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Impacts of COVID-19 on NABERS ratings
Impacts of COVID-19 on NABERS ratings
The measures enacted to fight COVID-19 as well as the change in behaviour patterns for Australians have resulted in changes to the way many buildings are used. This has impacted their energy use, which in turn impacts NABERS rating results. For many buildings, this has resulted in a major drop in occupancy due to social distancing measures and working from home arrangements. Nevertheless, while occupancy has decreased, many buildings are still operational, consuming energy and water, and generating waste. NABERS rating tools were designed to compare buildings in operation, where spaces generally fit into two clear categories, either occupied or vacant. A scenario where the occupied spaces in most buildings operate at minimal occupancy over an extended period of time had not been considered by NABERS prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data gallery has been published to allow users to obtain information relevant to their specific rating type. All the data is being made available as certifications are validated. Buildings are certified under NABERS every day, and data from the most recent months will initially be based on a smaller number of buildings than previous months. These recent figures will be refined and may change as more buildings are certified, and as this dashboard is updated to reflect that over time. When analysing these figures, it is important that users consider the number of buildings captured on these graphs, to ensure conclusions made are statistically representative.
You can find our news article exploring the impact of lower occupancy in office buildings and what this means for energy, water, and waste efficiency into the future here.
Validity of NABERS ratings
NABERS ratings are still valid, even with the impacts of COVID-19. NABERS ratings can still be reliably used in the following ways:
- Comparison of year on year performance, using the average change in ratings provided in the data gallery
- Comparison of buildings within a portfolio where ratings contain COVID-19 impact data.
We suggest that building owners conduct a thorough analysis of their month-on-month energy and water usage to delve into their occupancy or footfall versus energy or water usage, in order to understand areas for improvement.
Many NABERS Assessor can help identify areas for improvement for your specific buildings.
Background: How has NABERS responded?
In April 2020 NABERS released a consultation paper proposing short- and long-term solutions for NABERS ratings, summarised below.
No changes to NABERS benchmarks
NABERS proposed a number of ways the benchmarks could be amended to accommodate for significant changes in occupancy in buildings. NABERS received strong feedback from stakeholders that there should be no changes made to the benchmarks because:
- It would be too difficult or impossible to determine occupancy levels accurately
- There was insufficient data to develop an adjustment
- Buildings were required to continue operating despite low levels of occupancy
- All buildings would be impacted so it would be simple to explain the change in ratings.
Changes to the NABERS Rules
NABERS also proposed a number of ways the Rules could be amended to accommodate the impacts of the pandemic. Many of these have been implemented and since modified and improved since March 2020. A full list of these changes can be found here.
Key changes included:
- Alternatives to site visits
- How to determine hours of operation and numbers of computers for offices
- How to determine the number of food court seats and tenant vacancies for shopping centres
- How to conduct spot measurements for Indoor Environment ratings
- How and when to conduct contamination audits for Waste ratings.
We also published the document Commitment Agreements during COVID-19 - Guidance Document to assist stakeholders during this time.
Next steps for NABERS
NABERS will be releasing a consultation paper before the end of the year to discuss what next steps should be taken for NABERS ratings. Questions that NABERS will be asking will focus on:
- The lack of a normalising factor - NABERS will propose to continue to operate without a normalising factor for occupancy levels
- A return to mandated site visits
- A return to mandated computer counts and tenancy occupancy surveys for office ratings
- A return to a space requiring active use for office ratings
- A return to a review of leasing agreements for vacant shopping centre spaces.
If you think NABERS should be consulting on other items please let us know at nabers [at] environment.nsw.gov.au