Electronic "building passports" could hold the key to improving the lacklustre energy performance of Australia's built environments.

In the wake of  a recent report revealing dismal levels of efficiency throughout Australia’s building industry, calls have emerged for improved management of property-related data and documentation in order to bolster energy performance.

The government-commissioned National Energy Efficiency Building Project (NEEBP) issued a scathing assessment of energy performance throughout Australia’s building industry, reaching the conclusion that there exist “a very large number of concerns” in relation to the satisfaction of existing efficiency benchmarks.

The second phase of the project will see further investigation of areas of deficiency in Australia’s building sector that are hindering energy performance – in particular problems relating to building documentation, such as poor access and restricted availability to consumers.

The report proposed the creation of an electronic building passport, in order to improve the management of building documentation in way which is economical and secure.

The concept of a “passport” for buildings may a first glance appear counter-intuitive – given that passports are normally associated with itinerant persons travelling through multiple countries, while buildings are by definition fixed assets.

The “building passport” envisaged by advocates would in fact be more aptly compared with the medical records of individual humans, serving as an indelible record of the prior health and condition of a given property.

The electronic passport would encompass all the information from the design and construction phase of a given building. This would make subsequent access by consumers far more convenient by making all such information available from a single source.

Dr. Wendy Miller, a senior research fellow from the Queensland University of Technology whose area of expertise is built environment sustainability, is a leading proponent of achieving systematic property documentation by means of digital building passports, as well as one of the lead contenders for phase 2 of NEEBP.

According to Miller a major problem for consumers seeking sustainable housing is Australia’s current lack of a sound or efficient system for collating information about a house in a single place where it can be conveniently accessed.

Miller has called for a “whole systems” solution which will give consumers full access to all the information they need on the sustainability and energy performance of a given property.

An electronic building passport made accessible online would provide such a system, enabling users to log-on to a website to check the quality of the wall or window insulation of a given property.

While the viability of such a project would be contingent upon the accurate collation of building data, Miller estimates that 90 per cent of such information is already available, and just needs to be collected by local authorities such as councils.

Miller is currently working on the trial development of building passports with the Townsville Council, where the collation of building information in combination with advanced spatial and digital mapping is expected to provide heightened analysis of city-wide energy performance.