Already operating highly successfully in Europe where over 1.5 million buildings are currently analysed each year, the GBT allows commercial property owners to create multi-year plans for improving emissions and generates options for potential energy cost savings and building improvements.

CommBank’s general manager of property and construction finance, Michael Bennett describes the tool as a "digital energy consultant" that provides building owners with insights into their building’s emissions and energy consumption.

Bennett says the tool itself covers 12 asset types and has over 300 building personas, making it suitable for a wide range of commercial properties and it has already been adopted by 360 CommBank clients covering over 800 buildings in just a few weeks.

"For mid-market property owners, it’s a valuable tool as they may not have the resources to engage an energy consultant," Bennett says.

The tool also has the potential to be used by governments and other financial institutions. Overall, the tool aims to help reduce national emissions by improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings.

So how does it work?

The interactive digital tool uses a data-driven approach to allow commercial property customers to understand their buildings’ baseline predicted emissions footprint. The data generated provides insights about the potential decarbonisation impact of retrofitting and estimates the scope of investments required to achieve a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy rating improvement or for those building types not presently covered by NABERS, an initial carbon score. The tool also provides insights into potential energy costs savings allowing owners to calculate payback period.

According to Bennett it’s very simple to use and clients only need to enter an initial four inputs into the tool. These are the address and age of the property as well as the building type and its size.

"The tool then provides the owner with the current estimate of emissions for each of their buildings in their portfolio," says Bennett.

"Off the back of that data, it allows them to create multi-year timeframes for improving their emissions through a whole series of tailored energy cost savings and building improvements."

"Importantly, the owners can then see the impact of decarbonisation on making those improvements and the cost savings to them in operating their property more efficiently."

For Adelaide-based property company, Cohen Group the GBT has been a very handy tool in assessing the environmental impact of their Burnside Village shopping centre.

The company’s chief executive officer Gregg Downer says the GBT has been helpful for the group in assessing the environmental health status of the centre and identifying initiatives for improvement.

Downer says the tool allows the company to simulate the impact of different measures on their NABERS rating and prioritise actions for achieving their sustainability goals.

"It enabled our group to undertake a desktop assessment to identify our current position in terms of where we are performing well such as the installation of LED lighting in the centre and improving the performance of our air conditioning, and what initiatives we could consider to further improve and the potential costs," Downer says.

Cohen Group’s senior asset manager Richard Stabile says the tool allows the company to "play around with the suggested initiatives across different scenarios and see what effect they would have on a future NABERS rating".

"We can reset the scenarios and see where the biggest bang for our buck is in terms of potential cost savings as well as where we can lower emissions more," Stabile says.

"For example, we’ve completed about an 85 per cent conversion rate to LEDs in the centre and we now know that if we finish the last 15 per cent that’s going to save us around $100K a year and about 90 tonnes of emissions."

Downer says the group plans to use the GBT for other assets in their portfolio as well and overall, they find the tool user-friendly and recommend it to other firms interested in sustainability.

CommBank’s Bennett says owners can see the benefits flow through without having to continually engage with an external energy consultant which could become quite expensive and time consuming for the owner.

Moreover, he says the GBT will help owners into the future and make their buildings far more appealing to buyers and tenants who will be looking for greener buildings to both acquire and occupy.

"For CommBank, it’s all about providing a free platform for our clients that will not only help them understand their existing buildings operating efficiency and energy consumption but also bring to light what they can do in a cost-effective way to their buildings to improve their operating efficiency and ultimately improve the carbon use of their buildings."

This article was originally published in The Australian Financial Review (Nine Publishing) on 23rd November 2023.