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What is an Energy Audit?

Tuesday September 12th, 2017

Implementing energy saving projects in your strata building can provide the highest investment returns on offer, reducing carbon emissions and improving property valuations. But how do you know what are the best projects for your building? An Energy Audit could be the best place to start. Don’t be put off by the term ‘Audit’. This is not about compliance, it’s about identifying opportunities to improve returns on strata property investments.

An Energy Audit can help:

  • Lower your building’s energy bills
  • Improve your sinking fund or reduce strata levies
  • Identify out-dated or inefficient electrical equipment
  • Prioritize energy savings opportunities across LED lighting, Ventilation, Pool Pumps, Timers and Sensors
  • Understand future opportunities around solar, batteries and electric vehicle recharging
  • Quantify the carbon emissions
  • Improve star ratings (coming soon)
  • Enhance green credentials and property valuations

How much will an Energy Audit Cost?

The Energy Efficiency Council defines energy audits as Type 1, 2 or 3 under the standard AS:NZS 3598.1:2014. Depending on the size of your building;

  • Type 1 Energy Audits focus on projects with paybacks within 2 years and typically start from $1,500 for a strata
  • Type 2 Energy Audits are more comprehensive and will likely cost upwards of $5,000 for a strata complex. These involve deeper dive investigation of projects with longer payback periods up to 4 years and set the building up with an energy management plan.
  • Type 3 Energy Audits are more detailed audits on a particular sub-system within your building e.g. lighting or ventilation. They require metering hardware to be installed in order to capture more detailed data from sensors.

Is there a cheaper alternative?

A number of strata buildings are of similar size, shape and location and therefore have similar energy consumption patterns. Lower-cost energy assessments, using data collected from a number of similar strata buildings, are often a good first-step for committee members. This is particularly useful for those who don’t have the time to become energy experts or want to get a rough idea of savings, before committing to a full energy audit.

If a committee decides to proceed to a full energy audit, it is recommended that they ask the auditor to attend one of the strata committee meetings in person or via a “phone-in”. This can help committees avoid the problem of getting a “one-off” energy audit document prepared and not following through on the recommendations. Giving the strata committee members the opportunity to ask questions helps them get maximum value from their investment.

What if you are a committee which knows you need to get to energy upgrades eventually, don’t want it to fall off the agenda but can’t start this quarter? A perfect solution is a low-cost quarterly energy subscription report. This allows the committee members to gain a sense of the “opportunity costs” of delaying energy upgrades. A constant reminder of what the strata scheme is missing out on is sometimes the perfect tool for mobilizing collective action. Also, as new technologies such as electric vehicle recharging units and batteries head into residential buildings, these quarterly updates make sure the committees are always ready to action the best projects for their particular block.

For further reading try US Green Building Association and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage on NABERS for apartments. Strata Energy News also covered ‘Valuations Surge for Green Properties’, ‘Energybody Needs Good NABERS’ and ‘2016 CHU Strata Community Awards’.

This article was contributed by Scott Witheridge, Wattblock. Winner of SCA Innovation of the Year, Wattblock specialises in low cost energy assessments and energy management strategies for strata buildings.