Steps to take before conducting an apartment building NABERS rating

by Arian Bahramsari
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Apartment building NABERS rating.

By following this list, building and facility managers will be better prepared for the conducting of an apartment building NABERS rating.

What is a NABERS rating?

The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a government performance-based six star scale rating system that measures outcomes for existing buildings in operation. NABERS assists facility managers looking to improve their building’s sustainability practices. The rating of a building is measured on its historic operational impact on the environment, considering the energy and water usage within the common property areas of a building.

Although the commercial sector’s NABERS rating has been present in the market for more than a decade, the apartment building NABERS rating was only introduced to the residential market two years ago.

How will your building benefit?

Some of the key advantages of conducting an apartment building NABERS rating are:

  • Saving money by identifying easy wins and opportunities to upgrade
  • Comparing your building to others in the market
  • Increasing the value of your building
  • Reducing strata fees, and
  • Improving energy and water efficiency.

Before performing a NABERS rating

Facility managers looking to conduct an apartment building NABERS rating can take some steps before engaging a NABERS assessor to ensure they receive a high star rating. They are as follows:

  • Record keeping: Keeping track of delivery dockets is a simple way to put yourself in a better position. For instance, look at diesel pumps and generators. If delivery dockets related to the delivery of fuel for generators and diesel pumps can’t be produced, the assessor will consider the maximum capacity of the tank to determine fuel use.
  • Sub-metering: Sub-metering is key to an apartment building NABERS rating. Facility managers can apply real-time smart metering devices for sub-metering in their building. There are various scenarios in which residential apartments may be penalised for a lack of appropriate sub-metering in the building. Here are some of these scenarios:
    • Sometimes a single facility – a pool or gym, for example – is shared amongst different owners corporations or buildings. Facility managers are required to determine the existing arrangements in place for the facility and strive to sub-meter the building’s energy and water use where possible. Sub-metering the shared facility’s energy and water use is normally the best solution to get a more accurate and higher NABERS star rating.
    • There may be a shared facility’s electric sign or water feature in the building. Facility managers can sub-meter the energy and water consumption of those elements in order to minimise the negative effect on the final star rating.
    • A residential building may be merged with some retail and commercial lots. If there is no sub-metering for these non-residential lots, NABERS would include the total energy and water consumption for the whole building. The consumption rates directly and solely associated with these lots can be excluded from the rating calculation and improve the ultimate star rating.
    • The hot water consumed within individual apartments can be excluded from the NABERS star rating calculation. Facility managers can provide the building with some measures to sub-meter this usage.
    • In some cases, non-residential lots use the building’s carpark spaces. If these spaces equal both more than 20 car spaces and 25 percent of the total number of spaces available on site, the associated energy consumption can be excluded via sub-metering energy usage.

It is worth mentioning that FMs are to ensure the sub-meters are connected to a building management system (BMS) and track performance with alerts so they can detect issues such as leaks faster. There are a range of light analytic plug-in programs that can do this if the BMS doesn’t have capacity.

  • NABERS calculator: FMs can take the most out of the NABERS reverse calculator tool. Facility managers can use this online tool to set a target star rating and determine the maximum allowable amounts of energy and water that building can use.
  • General energy efficiency strategies: Apart from the above points, there are changes facility managers can make to get a higher NABERS rating. Energy initiatives such as installing LED lighting, upgrading the BMS to optimise HVAC operation and using renewable power sources such as solar panels can make a significant difference.
  • Consider your ten-year capital works program: Finally, look at your ten-year capital works program and ensure the procurement of any plant coming on site has energy and water efficiency specifications to ensure that you purchase equipment with an operating efficiency focus, not a focus on upfront price. Examples of relevant equipment include new lifts, air conditioning and BMS.


Arian Bahramsari is a facility manager at Facility Management Victoria PTY Ltd, based in Docklands, Melbourne.

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