The Australian Government will continue the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program following an independent review found it helped realise $44 million in benefits in just four years.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has welcomed the decision to continue CBD, which was developed to drive energy efficiency improvements in the commercial office sector.

According to GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Romilly Madew, the review demonstrates why tackling energy efficiency in commercial office buildings is a smart solution to climate change, especially when it can be done at a minimal cost to industry and the taxpayer.

Madew says the CBD program has proven to be a critical driver in unlocking the emissions reduction potential of commercial buildings while raising awareness of building energy performance among building occupants, delivering cost savings and creating jobs.

Key findings from the review reveal that improvements in base building energy performance, as measured by the building’s NABERS rating, have delivered cumulative benefits of $44 million between 2010 and 2014 – well in excess of the program’s costs. The review also found a reduction in end-use energy consumption of 10,020 terajoules (TJ) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 2,051 kilotonnes of CO2-equivalent (ktCO2-e) over the period 2010 to 2023.

The review has identified two enhancements to the program: Lowering the threshold for mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency information on buildings from 2,000sqm to 1,000sqm to capture smaller office buildings; and extending the validity of an office lighting assessment (known as a Tenancy Lighting Assessment) from one to five years.

Madew believes lowering the threshold for mandatory disclosure is particularly important, as it will open opportunities for greater energy efficiency in the mid-tier commercial buildings sector. She explains that there are an estimated 80,000 mid-tier commercial office buildings around Australia, but this sector has traditionally lagged behind in energy efficiency upgrades. Lowering the threshold for mandatory disclosure will prompt many building owners to explore the range of services, resources and technologies that can deliver building upgrades, often at relatively low cost, with attractive payback periods.

Though buildings are responsible for around a quarter of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, they also present one of the most cost-effective opportunities to cut emissions. Therefore, expanding the program to include more buildings will help the Australian Government’s target of increasing Australia’s energy productivity by 40 per cent by 2030.