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The Performance of NABERS


A Brief History

 The NABERS programme of development began in 1998 when the Sustainable Energy Development Authority of New South Wales called for tenders in the development of a buildings energy efficiency system. At the time, there were no specified criteria for how the ratings system ought to be organised – merely that it needed to be a system to determine a grading system for energy efficiency of Australia’s buildings.

The consultancy process developed through 1998 and 1999 to determine how they system would work. It was still specific to New South Wales but it progressed on the expectation of it being a national system. Back then it was called Australian Building Greenhouse Selection (ABGR) and was adopted in Victoria sometime during the year 2000. Only when the Federal government show interest would it start to become the NABERS system we know today. The two systems were finally merged in 2009.

Enthusiasm for the System

A report in 2011 demonstrated the success of the NABERS system through its widespread adoption and enthusiasm for its methods and execution. It may be a legal requirement for those buildings over 2000sqm, but businesses have accepted findings on their own buildings and attempted to continually improve their ratings year on year. Investa, Colonial First State and General Property Trust recorded ratings around 2.5 in the early 2000s to 4.0 and above in 2010 and 2011.

NABERS has expanded in scope over its now 14-year history to include water efficiency, indoor environment and material wastage. What this does then, is gives a base minimum rating that applies to the building regardless of the actions and industry requirements of the company occupying the building at any one time. The needs of every business is different, some might require a lot of electricity for a large number of computers whereas some might require a lot less. Some might require a lot of water or require a cleaner indoor environment and for others this might not be so much of an issue. This permits, regardless of the company’s profile, the business to promote the benefits of the building they use as helping to aid their environmental impact within the industry and to evaluate their own impact as a business within the industry.

The Call to Arms

The success of the project can be attributed, amongst other things, to the declaration of the government of New South Wales that all building leases should be a minimum of 3.5 for existing leases, and 4.5 for all future leases. To keep government business and to potentially attract future business, this spurred on organisations in New South Wales to improve their prime real estate in order to keep or to gain future potential government contracts. Most interestingly, at the time of the declaration there were no 4.5 rated buildings anywhere in New South Wales! This was revisited at the time because no clear criteria existed for what would make a 4.5 rated building.

This set the standard for turning it from of technical interest to of commercial interest for those who seek to sell or lease out their real estate. A surprising lack of objection from the real estate industry means that the NABERS rating system has gone from strength to strength and has become the globally recognised standard that we have today in Australia.