By now, we’re all aware of the need to tackle climate change, particularly those in the construction sector. But with a 2022 report identifying how the built industry has in fact made the gap to decarbonisation wider in recent years, clearly there is much to do.
ConcreteZero is one initiative aiming to tackle the issue. According to a 2023 Forbes report, approximately 8% of global carbon emissions are emitted from concrete production. But the initiative, led by Climate Group, is pushing for businesses to commit to using 100% net zero concrete by 2050.
Furthermore, regulations like Part O and rating systems such as NABERS have also become incredibly significant in recent years because of the need for sustainable design.
Solar shading is a crucial part of creating an environmentally friendly building but is often overlooked. This blog aims to shed some light on the topic by discussing how solar shading can enhance a buildings NABERS rating.
What is NABERS?
Firstly, let’s discuss what NABERS is.
Introduced in 1998, NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) is a simple rating system that measures the energy efficiency of a building in four areas:
- Indoor environment
While it initially began as an Australian initiative, NABERS UK was introduced in 2020. And since, it has grown into an incredibly useful and important system.
NABERS grades buildings from one-star to six-stars depending on their performance within the areas above, with six stars awarded for ‘Market Leading’ buildings. NABERS ratings are valid for 12 months to ensure all ratings are relevant and up to date.
“A NABERS rating helps building owners to accurately measure and communicate the environmental performance and progress of buildings. It also identifies areas for savings and improvements.”
So how can solar shading play a part? The two key areas are energy and indoor environment.
Energy and solar shading.
Specifying an automated solar shading system with a metallised fabric is the ideal solution.
The system can be programmed to include a sun sensor, tracking the position of the sun throughout the day and changing the height of the blinds accordingly. This controls the amount of solar heat gain entering the building, helping to regulate the internal temperature and reduce the reliance on HVAC systems. The metallised fabric meanwhile, reflects solar radiation directly back through the glazing, meaning the radiation is not absorbed and re-radiated into the space as heat.
In fact, a Guidehouse study from 2021 backs this up. They found that automated solar shading can prevent a 17% increase in the share of buildings relying on air conditioning to combat overheating by 2050, resulting in a 56% saving on energy.
Furthermore, the report found:
“…sufficient evidence to show that solar shading, specifically dynamic solar shading, is a key energy efficiency measure for a cost-effective improvement of the energy performance of buildings, while at the same time ensuring high thermal comfort in summer and in winter.
Automated dynamic solar shading does not just significantly contribute to energy savings, mitigation of GHG emissions, and adaptation of the European building stock to climate change. It also increases comfort, convenience, health, and well-being.”
Indoor environment and solar shading
The NABERS Indoor Environment (IE) rating is centred around the following factors:
- Air quality
- Lighting quality
- Temperature and thermal comfort
- Acoustic quality
Automated shading can have an incredibly big impact on all areas here, perhaps excluding air quality.
The system can be designed to control the level of light entering the building to minimise the impact of glare on occupants, while still maintaining a view to the outside. This is crucial to our circadian rhythm.
The IE rating can also be used as inputs for WELL certification, with this standard measuring similar areas to NABERS. NABERS discuss this in greater detail here.
Furthermore, as discussed above, using a metallised fabric significantly reduces the amount of heat gain, which in turn creates a more pleasant internal temperature and improves thermal comfort.
Finally, acoustic quality can be improved with the use of acoustic curtains as a means of dividing spaces.
Other NABERS ratings
NABERS water ratings apply for the whole building, including base building and tenant-occupied spaces.
The rating assesses everything from “the water consumption from externally supplied water and all water uses within the building.”
NABERS break the waste rating down into three tiers, depending on the sector the building operates in:
- The NABERS Waste Platform
- The NABERS Waste Verification Report
- A NABERS Waste Rating
While each tier measures slightly different metrics, overall the Waste tool is designed to measure how a building manages “waste generation, recycling and resource recovery, and supply chain management.”
Keen to learn more about NABERS? Or you’d like to discuss specifying an automated shading system for your project?