The Better Building Partnership’s Design for Performance initiative, in partnership with NABERS and the BRE, has launched the NABERS UK energy performance rating scheme for offices. BRE’s Ruby Smith takes a look
The built environment will play a crucial role in the nation’s net zero target. Amid COP26 and increasing government attention in this area, we can only expect conversations around improving the energy efficiency and sustainability of our buildings to continue – and many in the industry will stand to benefit from initiatives that support them in this space.
NABERS UK enables building owners, operators and managers to better achieve their net zero targets. The scheme is an adaptation from the world-leading National Australian Built Environment Rating System, and the development required to launch in the UK was pioneered by the Better Buildings Partnership via its Design for Performance initiative in partnership with NABERS and BRE.
Following the launch of NABERS UK, Design for Performance (for developers wanting to improve their buildings’ energy performance in the design stages), the complementary rating scheme targeted at measuring energy performance in operational offices launched in September 2021.
NABERS UK Energy for Offices became available to those looking to assess and improve the energy efficiency of operational office buildings in their portfolio. Building on the success of previous NABERS schemes, asset owners, operators and managers will now be able to drive financial growth and solid returns in their portfolios by demonstrating the operational performance and sustainability achievements of the office buildings they own or manage to customers and investors.
Addressing issues at the source
The NABERS UK scheme is an important step in measuring energy efficiency, as the UK’s commercial real estate sector comes under increasing scrutiny regarding its impact on both the environment and wider society.
Historically, attempts to improve the energy performance of property portfolios have been hampered by a number of issues, with the two key ones being access to data and the disclosure and reporting of such data. Data on the actual operational performance of buildings was not easily obtainable, meaning that those in the industry did not have the information to hand to help them accurately and adequately drive improvement in their property portfolios.
Furthermore, the operational performance of buildings was not reported on and was therefore invisible to the market – particularly investors and occupiers.
In particular, data shows that the industry’s longstanding focus on EPCs as indicators of operational energy is inadequate to meet energy efficiency targets in the UK due to the weak relationship between how efficiently a building uses energy and its EPC rating.
NABERS against design-based criteria
In the past, a design-for-compliance culture caused a gap between the design and in-use energy performance of buildings. Investors, occupiers and the government are now beginning to acknowledge and appreciate the limitations of solely using design-based criteria in assessing these impacts for investment and policy decisions. Now, increasing weight is being placed on how buildings perform in-use.
As a result, introducing and encouraging a design-for-performance approach instead to help the UK deliver better office buildings will be crucial – something which NABERS UK Energy for Offices will facilitate. In Australia, NABERS now covers 86% of the office market and to date, over 308 office developments have set a target of 4.5 stars or higher – with this number only set to increase.
How NABERS for offices works
The NABERS UK Energy for Offices scheme rates the performance of the “base” building (including central services such as heating and cooling systems, and lifts and lobby lighting) enabling building owners to clearly delineate the energy consumption under their control. This allows office buildings to be rated and compared based on landlord services, providing occupiers, investors and other stakeholders with a clear indicator of the energy efficiency of the building.
By providing the owners with a cost-effective, trustworthy and independent validation of energy data, they can use it to compare their buildings with others in their portfolio and with peers across the UK. Additionally, by using benchmarks represented by a six-star scale, the scheme also provides a framework for target setting and reporting.
When businesses strive for a four to six-star rating, it results in longer leases, lower vacancies and a higher valuation, compared with those with a rating below 3.5 stars.
When it comes to cost savings, the benefits are also clear. NABERS estimates that an average of $280,000 is saved per annum when an office building improves its NABERS Energy rating from four to six stars.
Ultimately, as has been seen in Australia, NABERS will play a crucial role in helping building owners, managers and operators improve the energy efficiency of the offices in their portfolios – and, more widely, helping the UK reach its target of net zero by 2050.
Over the last 20 years, NABERS has proved that what gets measured gets managed, with customers saving an average of 30-40% on their energy bills over the course of 10 years.
Trusted by national and international reporting and finance schemes, a NABERS UK rating will not only help save on energy bills but will also reduce the environmental impact and increase the value of UK office buildings, providing benefits for users, customers and investors, as well as the planet.
Partnership account manager