With climate change and energy issues at the forefront of the political and public agenda, improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings is an achievable and beneficial objective for both government and industry.
Commercial buildings account for a significant proportion of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, so the Australian Government has designed the Commercial Building Disclosure scheme - a program designed to improve the energy efficiency of Australia's large office buildings by ensuring market participants have credible information on energy efficiency.
The Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill was tabled in the Australian Parliament in March 2010. Subject to its passing, from 1 October this year building owners and lessors will be required to disclose an up-to-date Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC) when they sell, lease or sub-lease office space of more than 2,000 square metres.
Generous concessions have been provided for during a transition period. These will allow building owners with a current, valid NABERS Energy base building rating to disclose this in place of a BEEC for the first 12 months after the program starts. Obtaining a NABERS rating can take a few months, so owners and lessors wishing to take advantage of this arrangement are advised to act now - as NABERS ratings obtained after October 1 will not be accepted.
Implementing this scheme will provide a tangible benchmark for rating the energy efficiency of commercial buildings. Disclosing this rating provides everyone with access to the same consistent and meaningful information about a building's performance, making it easier for companies to buy or rent more efficient office space. Also, these measures create strong market-based incentives for owners to improve their properties with cost-effective energy efficient upgrades, increasing return on investment.
Building Energy Efficiency Certificates and NABERS Energy base building ratings complement- but do not replace - the voluntary Green Star rating provided by the Green Building Council of Australia, and nor can a Green Star rating be provided in place of a BEEC or NABERS rating.
Green Star remains the premium rating for new and retro-fitted commercial buildings wanting to be recognised for state-of-the-art plant, facilities and developments.
Commercial Building Disclosure is a joint Australian, state and territory government program - part of a broad package of measures to make buildings more energy efficient, delivered under the Council of Australian Governments' National Strategy on Energy Efficiency.
As the Bill is scheduled for hearing during June 2010 it is possible that some of the provisions outlined in this article may be subject to change. Readers should check the commercial building scheme's website for latest information.