Commercial Building Disclosure has arrived

by FM Media

The Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010 (Cth) (the Act) commenced on 1 July 2010 as part of the Federal Government’s national initiative on advancing energy efficiency. PETER LOVETT from Green Pass Australia Pty Ltd explains the implementation of the scheme – the transition period begins on 1 November this year.

Commercial property owners and managers must now prepare for new disclosure obligations and start to take action to ensure their buildings meet the Act’s requirements. The Act is implemented through the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program – a national program designed to improve buildings’ energy efficiency and provide greater transparency in the marketplace by ensuring that credible energy efficiency information is available to prospective purchasers and lessees of commercial office spaces.
The Act requires owners and lessors of affected commercial premises to obtain and register a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC) before initiating any sales or leases of a building or tenancy. Disclosure must be made in all advertising material and made available to all potential buyers, tenants and sub-tenants when requested.

There will be a transition period for the first twelve months of the CBD program (1 November, 2010 – 31 October, 2011), during which building owners and lessors can satisfy their disclosure obligations by registering a current National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy rating instead of a full BEEC.

From the end of the transitional period (i.e. from 1 November, 2011), a full, valid BEEC must be disclosed and made publicly accessible on the Building Energy Efficient Register. The BEEC, which is valid for 12 months, must be prepared by an accredited assessor and include:

  • a NABERS energy rating
  • a tenancy lighting assessment (benchmarked against best practice)
  • general energy efficiency guidance.

The Act requires disclosure from:

  • building owners who sell or lease an office with a Net Lettable Area (NLA) of 2000 square metres or greater
  • building owners who sell a whole building with a NLA of 2000 square metres or greater
  • tenants who sublease a space with a NLA of 2000 square metres or greater
  • building owners who sell an office area less than 2000 square metres, though part of building with a NLA of 2000 square metres or greater.

The Act prescribes exceptions and exemptions from the requirements of the CBD program. Initially, disclosure obligations do not apply in the case of:

  • newly constructed office buildings where the certificate of occupancy is less than 2 years old
  • strata titled buildings
  • short-term leases of 12 months or less.

The Act provides for several circumstances of exemption. An application for exemption from a CBD obligation can be made in writing (for a fee) to the secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

NABERS is a performance-based rating system for existing buildings (including offices, hotels, shopping centres) managed by the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW). A NABERS rating (calculated as a 0–5 Star rating) is an assessment of a range of operational benchmarks including energy, water, waste and indoor environment quality.

The process – what to expect
A NABERS assessor conducts off-site and on-site data collection and validation and performs quantitative measurements. The data is collated for submission to the DECCW and a certified rating result is issued.

Preparing for a NABERS rating
Generally, well maintained, energy-efficient infrastructure will achieve the best rating outcomes and reduce costs. Heating, cooling and lighting will be among the first items to be addressed.
NABERS data collection process is dependent on the availability and validity of information provided, so for building owners advanced preparation of information and ensuring good record keeping procedures are pivotal to a cost-effective and streamlined rating process. This will avoid delays in any planned sale or lease transactions.

Information required
The NABERS rating depends on available information required for a rating. Some of the information sought by an assessor includes:

  • NLA – documentation specifying NLA measurements taken in accordance with the Property Council of Australia’s Method of Measurement
  • lease schedules – identifying occupancy periods, any parking arrangements and NLA
  • hours occupancy and after hours occupancy – evidence of core occupancy patterns and after hours occupancy patterns relating to heating and cooling requests outside core hours
  • vacancies – documentation outlining any stages of building vacancy during the rating period
  • energy usage – energy consumption data supplying the central services, fuel used for on-site generation, and energy associated with any car parks
  • non-utility meter – validation of CT ratios and wiring
  • single line diagram – confirming the supply of gas and electricity to the building.

The cost of a NABERS rating will depend on the size and complexity of the premises and the access and availability of required information. Typically a rating may costs between $2000 and $5000 for a reasonably sized premise of 2000 square metres or greater.

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