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Green buildings more than just a buzzword

Photo / Supplied.
Photo / Supplied.

Up to 25 per cent of NZ's $800m commercial power bill could be saved - so companies are seeking a new rating which saves money as well as boosting sustainability.

Harnessing the power of young talent is helping office building owners and tenants drive energy efficiency efforts.

University graduates are working as interns, providing free office building assessments to businesses keen to gain a NABERSNZ rating for their workplace.

Using a scale of 1 to 6 to benchmark office energy performance, NABERSNZ ratings are carried out for whole buildings, just the tenancies or only the base building, such as the common areas and services provided by the landlord.

To help businesses kick-off the NABERSNZ process 60 free feasibility assessments have been made available for existing office properties in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

The assessment interns are supervised by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC), which delivers NABERSNZ for the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority.
Food producer Ceres Organics is one of the first to use NABERSNZ interns to boost its sustainability efforts.

Its Auckland headquarters is already recognised as being built to the highest of environmental standards, achieving a 5-star Green Building rating when it was completed three years ago.

The Green Star rating recognises the great design and construction of a building while a NABERSNZ rating rewards ongoing energy efficiency achieved in an occupied workplace.

More than 95 per cent of material from the derelict 70s building, which had previously stood on the site, was diverted from landfill and reused in the new structure - from Kauri floorboards in the boardroom to concrete base course under the driveway.

The building is designed to make the most of natural light and airflows, with a building management system operating the windows opening and closing to maintain a comfortable working environment.

Ceres have been ringing up power savings of $40,000 a year - equivalent to cutting 40 per cent off its power bill - but are always looking to lift its sustainability game.

Facilities manager Dominic Leverton says the NABERSNZ rating gives it an independent, external measurement that can regularly evaluate the energy efficiency of its day-to-day operations.

"It's really good to get an idea on what stage we are at, what NABERSNZ rating we can aim for and have a bit of guidance as well," says Leverton.

Working alongside Leverton on gaining a rating is mechanical engineering graduate and NABERSNZ intern Kenneth Mascarenhas.

The 23-year-old is helping ensure Ceres have all the documentation needed to quickly and easily complete a NABERSNZ assessment.

Mascarenhas says his main job has been talking to Leverton about the NABERNZ process, helping pull together the information needed for the assessors and running through a pre-assessment.

He is also liaising with the accredited assessors Ceres has selected to do the full NABERSNZ rating.

"If businesses provide the wrong information the whole process takes a lot of time.
"The people applying for the assessment get put off because getting their rating done takes longer.

"Our job is to make it a lot easier and make sure that everyone understands it," says Mascarenhas.

Using the free assessment on offer is a no risk option to gaining an understanding of NABERSNZ before proceeding with a full rating, Leverton says.

"The cost is not the most important thing but as a business it has to be considered as well."

NZGBC chief executive Andrew Eagles says the energy efficiency measures implemented as part of a NABERSNZ rating have already helped many owners and tenants achieve great results at their buildings, starting with getting the easy wins that instantly result in
savings.

Commercial buildings use 21 per cent of New Zealand's electricity, costing business $800 million every year.

It's estimated that, on average, building energy performance could be improved by 20 to 25 per cent.

"NABERSNZ helps landlords identify improvements they can make to save energy and that makes their building more attractive to tenants," says Eagles.

"A building with a high NABERSNZ Certified Rating is more likely to attract high value tenants who will pay a premium for an energy efficient building - research in Australia shows up to 8 per cent more.

"The steps you take to get a good certified rating will see you reduce costs, save energy and improve comfort."

Using the free assessment tool on the NABERSNZ website Leverton already has an idea that Ceres is in line for a rating of between 5 and 5.5 stars - the national average for NABERSNZ ratings is 3.5 to 4 stars.

If it achieves a 5-star rating or higher - considered a market leading performance - it would be one of only a handful of businesses in New Zealand to gain that score.

IAG's Christchurch office is among those that hold a 5-star NABERSNZ rating following a refurbishment in conjunction with earthquake strengthening work carried out by former owner Goodman Property in 2015.

The energy efficiency upgrade has cut 40 per cent off IAG's annual energy bills.
NABERSNZ ratings, which sits alongside the Green Star rating tool for measuring sustainability during building design and construction, have been available in New Zealand for three years following a local adaption of the mandatory Australian NABERS rating.

Around 1000 online energy performance self-assessments have been completed, with 60 certified ratings or re-ratings issued - a third of those in the past seven months alone.

Self-assessments or official NABERSNZ ratings aren't required to be made public, but can be a starting point for energy efficiency efforts in the workplace.



Read more from EECA here

Energy efficient, competitive and low carbon businesses
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is working to make New Zealand a better place to live - economically, environmentally and socially – through the better use of energy.

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