Different sustainability tools will each be created to measure a specific thing, with each having their own strengths and weaknesses. This cheat sheet shows you the most common rating tools in Australia.

Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS)

NatHERS helps you measure how much energy will be needed to heat or cool a prospective home. The software models your house plans and estimates its future thermal performance taking into account a variety of metrics such as the direction it faces, building materials used, and typical climate.

NatHERS is used for energy efficiency regulatory purposes through the National Construction Code (NCC), overseen by state and territory governments.

The Living Building Challenge

On this rating system it’s not about being given a score – either you meet the Living Building Challenge or you don’t. Potentially the highest honor in sustainable built form, buildings must be “net positive” on energy, water and waste, effectively behaving like a living plant.

One of the greatest challenges comes in avoiding the long “red list” of materials and chemicals that are not allowed. After construction, the building must also produce 105% of the energy the building will need.

The rating system is run by the Living Future Institute Australia and is a voluntary scheme.

National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS)

NABERS compares similar buildings on energy performance and other impact areas such as water and waste. The tools look at environmental uses over the course of a year, factoring in building size, local climate, and usage patterns, before comparing the data with other matching buildings.

The tool is popular for office buildings and is used only for existing buildings in measuring actual verified performance. Its predictive capabilities are therefore limited.

The tool is mandatory for office buildings of 1000 square meters or more, and is run by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage on behalf of the federal government.

Building Sustainability Index (BASIX)

BASIX provides the standard for NSW homes or renovations when it comes to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and water use, aiming to reduce these by around 40 per cent, depending on region and home type, compared to pre-BASIX (2004) buildings.

The index covers the thermal performance of the building and a wide range of household energy uses by fixed equipment.

BASIX is provided online and is accessible by anyone. Users can plug in their data before the tool analyzes and scores the information against energy and water targets. If the design passes specific targets, which vary according to location and building type, a BASIX certificate will be handed out.

The index is run by the NSW government and is mandatory.

Green Star

This system covers all bases in rating buildings and communities on their design and performance. In order to qualify for a Green Star rating, buildings need to receive 4 stars or above, with the rest not making the cut.

Green Star ratings are available for interior fit out and construction, design and construction, precinct planning and development, and performance across a variety of categories including transport, energy, materials, water and land use. They are also available for every building type.

Run by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), the Green Star rating is a voluntary scheme.

The WELL Building Standard

This certification focuses exclusively on human health and wellness, looking at the quality of natural light, water, and air in buildings. It even encourages healthy eating choices, good mental health, and active lifestyles.