How green is your office building? How green is your office building?

How green is your office building?

10 June 2010 | General
The Commonwealth Government has recently announced the introduction of a national scheme to encourage office building energy efficiency. The scheme is designed to help combat Australia's ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions of which the commercial building sector is responsible for approximately 10 per cent. It is expected that the scheme will affect approximately 2,170 buildings throughout the country.

The scheme is intended to be implemented in the second half of 2010 in two phases:
  • a national disclosure scheme for large commercial office buildings (that is office buildings which have an area of more than 2,000 square metres); and
  • a possible expansion of the first phase to include other commercial building types such as hotels, retail buildings, schools and hospitals.
The scheme will require building owners to give prospective buyers and tenants a Building Efficiency Certificate. This certificate (which will remain valid for 12 months) must contain:
  • a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy base building star rating
  • an assessment of the lighting energy efficiency of tenancies in the building; and
  • suggestions on how to improve the building's energy efficiency.
The Government claims that the costs of preparing a Building Efficiency Certificate will be low when compared to the total proceeds to be obtained from the sale of the building or under a lease.

Owners who fail or refuse to comply with the scheme may be fined or prosecuted. There are, however, limited exemptions including:
  • new office buildings that are less than 12 months old; and
  • situations where it is not feasible to prepare a Building Efficiency Certificate.
The Government hopes that the scheme will help prospective buyers and tenants make informed decisions before acquiring office space. It is claimed that such steps will create a market that rewards better performing buildings and stimulates greater investment in energy efficiency.

The Government also optimistically claims that 'greener offices' have the ability to increase productivity, reduce sick days, sustain industry and account for savings of up to 40 per cent on electricity. Whether the scheme will actually achieve these objectives remains to be seen.