In today’s environmentally conscious landscape, where climate change, carbon emissions and net zero are coming to the forefront, environmentally friendly buildings are a key area of interest. The built environment has a significant global impact – buildings are responsible for 40% of carbon emissions and use approximately 40% of the world’s energy1. There’s massive scope in the energy efficiency space. Building owners that know how efficient (or inefficient) their buildings are, will be more likely to improve their properties and see the financial benefits.
NABERS for warehouses and cold stores
At BGIS, we want to help our clients achieve their goals. Many of our clients have net zero targets; most recognise the financial incentives to investing in sustainable and healthier spaces.
A measurement tool that allows building owners to measure and improve the environmental performance of their property portfolios is NABERS, which stands for the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. NABERS helps building owners to see how they compare nationally across the building sector and communicate the environmental performance of buildings.
Owners and tenants can see a rating from one to six stars for buildings’ efficiency across energy, water, waste and indoor environment. It also empowers tenants to see how buildings measure up on energy efficiency, which impacts what they pay for electricity. So, it’s a useful mechanism to drive performance.
The program was originally for office buildings and is currently mandatory for office buildings greater than 1000sqm. The NABERS rating system has been rolled out to a range of building types including hotels, shopping centres, public hospitals, aged care, data centres and recently to warehouses and cold storage.
“The first step in the process is establishing a baseline for performance,” says Beth Morris, Team Leader – Building Improvement. Then once that baseline is set through an initial rating, it gives a starting point to look at: how much energy is being used? Or if a client has multiple industrial facilities, then which one is the worst performer, and how can we focus investment on that building to bring it up?
“The NABERS tool is really useful if you’re managing a single building or even a portfolio,” says Beth. “You can’t have a picture of how much carbon you need to offset, or how to go about starting the journey to net zero, if you don’t know where you are. The rating offers clues about how you might improve your performance with energy consumption and how you compare to the rest of the industry. Or how your facilities compare to each other. Clients with a portfolio of assets will want to know how to get the best bang for their buck, and if the actions recommended and implemented are paying off.”
NABERS data from sites around Australia has identified what factors influence how efficiently facilities operate. For industrial assets, this includes things like the size of the facility, the number of full-time employees and the throughput of goods in and out of the facility. The volume of cold rooms typically has the greatest impact on how much energy is used in a warehouse or cold store facility.
Having a rating provides building owners with the opportunity to ask: Are we operating in a way that is making us more inefficient then we need to be?
Let’s look at an industrial facility with two cool rooms, and goods kept in both of them. The doors might be kept open as the forklifts are going in and out of the cool rooms. In this scenario, they are trying to keep a much larger area cold, rather than shutting the doors after the forklifts, or choosing to use one cold room only before the other. These are operational changes that can be identified through increased attention to energy efficiency, and importantly, without having to spend any money investing in more efficient equipment.
Focusing attention on better buildings
But sometimes building owners don’t have a large amount of control over the operation of a facility. They lease it to a tenant who runs it. And so a NABERS rating could be used to engage with the tenant or focus on improvements. Some of the larger property investment companies have their own targets, and as part of that, need to show they are helping their tenants to secure additional certifications for environmental performance.
Property owners are more aware of the need for buildings to be sustainable. This is better for staff and clients, better for the planet, and also for an organisation’s profits. NABERS offers the double benefit of knowing where you are with a building’s energy and water efficiency, as well as where you’re going.
Beth says the main thing we tell clients is: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you don’t have a good idea of where you are, and where you’re starting from, you can throw money or effort at trying to improve, but you won’t be able to tell if that effort is having the desired effect. It’s hard to communicate about savings if you don’t know where you started.”