The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is developing a new rating tool designed to measure the energy performance of apartments across Australia. To be funded by the Federal and State Governments, the new rating tool for apartment buildings is expected to 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 per cent increase in productivity of energy usage nationwide. The energy performance will be measured and rated on a one to six star scale, six being the most efficient.

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

NABERS figures reveal that 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 each year. A similar tool for the apartment segment along with the right policies can set the residential sector on a similar path.

The proposed development of the NABERS tool for the residential sector has been welcomed by the Property Council of Australia, the peak body for owners and investors in Australia’s $670 billion property investment industry.

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.

Describing the development as a good initiative, he said it reflected the property industry’s willingness to work with government on sensible and cost-effective measures that reduce emissions. In addition to providing better information for everyone, rating tools represent a practical measure that will reduce emissions and costs for landlords and tenants.

Carlos Flores, the National Program Manager of NABERS said they were proud of their role in helping the Australian commercial building sector become a world leader in sustainability.

Observing that the built environment contributed almost a quarter of Australia's emissions, with residential apartments representing the fastest growing market in this segment, he added that the government and industry can work together to address the challenge of bringing large-scale sustainability change to the apartment sector.

The NABERS Energy for apartment buildings tool 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 the NABERS tool was a great opportunity to extend the benefits of energy efficiency to a whole new part of the market. Commenting on the success of the tool in the office sector, he said NABERS provided a 'common language' that made energy efficiency tangible for building owners and tenants.

Similarly, the new 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 and well targeted policies and programs.

The development of the NABERS Energy for apartment buildings tool will begin soon, 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 assess and improve their water performance.