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HG News: Green Property Scene - 24 Mar 2010

Welcome to Green Property Scene!

HopgoodGanim’s Commercial Property team welcomes you to the first edition of Green Property Scene, a regular article series written by a panel of lawyers skilled in relevant ‘green’ property topics.

In the future, regulation and compliance measures for sustainability initiatives will only intensify. Whether you support green initiatives or not, this publication will keep you informed of developments in the property industry related to ‘going green’, including new laws to be introduced and their application to your property, whether existing or proposed. This newsletter will also provide details of upcoming green property events, and will include case studies of projects we are involved in or that have caught our attention in the course of our work.

HopgoodGanim’s property specialists are happy to help with any queries on property sustainability or the green rating tools. Please email any of the contacts listed at the end of this newsletter for assistance.  If you wish to unsubscribe from Green Property Scene, please click the Unsubscribe button on the original email you received.

Green Star vs NABERS: What's the difference?

Have you heard of Green Star and NABERS, but have wondered what they actually mean? Well, Green Star is not a sick celebrity, and NABERS is not a soapie on TV that you may (or may not) admit to watching!

Green Star and NABERS are both green rating tools currently operating in Australia that rate the sustainability features of a building or development. Both ratings are voluntary, but more and more developers and property owners are opting into these schemes.

The main difference between the two tools is that Green Star rates the design of the building (both at the conceptual and at the ‘as built’ stages) and NABERS rates the effectiveness of the operation of the building (after it is built and is operational).

Green Star ratings are issued by the Green Building Council of Australia. NABERS ratings are issued by the NABERS scheme, which is run by the NSW government, but can be used in any State.

To obtain a Green Star rating, your development will be rated against a number of tools, depending on the type of building. For example, there is a specific office design rating tool that is used to measure the sustainability features of an office building design. Within that tool, you can obtain a number of credits for certain sustainability design features. For example, you can obtain credits for using recycled wood or having more bike parking than required by the local government. The more credits achieved by a particular design, the better the Green Star rating - up to a maximum of a five Star Green Star rating. However, the Green Building Council of Australia will not certify projects that achieve less than four stars, and there are certain eligibility criteria that must be achieved. It sounds simple, but the actual process can be very complex and complicated.

To obtain a NABERS rating, your building will be assessed for energy and water efficiency. The lower the consumption of these resources, the better the rating. You can obtain a ‘performance rating’ for an existing building or a ‘commitment rating’ for a new building.

Once a NABERS or Green Star rating is achieved, the relevant bodies will allow you to use their trademark to promote your rating.

There is no legal requirement at this point in time for a developer or property owner to apply for and obtain either rating. However, it’s likely that in the future the government will adopt similar principles used by Green Star and NABERS when developing building, property and planning legislation. In the meantime, these ratings are being used as marketing tools, with some government agencies choosing not to enter into leases of buildings unless that building has a minimum Green Star and/or NABERS rating. Listed companies may also require that any buildings they occupy or own comply with similar rating tools to firm up their green credentials.

Property owners need to be careful how they promote their building’s rating, as each body restricts marketing a building as a Green Star or NABERS rated building unless certain approvals have been obtained. You should seek legal advice if you have applied or are applying for a Green Star or NABERS rating before distributing any marketing materials, to make sure you comply with the copyright laws of each tool.

If you would like our assistance with a Green Star or NABERS matter (for example, reviewing commitment agreements or trademark licences) or if you need more information about how the tools work, please call or email one of our team members.

We will be running a ‘Back to Basics’ seminar in July 2010, which will go into more detail as to how each tool works. Please contact us if you would like more information on this seminar or would like to attend.

New sustainability declaration issued for residential sales

In November 2009, we emailed an alert to our clients drawing their attention to new requirements imposed by the government for residential property sales. In a nutshell, these requirements mean that sellers of residential property and any agents appointed by sellers have to give potential buyers certain information about the sustainability features of the property for sale. Since then, the Department of Infrastructure and Planning has released a new simpler version of the form, which can be downloaded from their website at www.dip.qld.gov.au

We’re finding that sellers and agents are generally complying with the requirement to complete and provide the declaration. Sellers are taken to have satisfied the requirements if they fill out the form “to the best of their ability and knowledge”. Sellers can take some comfort in knowing that a buyer cannot cancel a sale contract merely because the information in the form is incomplete or misleading. In our experience, the information supplied by sellers in the form tends to be limited.

If you’re selling a property, we recommend that you obtain an acknowledgement from the buyer that they received the declaration and did not rely on it in deciding to make an offer to purchase the property. This will reduce the possibility that a buyer can make a claim against you for misrepresentation.

New Green Star tool for aged care buildings

The Green Building Council of Australia has released a new rating tool, updated in March this year, that is intended to apply to both new and existing health care facilities. The Green Star Healthcare Pilot V1 is intended to make “sick buildings… a way of the past”.

The tool can apply to aged care facilities on the basis that the building has:

  • a minimum of 80 percent of BCA Class 9a (health care building), 9c (aged care building), 8 (laboratory/goods production) and 5 (office), with classes 5 and 8 ancillary to the healthcare facility; and
  • a minimum of 50 percent of BCA Class 9a or 9c.

The Council hopes the tool will enable State governments and owners of private healthcare facilities to minimise the environmental impacts of their developments, while helping to boost staff morale and speed up patient recovery times. 

Turn off your lights for Earth Hour

Just a reminder that Earth Hour is on again this Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm.

For more information on Earth Hour, visit www.earthhour.org.au