AIRAH believes that the CBD initiative has played a pivotal role in making Australia's premium office sector a world leader when it comes to sustainability performance, and advocates expansion of the program to encompass all of the country's buildings.

Australia’s peak body for the HVAC sector has lent its strong support to the expansion of the government’s Commercial Building Disclosure program as recently announced by Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg.

The changes unveiled by Frydenberg will see a sharp reduction in the building area threshold of the CBD program from 2,000 to 1,000 square metres starting from July 1 next year, significantly expanding the number of commercial properties that fall within the remit of the efficiency initiative.

It is estimated that an additional 1,000 commercial buildings will be required to disclose their energy performance data during sales or lease transactions as a result of the policy changes. According to the government the mandatory provision of efficiency information to prospective buyers or tenants of buildings will result in over $50 million in energy savings, or a reduction in GHG emissions of roughly 3.5 million tones over the next five years.

The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) – the nation’s peak body for the domestic HVAC sector, has hailed the government’s decision to expand the CBD initiative as well as the benefits it will bring to the efficiency performance of the country’s built assets.

According to AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson the CBD program has been one of the key drivers behind improvements to the efficiency performance of Australia’s built assets since its launch at the turn of the decade.

“AIRAH thinks the CBD program has been very effective,” said Gleeson to Sourceable. “The most proactive property sector in regards to improving building energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption has been commercial offices, and this has largely been driven by CBD and NABERS.

As a result of initiatives such as CBD, Australia’s high-end office property sector has emerged as a world leader when it comes to sustainability performance.

“The large office sector has achieved a steep change in energy performance, with strong drivers such as CBD and NABERS and Green Star, which have enabled government and large corporate tenants to demand high-performing office space,” said Gleeson.

“The premium office building sector is the property sector where Australia leads the world in regards to sustainability credentials, and this is in large part due to the NABERS and CBD schemes.

“Large Australian property companies are now recognised in international benchmarks as global leaders in energy and sustainability.”

One of the key impact of programs such as CBD has been inducing a change in the mentality of market players with regard to the relevance of energy performance to potential investment.

“Basically, as a result of CBD and other drivers, building owners and the market are beginning to ‘value’ energy efficiency, and building tenants are beginning to demand it,” said Gleeson. “Buildings with higher NABERS ratings as disclosed by CBD tend to get leased more quickly and for higher market rents.”

Gleeson points out however, that improvements to the overall efficiency performance of various property sub-sectors remain relatively sluggish, and could still stand to benefit from the expansion of initiatives such as CBD.

“Progress has been slow outside the market leaders, with overall energy intensity improving by only 2 per cent across the commercial sector and 5 per cent in residential over the past 10 years,” said Gleeson.

“This indicates that the achievements of market leaders have not yet spread to the majority of buildings. Expanding CBD or introducing other mandatory disclosure schemes will help to drive improvements in the property sector more broadly.”

In order to achieve more substantial and widespread improvements to the sustainability performance of Australia’s built assets, AIRAH advocates the application of efficiency ratings systems to the entire market.

“AIRAH believes that the ultimate aim should be for all buildings to have an energy efficiency rating/benchmarking system, and for all buildings to have an HVAC&R efficiency rating also,” said Gleeson.

“To be realistic the CBD needs to be underpinned by rating tools, so AIRAH suggests that government and industry initially work toward extending the CBD scheme to cover all property sectors for which there is a NABERS energy rating tool available, including the residential Class 1 housing sector.

“NABERS now has energy rating tools for shopping centres, hotels, data centres and homes, and the government should consider expansion of the CBD scheme to include these other building types.

“Initial engagement with the industry should be on a voluntary basis, with a firm time signal for the move to mandatory disclosure.”