NABERS has become a popular rating tool, as more building’s managers and owners started to get energy ratings for their buildings. NABERS penetrated 80% of the market, which is phenomenal, but NABERS could be a great for tenants too, as they are interested in energy consumption just as much as the owners are.

NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) has a 6 star rating and measures the actual impact a building has on the environment, taking into account energy efficiency, carbon emissions, water consumption and the amount of waste produces in comparison to other similar buildings.

A few months ago, NABERS Co-Assess was launched, a tool that makes the same measurements, only for tenants. It is easy to join this program. Tenants have to fill out an online application in order to get an assessment of their tenancy when the base building is getting an assessment.

AMP Capital asked for assessments for their offices in New South Wales and Landlease. The building in Queensland obtained a rating of 4.5 Stars for Building Energy, 3 Stars for water and 5 Stars for Tenancy Energy.

The Landlease offices have ratings of: 5 Stars for Building Energy, 4.5 Stars for water and undisclosed ratings for six tenancies.

Co-Assess was designed to facilitate ratings for tenants, which was a major barrier. It is also cheaper, says Co-assess project lead Adele Bouquerel: “NABERS has been successful at capturing the energy used by the common services of around 80 per cent of Australia’s office space through Base Building ratings.”

Since 2010 it is estimated that NABERS helped the property sector save $400 million in energy bills. With Co-Assess the sum will increase.

Unfortunately, only 1% of Australian tenancies used NAMBERS’ tool in order to assess their energy use.

“When we know that the energy used by tenancies generally account for 50 per cent of a building’s total energy use, it becomes clear that encouraging the uptake of tenancy ratings can assist the commercial office sector with finding more opportunities for improving efficiency, savings on electricity bills and reducing environmental impact,” Adele Bouquerel said.

One of the biggest advantages of this tool is that it helps managers to understand the performance of tenancies, which leads to implementing upgrades in order to save energy and money on other bills.

Now that is easier and more cost effective to involve the tenancy in the rating system, it is expected that buildings’ managers to have them assess alongside with the base buildings.

“Co-Assess has been designed to help tenants and building managers or owners collaborate in order to achieve net-zero buildings,” Ms Bouquerel said.

Case study: 172 St Georges Terrace, Perth

A NABERS Co-Assess rating process was recently completed for 172 St Georges Terrace, a B Grade building in Perth. Eastern Lighterage Pty Ltd is the owner of the buildings. And the assessment was done by Colliers.

The building is common in Perth. It is older, it was purchased at a lower rate and kept for a long period of time.

Patrick Jeannerat, Colliers sustainability manager occupier services says that everyone was involved in the low-cost assessment project, from building managers, to tenants to facility manager.

At the moment of the assessment, the building had 10 tenants of various sizes, from a two person tenancy to a whole floor one.

One aspect that contributed to the low rating was the fact that the building had a high turnover of tenants, which means that they were always refitting the space.

Also, HVAC systems pumps and fans were not periodically upgraded and considered inefficient. Jeannerat considers this “a symptom of an ageing building,”

“It had become more and more complicated in terms of things like the air-conditioning reticulation, there was a lot of wastage,” he said.

Before upgrading the building the Co-Assess score for the base building was essentially zero. But 50% of the energy was consumed by tenants whose performance varied between zero Stars and 5.5 Stars. Leaving the light on and not shutting down the computers leads to a bad rating.

The Co-Assess process takes into consideration this type of variation. Submetering, a system that the Perth building used, registers individual energy use and makes it easier for the NABERS tool to assess this variation.

“There is little in the way of additional cost and paperwork [compared to a Base Building rating],” Jeannerat says. He thinks that this way you can better manage a building’s performance.

The Co-Assess process provides a full transparency for each individual’s performance, therefore, it is easier to upgrade base-buildings and also it helps managers to keep each tenant accountable for its energy use.

Jeannerat thinks that this “is the next step in how to measure performance and hold each party accountable.”

The tenants at St George’s Terrace were motivated to change their energy consumption habits by getting “kudos” for good practices and using the tools available to them to improve what they are able to control, seeing that they cannot change or even influence the performance of the base building.

Jeannerat hopes that Co-Assess will stimulate building owners and also tenants to change their energy consumption habits and also to upgrade the systems. The purpose is to “get everyone on the journey to learn about health and wellbeing and resource efficiency.”

A tool for the IEQ rating similar to Co-Assess would be beneficial, as it is easier to understand by tenants and occupants.

The seven buildings in Perth’s CBD have NABERS IE rating for the base build.

“This follows an Australian-wide upwards trend with leading real estate investment trusts taking on a portfolio approach to securing independent certified health-ratings for buildings,” Patrick Jeannerat said.

Colliers sees improvement because of Co-Assess

Colliers International (WA) just added a 4 Star NABERS IE rating for the building that it is managing, at 197 St Georges Terrace in Perth. The owner of the building is GDI Property Group. 197 St Georges Terrace already had 5 Star NABERS IEQ, 5 Star NABERS Energy and 4.5 Star NABERS Water.

Jeannerat sees Co-Assess as a tool for improving the wellbeing of buildings’ occupants. “Extending the focus from purely energy to health and wellbeing is a great instrument to engage with people. The value proposition in terms of organisational bottom line outcomes through productivity can be orders of magnitude higher than energy”, he says.