Build your green reputation
Energy rating systems are highly valuable tools for improving building operations – and reputations. JEREMY LEU from Bureau Veritas explains your options.
The commercial building sector is responsible for approximately 10 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, offering a large potential for energy efficiency improvement. In a new property investment market driven by sustainability, pressure is mounting on building owners and managers to minimise both corporate environmental impact and expenditures.
Today, the environmental quality of a building determines its economic performance, particularly its rental consistency and market value. It is therefore a priority for the commercial building sector to measure, benchmark, and improve the environmental performance of existing building stock. Globally, voluntary green rating systems exceed these expectations, providing building owners with strategic data for initiating key decisions on building operational management. Furthermore, green rating systems are stock selection tools for investors.
In Australia, the two main rating systems are the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS), administered by the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW); and the Green Star system, administered by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).
The Green Star environmental rating tool, previously limited to design and construction, will soon be extended by the GBCA to assess the operational performance of existing buildings.
NABERS is a performance-based rating system addressing existing buildings in operation. With the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010, which came into effect on 1 November 2010, sellers or lessors of office space greater than 2,\000 square metres are required to register for a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC), which includes a NABERS Energy rating, a tenancy lighting assessment and general energy efficiency guidance. The one-year transition period ending 31 October 2011 requires only a NABERS Energy rating to be disclosed instead of a full BEEC. Tenants, and government bodies in particular, require minimum energy rating standards (4–5 Star NABERS Energy) for the buildings they occupy, creating a market- based incentive for owners to improve their properties.
OPTIONS TO IMPROVE BUILDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY
At this stage, facility managers and building owners are facing different options to improve the energy efficiency of their assets. Depending on criteria, such as the size of the building, the annual energy bill and the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) equipment upgrade done within the building, either an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) delivered by an Energy Service Company (ESCO) or an Energy Audit may be appropriate to improve energy efficiency.
Basically, an ESCO will identify energy-saving opportunities, design and implement the recommended solutions, maintain the system installed during the payback period, and guarantee that savings will cover the project costs (usually within three to seven years). It is also a common practice for ESCO to guarantee a NABERS Energy rating improvement. Energy Performance Contracting is the approach encouraged by the Government to meet the expectations of major retrofit programs such as Melbourne 1200 Buildings.
Undertaking an energy audit is a cost effective option to improve your building’s energy efficiency performance.
The Australian Standards AS/NZS 3598:2000 recognises three different levels for energy audits, ranging from the Level 1 ‘walk through’ audit to the detailed Level 3 audit. Objectives of energy audits are to:
- gain a detailed understanding of the distribution of energy consumption and costs at the site;
- identify areas for improvement and actions necessary for energy consumption reduction, and detail associated profitability and return on investment (investment costs versus benefits);
- analyse and understand the site’s energy impact on the environment, and make recommendations that will contribute towards sustainable outcomes over time;
- create a detailed action plan designed to reduce energy consumption, with the goal of enabling the stakeholders and staff to be aware of areas where reductions in usage are possible; and
- strategise with management the implementation of solutions and ensure the identified cost reduction opportunities are transformed into actual gains.
When performing an energy audit, physical inspection of the building is conducted to review the current energy usage and define opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and energy conservation measures across the site. Inspections focus on all aspects relating to the energy efficiency of simple and complex systems. This includes HVAC, lighting, hot water systems, pumps, controls, the building’s thermal envelope, process equipment and more, as well as the behaviour of occupants.
The methodology can include using local meters and data loggers. Typically, measurements are used to quantify the current energy consumption and investigate malfunctions, inefficiencies and equipment operating more than required. Measurements enable corrective actions to be taken instantaneously and have a real educational role.
The key outcome of any energy audit and the first objective is to ensure that the identified energy saving opportunities are transformed into actual gains, which relies in many cases on the commitment of all concerned persons.
Jeremy Leu is the principal energy consultant for Bureau Veritas in Australia. He has more than five years of experience in auditing European real estate and industrial plants.