New funding to tackle apartment energy efficiency 24 August 2016

The Federal and State Governments today announced funding for a new rating tool for apartment buildings that will drive sustainability upgrades, resulting in greenhouse gas reductions and bill savings. This project is part of the Australian National Energy Productivity Plan’s 2030 targets to achieve a 40% increase in productivity of our national energy usage.

The tool will be developed by the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) and will measure energy performance of apartments nation-wide on a one to six star scale, six being the most efficient.

NABERS tools have proven highly effective in the commercial building sector. They have allowed building owners to better understand their assets’ performance, and provided a metric on which numerous policy and incentive schemes have been built.

Figures from NABERS revealed the office sector is now saving more than $100 million a year in power bills compared to 2010 levels. This has resulted in annual CO2 emissions savings of more than 635,000 tons, equivalent to taking more than 160,000 cars off the road. Leading industry figures are hopeful that a NABERS Energy for apartment buildings tool, combined with the right policies, can set the residential sector on a similar path.

The Property Council of Australia, the peak body for owners and investors in Australia’s $670 billion property investment industry, welcomes the news.

Ken Morrison, CEO of the Property Council, says the property sector is a strong advocate for a transition to a 'net zero' emissions economy, and for more ambitious sustainability policies in the residential sector.

“This is a good initiative and reflects the property industry’s willingness to work with government on sensible and cost-effective measures which reduce emissions. Rating tools like this one provide better information for everyone. This is a practical measure that will reduce emissions and costs for landlords and tenants”.

“A national NABERS tool for apartments has support from industry and local and state governments, as well as the Australian government. We support the development of coherent national initiatives such as this, and encourage governments to bring this level of coordination to other residential sustainability policies where initiatives are often fragmented and inconsistent among jurisdictions.”

Carlos Flores, the National Program Manager of NABERS said, “We are proud of the important role NABERS has played in helping the Australian commercial building sector become a world leader in sustainability.”

“The built environment contributes almost a quarter of Australia's emissions, and residential apartments represent the fastest growing market in the built environment. We know bringing large-scale sustainability change to the apartment sector will be a major challenge, but one that government and industry can tackle if we work together,” Mr Flores said,

NABERS Energy for apartment buildings will assess the energy performance of central services. Potential retrofits include upgrades to lighting, HVAC systems, pool pumps, hot water systems, sensors and building management systems.

Luke Menzel, CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council said, “This is a great opportunity to extend the benefits of energy efficiency to a whole new part of the market. In the office sector, NABERS provided a 'common language' that made energy efficiency tangible for building owners and tenants. As a result, energy efficiency is now understood as more than just a cost saving strategy; it’s a way to improve amenity, occupant health and leaseability, which has had a huge impact.”

“NABERS Energy for apartment buildings has the potential to deliver those same benefits to the growing number of Australians that rent and own apartments, if it is supported by sensible, well targeted policies and programs. We're looking forward to working with all levels of government – including local governments – to make this new NABERS tool a success,” Mr Menzel said.

NABERS Energy for apartment buildings will embark on its development phase over the coming months, with a pilot phase of the tool expected to be run in 2017. The tool is also expected to include a NABERS Water tool, to help occupants of apartment buildings to assess and improve their water performance.

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Masha Vahldieck

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