NABERS and COVID-19

April 7, 2020

NABERS have released information to assessors and building owners on how NABERS ratings will be affected by COVID-19. We have developed this information into a readily accessible FAQ format to assist building owners, facility managers and NABERS Assessors.

FAQs – Building Owners & Facility Managers

Have NABERS provided any guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on NABERS ratings?

NABERS have released a new document that provides information to assessors and building owners on how NABERS ratings will be affected by COVID-19, entitled “Managing impacts of COVID-19 on NABERS ratings” (v1.0, issued 25/03/2020).

This document includes three time-bound rulings for assessors conducting NABERS ratings during the nationwide lockdown period. These rules currently only apply until 30th April 2020, and are expected to be revised.

The new temporary rulings have primarily been created to address difficulties faced by assessors who cannot undertake site visits required for NABERS ratings due to current travel restrictions.

More details of new COVID-19 rules can be found at:
https://www.nabers.gov.au/about/covid-19-and-nabers-ratings

My building has zero or near-zero occupancy due to tenants working from home. Should I shut down base building services to temporarily vacated floors where a lease agreement is still in place?

All buildings should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Where a building owner is primarily aiming to reduce total site energy usage, energy costs and/or associated carbon emissions, services to vacated floors should typically be turned off when they aren’t required to operate, and where the base building plant is configured to enable this.

However, owners and facility managers should be aware that shutting down temporarily vacated floors could potentially impact their NABERS rating. See below FAQs for further details.

At the time of writing, NABERS have not provided specific guidance addressing plant operation during shutdown periods.

If I turn off base building services to temporarily vacated floors, will this impact the building’s NABERS energy rating?

At this stage, it is likely* to impact NABERS energy ratings.

By shutting down typical base building services to temporarily vacated floors, affected areas may be treated as ‘vacant’ spaces by NABERS assessors (as they are not “ready for occupation”). Consequently, the rated area for the building will reduce.

However, the base building plant shutdowns will also typically result in a reduction in building energy usage.

Therefore, the net NABERS ratings impact will reflect a balance between reduced energy consumption (positive rating impact) and reduced rated area (negative rated impact).

It is possible in theory that these effects could balance to result in no net change to the NABERS energy rating; however, in practice, due to building specific plant configurations and characteristics, it is likely that one effect will outweigh the other, resulting in a change to the rating, with the extent of change differing from building to building.

*Based on the current available advice from NABERS (as of 3rd April 2020, and currently only applicable up until April 30th 2020); however, as this situation is constantly evolving, NABERS may provide future advice that changes this assessment.

What should I do if tenants request lease conditions to be maintained on their vacated floors during the lockdown period?

Ensure operational evidence of lease conditions being maintained is traceable via BMCS trend logs or similar systems.

When NABERS provide future guidance on ratings during the COVID-19 period, assessors may require extra evidence (such as BMCS trend logs) to prove that temporarily vacated areas were “ready for occupation”, to permit them to include these areas within the NABERS calculation.

Additionally, due to the significantly reduced internal loads on temporarily vacated floors, the base building system control parameters (particularly for HVAC systems) should be recalibrated and tuned accordingly, to maximise energy efficiency during this period.

My building does not require a new NABERS rating to be undertaken between now and 30th April 2020. What do I need to do?

At this stage, no action is required; however, we recommend you continue to review published updates on the impacts of COVID-19 on new NABERS ratings, and consult your NABERS assessor.

My building is unoccupied, and I have shut down base building services to vacated floors. How will this affect my Indoor Environment Rating?

At the time of writing, NABERS have not provided guidance on this.

We recommend that you contact the NABERS National Administrator before commencing any Indoor Environment Ratings, as the current COVID-19 rules do not provide more details on how to perform Indoor Environment Ratings during this period.

NABERS Email: nabers@environment.nsw.gov.au

FAQs – NABERS Assessors

Are there new NABERS rules due to COVID-19?

Yes. NABERS have released a set of new rules to assist assessors in conducting NABERS ratings during the COVID-19 outbreak. The new rules are issued temporarily and valid until 30 April 2020. Assessors who wish to use the new COVID-19 NABERS rules must seek prior NABERS approval before using rules.

More details of new COVID-19 rules can be found at:
https://www.nabers.gov.au/about/covid-19-and-nabers-ratings

Will these COVID-19 NABERS rules replace the standard NABERS rules?

No. The new COVID-19 rules are currently valid until 30th April 2020 only. It is expected that these rulings will become obsolete when travel restrictions are relaxed.

When can I use the COVID-19 rules in my assessments?

The COVID-19 rules can apply for any NABERS ratings  which are required to be performed between 1st March 2020 and 30th April 2020, where a site visit is not possible due to the nationwide lockdown.

Note: For waste ratings, a virtual site visit is allowed by a non-assessor under the supervision of an accredited assessor (Refer to Ruling #2 – COVID-19 NABERS Rules for more details).

A further extension of COVID-19 rules will be announced by NABERS on the basis of advice from health authorities.

I have different site-specific conditions affecting my rating during the lockdown period, what should I do?

Should you wish to make an internal query first, please contact us or directly liaise with the NABERS National Administrator for a customised solution to address your situation.

I don’t have a NABERS rating to perform between now and 30th April 2020, how will my future assessments be affected?

NABERS have not yet indicated how rating procedures may be affected beyond April 30th; we recommend you continue to review published updates on the impacts of COVID-19 on new ratings and directly liaise with the NABERS National Administrator for further information.

I have a NABERS rating to commence between now and 30th April 2020, what do I need to do?

If the rating cannot continue per standard NABERS rules, the COVID-19 NABERS rules may apply – seek individual guidance from NABERS depending on the rating circumstances.

When conducting my NABERS site visit during the COVID-19 lockdown period, how do I treat an unoccupied space where typical base building services such as HVAC, lights, etc. are still operating?

If:

1. A valid lease (OTA) is in place and the tenant is working from home due to the shutdown, without any additional OTA-compliant agreement to temporarily shutdown services to the unoccupied floor, consider the whole space as ‘occupied’;


2.
A valid lease (OTA) is in place and the tenant is working from home due to the shutdown, and additionally, there is a OTA-compliant agreement in place to temporarily shutdown services to the unoccupied floor, consider the whole space as ‘unoccupied’;

3. A valid lease contract has not been executed, and the area is a typical vacant space, treat the space as ‘unoccupied’

When conducting my NABERS site visit during the COVID-19 lockdown period, how do I treat an unoccupied space where typical base building services such as HVAC, lights, etc. are not operating?

NABERS assessors will determine the vacancy treatment based on their professional judgement and using standard and COVID-19 NABERS rules.

A.G. Coombs Advisory can assist building owners and facility managers by providing bespoke guidance on strategies to manage the building services for each of their buildings during the COVID-19 shutdown period.

For further information and advice on NABERS ratings in relation to COVID-19 please contact:

Chandana Idamegama, Senior Engineer (Electrical), A.G. Coombs Advisory
P:  +61 3 9248 2700   E:  cidamegama@agcoombs.com.au

The above information is general advice and may be subject to interpretation by individual NABERS accredited professionals for each particular situation.

Published April 2020. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information in this publication, the A.G. Coombs Group assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions for any consequence of reliance on this publication.

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