Some benchmarking news that was in the works for a while, but finally went public yesterday – an Australian government sponsored review of the national law requiring offices to benchmark and disclose energy performance at time of sale or lease via a NABERS rating concluded that the law should be expanded to cover all offices larger than 1,000 square meters (roughly 10,000 square feet). The current requirement is 5,000 square meters, or about 50,000 square feet.
Why is this notable? Well the political backstory is quite interesting. The previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, commissioned this “review” along with several other reviews of environmental legislation with the intention of streamlining (meaning eliminating) these laws. You may remember Australia’s carbon tax, which was the victim of one of these reviews (by the same consulting firm actually), so most proponents of big building energy efficiency were concerned.
I am quite familiar with the concern, because I arrived in Australia to research the same CBD program last year at the peak of the uncertainty, and it threw a wrench in my plans to say the least! Soon after I arrived, those involved began to whisper that the feedback collected by the reviewers was fairly unanimous in support of keeping the program, with varying degrees of support for expanding it! I’m sure there were a few surprised ideologues in the government. Many wondered if a “review” that validated a piece of regulation solicited by an anti-regulatory administration would see the light of day. Fast forward to now, and Abbott is gone, having been axed by his own party, and the review has come out! (And I'm back in San Francisco and you can read the result of my research here.)
It is notable that support from the real estate industry is what saved and is now expanding the CBD program. Is this a sign of things to come in the US, where cities are requiring public benchmarking left and right? I’ve written about the industry “tipping point” before, where not disclosing energy performance will be more notable than disclosing it, and perhaps the US office market will follow Australia even without any new federal laws.
In other Australia/Ember Strategies news, I am a co-author on a couple papers that are soon to be published comparing NABERS and Energy Star. One will be in published in March at the IEECB conference in Frankfurt and the other in August at the 2016 ACEEE Summer Study in Asilomar. My co-authors are international benchmarking guru Adam Hinge and one of the creators of the NABERS system, Paul Bannister, so we will be covering both American and Australian perspectives.