NABERS UK: Everything you need to know

July 12, 2023

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, the demand for sustainable buildings and practices has significantly increased. To meet this demand, many countries have implemented environmental rating systems to evaluate the energy and water efficiency, waste management, and indoor environment quality of buildings. One such system is the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS), which was introduced in Australia in 1998 and has since expanded globally, including to the United Kingdom.

In this article, we'll cover everything there is to know about NABERS, in particularly in the context of the UK market. We'll explore the history of NABERS globally, when and why it was introduced to the UK, how the rating system works, how to improve your rating and more. You can skip to a specific question by clicking on it below:

When and why was NABERS introduced to the UK?

What was the first NABERS UK certified building?

Which buildings can get a NABERS rating?

How does the NABERS rating system work?

How does a building earn a NABERS rating?

What is the NABERS rating system important?

How are the NABERS ratings assessed?

How long does a NABERS rating last?

How much does NABERS UK cost?

What is the difference between BREEAM and NABERS?

How can I improve my NABERS rating?

How can building analytics improve my NABERS rating?

Where can I learn more about NABERS UK?

History of NABERS globally

NABERS was developed in Australia in 1998 in response to the country's increasing demand for energy efficiency and sustainability in the built environment. It has since become a leading sustainability rating system globally. It has a presence in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and welcomes the opportunity to expand to more countries.

When and why was NABERS introduced to the UK?

In 2020, NABERS was introduced to the UK, marking the system's first international expansion outside of Australia and New Zealand. The move was driven by the UK government's ambitious net-zero emissions target by 2050 and the need for a reliable and internationally recognized rating system to assess the sustainability of buildings. NABERS UK is run by BRE as the scheme administrator. Unlike government-mandated ratings schemes like commercial EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) which just estimate a building's performance, NABERS gives you concrete measurements of how much energy a building is using. Additionally, the framework provides a continuous measurement of a commercial building's performance, rather than other auditing techniques like Government-mandated ESOS audits.

What was the first building certified under NABERS in the UK?

The first office building verified using the NABERS UK Energy for Offices Scheme was Toronto Square in Leeds in July 2022, owned by Grosvenor, achieving a 4.5 Star Rating.

Which buildings can get a NABERS rating?

NABERS provides ratings for a wide range of commercial buildings, including offices, hotels, shopping centres, hospitals, and data centres. The rating system evaluates the energy, water, and waste performance of buildings, as well as the indoor environment quality, such as air quality and lighting.

How does the NABERS rating system work?

NABERS is a performance-based rating system that assesses the actual performance of a building over a 12-month period. The system uses a standardised rating scale of one to six stars, with six stars indicating a building's exceptional environmental performance. The ratings are based on actual energy and water usage, waste generation and recycling, and indoor environment quality measurements.

There are currently two product offerings available in the UK for office buildings: Design for Performance to drive energy efficient new buildings, and NABERS Energy ratings to measure how energy efficient existing buildings are. All ratings will be carried out by assessors trained in the UK.

How does a building earn a NABERS rating?

To earn a NABERS rating, a building must undergo an assessment by an accredited NABERS assessor. The assessor collects data on the building's energy, water, and waste performance, and the indoor environment quality over a 12-month period. The data is then analysed and compared to a benchmark for the building type, and a star rating is awarded based on the building's performance.

Why is the NABERS rating system important for building owners?

The NABERS rating system provides a reliable and internationally recognised standard for assessing the sustainability of buildings. The system can help building owners and managers identify opportunities to improve their building's environmental performance and reduce costs associated with energy and water usage. Additionally, a high NABERS rating can improve a building's market value, attract tenants and investors, and contribute to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change.

The main benefits of a NABERS rating for UK buildings can be summarised as follows:

  • Compare: NABERS ratings serve as a reliable foundation for a comprehensive sustainability plan, facilitating industry-wide comparison of a building's energy and water efficiency, showing how commercial buildings differ from their counterparts.
  • Verify and Simplify: NABERS provides a trustworthy and cost-effective independent validation of sustainability data, instilling trust in public reporting and allowing for straightforward communication.
  • Monitor and Enhance: The NABERS star ratings are indispensable tools for yearly reporting and sustainability strategies. Consistent evaluations enable progress and reductions in energy consumption and emissions over time.
  • Gain Competitive Advantage: Building owners who prioritise environmental impact reduction, cost savings, and transparent communication gain an upper hand with potential buyers, tenants, procurement teams, or hotel patrons.

How are the NABERS ratings assessed?

NABERS ratings are assessed using a standardised methodology that includes data collection, analysis, and verification by accredited assessors. The methodology ensures that the ratings are based on accurate and consistent data and provide a fair and reliable assessment of a building's environmental performance.

In the UK, the scheme is overseen by a steering committee comprising BRE, the Better Buildings Partnership and NABERS, on behalf of the New South Wales Government, Australia. The Better Buildings Partnership has been an integral partner in the development of NABERS UK and acts as scheme ambassador to support its uptake and success.

How long does a NABERS rating last?

A NABERS rating is valid for one year from the date of issue. Building owners are encouraged to maintain and improve their building's environmental performance to maintain their rating and improve their overall sustainability.

How much does NABERS UK cost?

Obtaining a NABERS UK rating incurs two costs – the NABERS lodgement fee and the Assessor's fee. The lodgement fee is a set fee, payable to BRE as the certification body. For buildings over 2000 square metres, the lodgement fee for a NABERS Energy Certificate is £750 in year 1 and then £500 each year onwards. For buildings below 2000 square metres, the fee for a NABERS Energy Certificate is £350 in year 1 and then £250 each year onwards. For a full list of lodgement fees, visit the BRE's website.

Assessor fees are dependant on service level agreements, complexity of building and the hours spent assessing the property. To get an understanding of potential Assessor fees, you need to contact a NABERS accredited Assessor to get a quote for a site visit.

What is the difference between BREEAM and NABERS?

The main difference between the two building rating systems is the scope and focus. BREEAM is a comprehensive assessment covering a broad range of sustainability issues, including energy efficiency, water use, waste management, pollution, health and wellbeing, materials used and more. Whereas NABERS UK is primarily focused on the actual operational energy efficiency of buildings.

Additionally, BREEAM can be used at different stages of a building’s lifecycle – with different versions of the scheme for new constructions (BREEAM New Construction), existing buildings (BREEAM In-Use) and fit-outs (BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit-Out). Whereas NABERS UK is used exclusively for existing office buildings. NABERS Design for Performance is available in the UK, however the purpose of this program is for a developer or owner to commit to design, build and commission a new office development or major refurbishment to achieve a specific NABERS Energy rating.

For more information on BREEAM, check out our blog: “The BREEAM Rating System Explained.”

How can I improve my building's NABERS rating?

Here are some tips and strategies that can help you achieve a higher NABERS rating and create a more sustainable building.

  1. Conduct an energy audit: Before you can start improving your building’s energy efficiency, you need to know where your energy is being consumed and wasted. An energy audit can help you identify areas where you can make improvements, such as upgrading lighting systems, HVAC systems, or building insulation.
  2. Implement energy-saving measures: Based on the results of your energy audit, you can start implementing measures that can help you save energy and reduce your carbon footprint. Examples of energy-saving measures include installing motion sensors, upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances, or introducing renewable energy sources.
  3. Monitor your energy usage: To keep track of your building’s energy usage and identify any unusual spikes or dips, it’s important to monitor your energy consumption regularly. You can use building analytics software to help you collect, analyse, and interpret data from various sources, such as energy meters, building management systems, or occupancy sensors.
  4. Engage with tenants: Building occupants play an important role in reducing energy consumption and improving sustainability. By engaging with your tenants and educating them about sustainable practices, you can create a culture of sustainability and encourage them to adopt behaviours that can help reduce energy waste.
  5. Regularly review and update your sustainability strategy: Sustainability is an ongoing process, and it’s important to regularly review and update your sustainability strategy to ensure that it’s still aligned with your goals and priorities. By setting clear targets, monitoring progress, and identifying areas for improvement, you can continuously work towards achieving a higher NABERS rating.

How can building analytics improve my NABERS rating?

Building analytics is a powerful tool that can help you improve your building’s NABERS rating by providing you with valuable insights into your building’s energy usage and performance. By collecting and analysing data from various sources, building analytics software can help you identify areas where you can make improvements, optimise your building’s energy usage, and reduce waste.

For example, building analytics can help you:

  • Identify energy-saving opportunities
  • Detect equipment faults or malfunctions
  • Track energy usage and identify trends
  • Monitor and optimise HVAC systems
  • Track waste generation and disposal

By using building analytics in conjunction with other energy-saving measures, you can achieve a higher NABERS rating and create a more sustainable building. CIM's PEAK Platform is a best-in-class building analytics SaaS technology. The platform unleashes the power of existing building data, intelligent automation, and machine learning to provide visibility and control over property portfolios while improving efficiency, sustainability, and tenant comfort. CIM is actively helping the world's built environment to achieve net zero emissions, accelerate progress toward ambitious targets and improve sustainability ratings (like NABERS).

Where can I learn more about NABERS UK?

The BRE Group, a UK-based building research organisation, offers NABERS certification and training services to help you get started on your sustainability journey. The BRE's NABERS UK website is a great starting point, as it provides an overview of the rating system, its benefits, and how to get started.

What about other rating systems?

We have information covering all of the major green building performance rating systems. Find more information below.

Here at CIM, we're actively helping the world's built environment to achieve net zero emissions and accelerate progress toward ambitious targets. Learn how we can help improve your NABERS rating by watching a demo session of our innovation PEAK Platform here.


Paul Walsh
July 12, 2023