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Case study: Leveraging NABERS for climate neutrality

Case Study | 21 Oct 2020

The number of buildings with carbon neutral ratings through NABERS has doubled in the last year. Why are NABERS customers reaching for the next rung – and how can you take the next step up the leadership ladder?

^ Rhodes Corporate Park, Frasers property

Frasers Property Australia has leveraged its NABERS ratings to secure carbon neutral certification for a portfolio of commercial buildings at Rhodes Corporate Park – and Sustainability Manager Marine Calmettes says achieving the ratings was “simply a no brainer”.

Rhodes Corporate Park in Sydney shows off the best of workplace amenities – with everything from retail and restaurants, cinema and a childcare centre, plus easy access to public transport, all on the doorstep.

The precinct also boasts five buildings with Climate Active carbon neutral certification – making Rhodes Corporate Park among Australia’s most sustainable workplace hubs.

The five buildings – three owned and two managed by Frasers Property – embody a deep commitment to “carbon zero by 2028,” Marine explains.

“In 2015, we developed our sustainability strategy, A Different Way. This was a whole new way of thinking and working to deliver sustainable business growth while also making a real difference to people and the planet.”

Frasers Property’s initial target was to decrease energy intensity by 20% by 2020 – this has since been raised to an ambitious zero carbon target by 2028 with an approved Science Based Target.

Every two years we refresh our strategy to ensure that our targets are still relevant, remain ambitious and still deliver value to our customers. In 2017, we decided to increase our ambition to zero carbon by 2028 with a roadmap established in line with science-based targets.
Marine Calmettes, Sustainability Manager, Frasers Property Industrial

Frasers Property is now working to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions – the direct and indirect emissions under its control – by 50% by 2028.

Reducing Scope 3 emissions – defined as the indirect emissions outside an organisation’s control, such as through tenant activity – is much harder to address. But Frasers Property has set its sights on a 25% reduction by 2028.

With the help of Edge Environment, Frasers Property identified 34 carbon abatement initiatives that would eliminate 48% of its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2028.

“Some of these modelled initiatives represent a ‘best case scenario’ so we have set ourselves a very challenging target,” Marine explains.

“We are continuing to review these initiatives and learn from them to see if we can even do better than this.”

Why care about carbon neutrality?

  • Buildings account for more than 50% of Australia’s electricity use and almost a quarter of our emissions, according to the Every Building Counts report

  • Buildings also offer the quickest, lowest-cost opportunities to reduce emissions so Australia can meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement and limit global temperature rises to below 2°C

  • The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council says we can eliminate emissions from buildings by 2050, create healthier and more productive places for people, and save $20 billion in energy costs by 2030 – using technology that exists today.

Carbon neutrality is a compass

How do you inspire people to care about a carbon zero target in 2028 when they are focused on their job today?

“We are big believers in third party verification,” Marine says, adding that ratings send a signal to the market today, and help Frasers to keep track of its long-term progress.

Frasers Property has also achieved Climate Active carbon neutral certification for its business, and for all its commercial buildings. Its energy retailer, Real Utilities, is also a Climate Active carbon neutral certified business and only sells 100% carbon neutral certified energy.

Climate Active, formerly known as the National Carbon Offset Standard, was established by the Australian Government in 2010. Climate Active’s certification is not just a piece of paper – it also sets a baseline and encourages people to work together towards a common goal.

We think of ourselves as a progressive and innovative company and we see it is our responsibility to find ways to deliver better products with lower environmental impacts. While this requires thought, experimentation and risk, we also believe we have a social obligation and an ethical responsibility to deliver value to our customers.
Marine Calmettes, Sustainability Manager, Frasers Property Industrial

A NABERS Energy rating helps building owners to monitor and manage energy intensity – but carbon neutrality also encompasses operational emissions generated through gas usage, water, waste and refrigerants.

Buildings with a NABERS Energy rating of 4 stars or above can achieve certification, with any building type except apartments, hospitals, data centres and office tenancies eligible.

“Like most commercial asset owners, we are already achieving NABERS Energy and Water ratings as standard practice. Climate Active carbon neutral certification takes this a little bit further, but it is really a ‘no brainer’,” Marine adds.

Carbon neutral certification underpins Frasers Property’s sustainability strategy, providing a framework for annual reporting and incremental improvement.

“We need to show 12 months of energy, water, waste and refrigerants – information we already have from certifying our buildings with NABERS. More and more of our peers are setting carbon neutral and net zero targets – and using NABERS is the easiest way to achieve carbon neutral certification for commercial assets.”

The complex carbon neutrality challenge

While certification is a “simple and straightforward process”, the actions that underpin the certificate take time, Marine says. “Carbon neutrality is a complex challenge with no silver bullet” and a mix of strategies are required. These include:

  • New technology, like geothermal heating and cooling and battery storage technology

  • Innovative construction methodology, like modular construction that minimises waste on site and uses lightweight materials

  • Engaging with customers to increase their awareness of how their choices reduce carbon emissions.

As 98% of Frasers Property’s carbon footprint comes from Scope 3 emissions, engaging with customers and the supply chain is critical, Marine adds.

Frasers Property has also established a licensed energy retailer, Real Utilities, which uses a combination of renewable energy sources and purchased carbon offsets to deliver carbon neutral buildings. Real Utilities does not currently supply power to the Rhodes Corporate Park buildings and customers, however, this is something Frasers Property is looking to introduce in coming years, Marine explains.

Companies that offset their carbon emissions are investing in renewable energy like solar or wind farms, reforestation projects that enhances biodiversity and land productivity, or capture and store carbon.

Carbon offsetting can create employment for young people in rural areas, enhance eco-tourism opportunities in developing economies or drive investment in technology that improves health and wellbeing, like clean cookstoves.

Many carbon offsetting projects align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – which aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.

How do you achieve carbon neutral certification with the help of NABERS?

  1. Get started: Understand the scope of work, appoint an accredited assessor, set targets and engage with your stakeholders.

  1. Gather your data: Collect 12 months of operational data, with the help of your assessor. Your NABERS Energy rating is a key input, and NABERS Water and Waste ratings can make it even easier.

  1. Achieve Carbon Neutral building certification: Work with your assessor during site visits to validate your rating, and then, once your rating has been submitted and checked, purchase eligible offsets. Climate Active provides a list of eligible offset units on its website.

  1. Renew your rating: Certification lasts for 12 months, so refresh your data and renew the process annually to maintain your carbon neutral status.

Carbon Neutral ratings are free (excluding offsets and Assessor fees) until 30 June 2021 for office buildings greater than 1,000 sqm, hotels and shopping centres. Visit our pricing page, and download the Carbon Neutral fact sheet for more information.