuous occupancy. The minimum building size is four apartments in a configuration of at least two storeys.

“To obtain a rating, you need to engage a NABERS-accredited assessor,” Ghosh explains. “They’ll conduct a site visit and will need access to 12 months of utilities bills. They’ll then submit their rating to NABERS, who will quality check and certify the rating.”

Every rating is valid for 12 months.

“Re-rating each year will allow strata schemes to track improvements and demonstrate high performance,” Ghosh says.

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