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NABERS + CBD 2020 Conference: A rallying call to arms on addressing sustainability in buildings now

News | 16 Jul 2020

The NABERS and CBD Conference 2020 took place online under the theme of 'Working together for a sustainable future'.

Attracting over 1,000 registrants from across Australia and with a scattering of international viewers, this year’s event was the biggest one yet – a promising indication of the growing appetite and support for acting on sustainability in buildings in this critical decade to deliver on climate action.

Attendees tuned in to hear key insights from leaders driving sustainability in Australia's built environment. Opening remarks were delivered by Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, followed by NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean, while the event was moderated by comedian and presenter Craig Reucassel, host of hit ABC series War on Waste.

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    Leaders panel: Why it takes a village to raise a sustainability nation

    A dynamic panel of NABERS's Director Carlos Flores, GBCA's CEO Davina Rooney, Better Buildings Partnership's Chair Alicia Maynard, Pro-Invest's Managing Partner Sabine Schaffer and Property Council Australia’s National Policy Manager Francesca Muskovic kickstarted the plenary by outlining their expert views on strategies to speed up decarbonisation of buildings.

    There was mutual agreement that the Commercial Building Disclosure program has been one of the most impactful policies introduced in the last decade for effectively reducing energy use and emissions from buildings. All agreed that improvements to the National Building Code is also key to drive change in building environmental performance, as well as greater leadership from government with policies to procure better performing buildings, and collaboration across the whole building supply chain.

    There was much discussion around the need to build back a better, greener and more resilient Australia in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. A pathway focused on energy efficiency stimulus was cited as essential to address both economic recovery and climate change.

    Cooperation is essential given the scale of the challenge in transforming the built environment, with initiatives such as the Better Buildings Partnership aiding much needed industry collaboration.

    The ongoing close collaboration between NABERS and GBCA has led their respective work to become more complimentary over the years. NABERS focuses on measuring environmental footprint and improvement on an annual basis. Meanwhile, GBCA’s Green Star rating system encompasses more than what can be measured with a meter, such as examining supply chains, ecology, corporate policies and ethical standards.

    We have a tremendous challenge ahead in the next decade and we need to drive more change at a speed we've never done before. It's the level of change that cannot be done by any one organisation; it's change that can only be done in a collective sense, requiring greater collaboration and building on each other's strengths to do more together, faster.

    Carlos Flores, Director

    Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program is a winning policy

    Since its introduction nine years ago, the CBD program has proven instrumental in reducing the emissions profile of office buildings. Energy use has decreased by 35% across the office market captured by the policy (buildings over 1,000 m2).

    The program has also proven particularly effective for buildings with low initial ratings to drive fast improvement. Buildings certified through the CBD program achieved a 4.5 star rating in half the time compared to voluntary ratings.

    Nearly 80% of the office market has now been rated, and 35% of these buildings have a 5 star rating.

    CBD Director Alistair Sherwin explained how the Australian government’s technology investment roadmap will help identify the technologies that will keep Australia at the leading edge of building performance. The roadmap will assist the building of partnerships in multiple sectors to effectively deploy technology towards reducing emissions and ensuring reliable and affordable energy.

    Measuring to manage in the decade to deliver

    NABERS Director Carlos Flores explained how buildings can get to net zero emissions sooner than other sectors. Buildings moving faster can help other sectors that need more investment or technology to follow suit. In order to meet the Australian government's 2050 net zero emissions targets, NABERS must expand to service all sectors of the built environment. Currently NABERS ratings are available for six sectors.

    By 2024, as part of the new NABERS Accelerate program, NABERS will expand to service six to seven additional sectors of the built environment. The expansion will mean NABERS will grow from capturing about 30% of emissions from non-residential buildings as is current, to capturing at least 80% of emissions from non-residential buildings.

    NABERS is prioritising developing a benchmarking tool for the following sectors: aged care and retirement living, public and private schools and warehouses, with plans for additional sectors such as supermarkets and office tenancies to follow. A tool for the aged care and retirement living sector is expected to pilot in mid-2021.

    Conference breakout sessions

    From the future of NABERS Energy to overcoming Australia’s waste crisis with data led innovation

    Five breakout streams followed the plenary in the form of deep dive masterclass sessions.

    STREAM 1: For Assessors Stand up and be counted: shape the future of NABERS with us

    Hosted by three members of the NABERS team, Head of Operations and Standards Monique Alfris outlined the changes being implemented to simplify the certification processes for assessors, as well as highlighting new training opportunities and how NABERS will be supporting Assessors and their businesses over the next year. Standards Manager Andrew Buchel highlighted the major improvements being made to rules and tools, while Sector Expansion Lead Supratik Ghosh explained how Assessors can get involved in the NABERS Accelerate program as NABERS expands into new sectors.

    STREAM 2: For new NABERS users: The secrets to success in your sector

    NABERS’s Head of Market Development Esther Bailey announced new resources available for new NABERS users to complement ratings and help users move quicker and achieve better outcomes even faster, including new NABERS product fact sheets, as well as a dedicated website section for After You Rate, including accessing finance.

    The masterclass embodied four vignette interviews with established sustainability leaders and, experienced NABERS users: Amy Hogan, Head of Sustainability, Stockland; Steve Ford, Head of Sustainability and Energy, GPT; Chris Nunn, Head of Sustainability, AMP Capital; and Melinda Dewsnap, Sustainability Engagement Manager, City of Sydney. The speakers shared their insights into using NABERS for success at their respective organisations and highlighted the challenges they overcame along the way to get NABERS ratings through the door.

    Having a NABERS rating allows you to measure your performance over time, track how you’re performing and make improvements. Buildings benefit financially from reduced operating costs, smarter management, better housekeeping and better outcomes for the occupants overall.

    Amy Hogan, Head of Sustainability

    STREAM 3: For NABERS users – Energy Masterclass: What does the future of NABERS Energy look like?

    Corine Mulet, Technical Projects Manager at NABERS presented the Future of NABERS Energy project, launched earlier this year to adapt and future-proof NABERS to a number of market trends. Key changes in the property and energy markets have been considered such as the increasing decarbonisation of the grid, increase in net zero targets, changes to renewable energy purchasing and updates to carbon accounting methods. As a result, NABERS will be taking into account the decarbonisation of the grid by updating the emissions factors used in NABERS Energy ratings, and NABERS Energy with Green Power will now align with the international carbon accounting protocol.

    STREAM 4: For NABERS users – Waste Masterclass: Data-led innovation to overcome Australia's waste challenge

    Blake Lindley (Edge Environment) demystified the NABERS Waste tool and explained how data-led innovation can help overcome Australia's waste challenge. The masterclass covered why waste must be measured, and where the NABERS Waste tool and platform sits in the scope of the greater challenges of carbon emissions and the transition to a circular economy. Participants learned how to get started with NABERS Waste, how to turn measurement into management, and how building managers and organisations can deliver best practice waste management.

    STREAM 5: For NABERS users – Hotels: Everything you need to know about the NABERS Hotel tool

    Hosted by NABERS’s Commercial Sector Lead Sara Rathborne and Dr Paul Bannister (DeltaQ), this masterclass delved into how NABERS can be applied for the hotels sector – for both operators and users, and how the tool is tailored to account for the different considerations of a hotel’s size, location, star level of service and more to form a fair rating. The results of the industry consultation were presented, and attendees learned what’s next for the tool’s development and how to use NABERS for success and to achieve desired outcomes.

    NABERS announcements

    First and foremost, the biennial NABERS + CBD Conference is about bringing together our community of change-makers and innovators, but it also presents an opportunity to celebrate everything that the NABERS community has achieved, and to announce what’s next for the world-leading efficiency program to amplify the success to even greater heights.

    Key takeaways from the conference include:

    • The NABERS program has measured the fastest energy and emissions reduction from buildings in the world. 7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and 19 billion litres of water have been saved over the life of the program.
    • AUD $1 billion in energy cost savings for building owners and tenants
    • Fee-free ratings are now available in many sectors until July 2021
    • Free Assessor accreditation training until March 2021
    • Free NABERS Essentials course – 500 people served and counting
    • Thousands of dollars available from new NABERS method within white certificate
    • Growing from 30-80% built environment coverage in the next 5 years
    • NABERS Accelerate program launched in three new sectors for Energy
    • NABERS Accelerate program launched in multiple sectors for Waste
    • Net zero pathways aligned to national and state strategies
    • WELL cross walk and innovation credits established
    • Aligned with Green Star Future Focus
    • New Learning Management System to support ongoing professional development
    • Grants for sole traders

    To find out more about the above, visit the NABERS News page here.

    NABERS recorded the event in a studio in Sydney with social distancing measures in place. Some sessions were pre-recorded to ensure compliance with limits on the number of people permitted to visit the studio at one time. The event was a great opportunity for colleagues to reunite after many months of remote working. Everyone had a lot of fun and it was great to see some familiar faces without the barrier of a Zoom call!

    To watch the conference sessions click here.