‘Commercial buildings’ refers to non-residential facilities such as such as shops, restaurants, offices, industrial premises, schools and hospitals. The commercial building sector is responsible for around 25% of overall electricity use and 10% of total carbon emissions in Australia.
Commercial building owners and tenants are realising that energy efficiency is a cost-effective way to:
- manage against rising energy prices
- increase productivity
- reduce operating costs
- increase property value
- attract higher rental returns.
The Australian Government is working with the state and territory governments to help building owners and tenants improve their energy use and invest in better buildings and equipment.
Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings
The Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings (the Trajectory) is a national plan that aims to achieve zero energy and carbon-ready commercial and residential buildings in Australia. It is a key initiative to address Australia’s 40% energy productivity improvement target by 2030 under the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP).
The Trajectory was developed in close consultation with stakeholders to outline policies that deliver cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to homes and businesses.
In February 2019, Energy Ministers agreed to the Trajectory for new buildings resulting in the Achieving Low Energy Commercial Buildings in Australia report.
In November 2019, an Addendum to the Trajectory for improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings was agreed resulting in the Achieving Low Energy Existing Commercial Buildings in Australia report.
National Australian Built Environment Rating System
The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a voluntary rating system with design standards to measure a commercial building’s energy efficiency. The system rates buildings from 0 to 6 stars, with 6 representing exceptional greenhouse performance and resource efficiency.
The NABERS website shows how to self-assess buildings for free or find a professional to conduct an accredited rating.
NABERS is run by the NSW Government on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments.
Commercial Building Disclosure
Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) is a national program which requires sellers and lessors of commercial office spaces over 1000m² to provide energy efficiency information to prospective buyers and tenants. The program is creating a more informed property market, and encouraging more energy efficient buildings and reduced emissions. The CBD program uses NABERS as its rating system.
For a brief overview of the program, see the CBD program explained video.
2019 CBD review
The government undertook a 2019 review of the CBD program to assess its effectiveness. It considered the case to expand the program to other high energy-using buildings such as shopping centres, data centres, hotels and office tenancies.
The review found the CBD program has been effective in promoting energy efficiency and carbon emission reduction. It found the program made a significant contribution to average energy use for offices declining from over 550 MJ/m2 to 400 MJ/m2 between 2011 and 2019.
As of 2019, the review estimated the CBD program:
- reduced energy consumption by a cumulative 3 PJ
- saved over $82.6 million in energy bills
- reduced carbon emissions by around 600,000 tonnes (equivalent to annual emissions of 40,000 households for a year).
Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the Australian economy, the 2019 review has been placed on hold until the situation has improved.
National Construction Code
The National Construction Code (NCC) balances the building and construction sector’s needs with performance standards and minimum requirements for buildings to achieve safety and health, amenity and accessibility, and sustainability. State and territory governments have legislation that gives legal effect to the NCC.
Under the NEPP, Energy Ministers agreed to consider opportunities to increase minimum requirements in the NCC to achieve better energy efficiency outcomes for Australia’s buildings.
Section J of the NCC deals with energy efficiency provisions for commercial buildings, institutional buildings and apartment building common areas. These provisions were extensively revised in February 2019 and became non-voluntary from 1 May 2020.
Initial investigations will be carried out to support possible future changes in NCC 2025.
Glazing for non-residential buildings under NCC2019 – products, costs, and market insights
Better glazing specifications can be an effective strategy to improve overall building energy performance.
The Glazing for non-residential buildings under NCC2019 report identifies specifications, performance levels and prices typical of new non-residential construction. It provides a good snapshot of the industry as it operates, in line with requirements of the 2019 National Construction Code.
The report also captures industry data and insights into glazing and construction practices and trends in non-residential glazing in Australia.
The National Green Leasing Policy is the first combined approach by the Australian Government and state and territory governments to reduce the environmental impact of buildings through improved operational performance. It contains green leasing principles to guide governments.
Green leases can also be used in the private commercial building sector, with publications to encourage the uptake of green leases in private leasing arrangements.
Tenant's Guide to Green Leases
The Tenant's Guide to Green Leases aims to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of using green leases from a tenant perspective. It provides an overview of the basic concepts and elements of green leasing. It shows private tenants how to achieve better environmental outcomes from the leasing and on-going management of their office space.
Green Lease Handbook
The Green Lease Handbook is a practice guide for leasing advisors engaged by landlords or tenants seeking to incorporate green provisions in commercial leases. It provides detailed legal and technical information about green leasing concepts and associated issues.
Negotiating green leases, case studies
Real-life green lease negotiation case studies illustrate a variety of scenarios and outcomes to provide insights and lessons learned.
Commercial Building Baseline Study
The Australian Government in collaboration with state and territory governments has developed a Commercial Buildings Baseline Study. This aims to improve the availability of quantitative information on commercial buildings in Australia, their energy use and associated greenhouse emissions.
Weather files for commercial building energy modelling
CSIRO has developed up-to-date weather data for use in building energy simulation software. The data can be used to simulate commercial building designs against expected weather conditions to test performance, including assessing the effects of a changing climate.
Equipment Energy Efficiency program
A Guide to Best Practice Maintenance and Operation of HVAC Systems for Energy Efficiency Australian Government
Building Code Calculator Australian Government
Climate Change – Impact on Building Design and Energy Final Report Australian Government and state and territory governments
Commercial Building Learning Rates Reports Australian Government
Leasing Standard Better Buildings Partnership
Mid-tier Commercial Office Buildings Pathway Project Report (PDF 7MB) Green Building Council of Australia