Building Energy Label – Mandatory

Here in Hong Kong 89% of all electricity consumed, and 63% of Carbon emission are created from our buildings, and these rise every year. I had argued that mandatory building labelling is the future, and until customers can see an easy to read, third party verified, building energy label there is little incentive for building owners and operators to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from buildings. The disconnect in speculative buildings (for leasing) is obvious, since the building operators profit from inefficiency [refer note 1].

Now Australia will likely become the next country to bite the bullet, realising the importance of energy usage in buildings, a mandatory label scheme is planned for mid of 2010. It seems the popular NABERS scheme will form part of the system.

Overseas, in the United Kingdom has a mandatory label scheme is in place for all government buildings, a certain forerunner for the private sector.

Mandatory building labels will create job, employment, and better buildings, REITs, fund managers, and consumers will have a choice, a choice I believe they will exercise. At the recent HKGBC conference, a building fund manager endorsed building labelling for this very reason, and early adopters and users of of the green building labels [refer note 2] would testify.

[1] A building with numerous owners or tenants cannot be managed effectively, therefore a property management company is employed to operate and oversee all the building common area operations, for example the central chilled water equipment. For multi-owner buildings, it is common for a committee to drive the scope of the property services provided. However, many of these property management firms are compensated on a percentage fee basis or cost plus basis, therefore if more fuel used, the management charge is also higher.

Also all tenants typically pay a management fee based on Gross Floor Area (GFA) of the leased accommodation, irrespective of the actual energy usage, therefore we have a situation where there is no financial incentive to lower the use of central services such as central air conditioning because they don’t benefit from the saved costs or lower emissions.

[2] BEAM is the local green building label system. Buildings are assessed against various criteria, and can be awarded a green building label to distinguish them from other buildings. Once a valid scheme is established customers and facilities personnel have a choice and often use that label as a key criteria for choosing accommodation – that is exactly what happened in Australia, the voluntary NABERS scheme became a customer requirement.

– John Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft E&M Limited
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