Industry to Design for Performance in New Pilots

24/05/2016

Pilot studies will test the Commitment Agreement processes used in Australia to achieve world-leading operational energy performance.

With sponsorship from leading players in the UK office market and the backing of the Better Buildings Partnership, a team led by Verco and including BSRIA, Arup and UBT is launching an 18 month pilot programme to test a ‘Design for Performance’ approach for UK prime rented office developments which mirrors the ground-breaking NABERS Commitment Agreement used in Australia.

The pilot study follows a successful feasibility study to assess whether NABERS-style Commitment Agreements could work in the UK. 
 
Commitment Agreements were introduced in Australia in 2002, to allow in-use energy performance to be targeted throughout the development process and verified by an investment-grade NABERS rating using 12 months of metered data.
 
The feasibility study found that “base building” landlord’s services in all new office buildings in Australia using this approach typically use half as much energy as when Commitment Agreements started in 2002, and the best one-quarter. It also found that new office base buildings in London today use as much energy as those in Melbourne did in 2002.

Importantly, the study has highlighted that there are no technical reasons why a NABERS-style Commitment Agreement could not work in the UK, however, two critical steps need to be taken: measuring 'base building' performance and the landlord taking control over all the ‘base building’ services.  
 In Australia, many occupiers, not just the government, now require minimum NABERS ratings for lettings and there is increasing evidence to demonstrate that tenants seek and will pay a premium for space in higher rated buildings. This has led to strong interest from investors for better rated buildings, as well as NABERS being used as a standard for Green Bonds. It is hoped that such a market could be created in the UK.
 
The portfolio of ten pilot studies have been selected to span different stages of a building’s life cycle, enabling the project team to test most aspects of the Commitment Agreement process without waiting for a single project to progress from initial briefing to operation.
 
The study is led by Verco Technical Director Robert Cohen. He said: “The feasibility study confirms that tenants in Australia pay more and stay longer in buildings with higher NABERS energy ratings. The underlying explanation is that higher rated buildings tend to have more care expended on them during construction and commissioning and are better looked after in operation, resulting in a higher quality working environment. The pilot studies will help the UK market learn lessons from the Australian approach. The whole scheme is market driven, but to unleash the dynamic, a precursor is to define, measure, rate and value the base building energy performance”. 
 
Sarah Ratcliffe, Programme Director at BBP and chair of the project’s Executive Board, said “The ultimate objective is to transform the market, by giving occupiers, investors and valuers a tool that enables them to base their decisions upon how a building actually performs. The Australian experience shows that the Commitment Agreements used in the NABERS scheme drive ‘design for performance’, leading to better energy performance, increased productivity and enhanced asset values. To emulate this in the UK would be a critical step towards bridging the performance gap”.
 
The work is being funded and overseen by leading players in the UK prime office market: British Land, Legal & General Real Assets, Stanhope, TH Real Estate, Laing O’Rourke, NG Bailey, Willmott Dixon and energy simulation company EDSL and has attracted charitable funding for UBT’s inputs and technical assistance from Australia which is being provided by Paul Bannister, who helped to develop NABERS Energy, and his team at Energy Action in Canberra. The initiative is also supported by the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), which is responsible for running the NABERS scheme on behalf of the Australian government. The project is supported by DECC, BCO, BPF, CIBSE and UK-GBC.
 
The findings of the feasibility study are available to download here.

Project team and funders