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In addition to the overall scoring and 'pass' rate of best practice, there are four mandatory categories with minimum pass rates. These minimum pass rates must be achieved in order to pass BESS. These categories are;

  • ·         Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ)
  • ·         Energy
  • ·         Water
  • ·         Stormwater

Within these four categories, the minimum score varies, depending on the scale and typology of the development. The minimum score in the four categories above equates to only 40% overall. Therefore applicants will need to find another 10% across any category in the tool (which can include extra points in the mandatory four categories).

 

The minimum scores in the mandatory categories were developed with careful consideration to existing industry based standards. These minimum scores are intended to demonstrate best practice and complement the current ESD Policy Amendment and the SDAPP Fact Sheets.

We can transfer projects between accounts from the same company on request. If you require this, please use the Contact Us form and specify: 

  • The account you wish to transfer from
  • The project numbers you wish to transfer
  • The account you wish to transfer to

Buildings can be designed to various efficiency and amenity standards. National Construction Code (NCC) outlines minimum necessary standards to meet relevant health, safety, amenity and energy efficiency objectives.

Meeting NCC energy efficiency standards through a 6-energy efficiency rating (i.e. using FirstRate) does not reflect best practice standard. The energy efficiency rating standard applies only to the thermal performance of a building’s envelope, layout and materials. It does not take into account any other energy related aspects such as lighting, heating and cooling systems or appliances.

BESS on the other hand, benchmarks a building’s performance in different environmental categories. Meeting these benchmarks confirms best practice standard for the assessed development.

Green Star is a comprehensive, voluntary environmental rating system that evaluates the environmental design and construction of buildings and communities that can be applied anywhere in the country. The Green Star tools are applied to larger scale developments that have the ability to implement a range of sustainable development initiatives due to the number and complexities of credits available under the ratings. 

Larger scale buildings commonly demonstrate best practice standard by obtaining a Green Star rating (4, 5 or 6 Stars) through the Green Building Council Australia (GBCA).  To claim and promote a Green Star rating, all buildings must register their project with the GBCA and adhere to their registration requirements. Non-registered Green Star assessed building’s cannot reference their unofficial Green Star rating but can be used to demonstrate best practice performance as part of their SMP’s when applying for a planning permit. Please review the relevant SDAPP guidelines under the relevant municipality to see whether a Green Star assessment would be appropriate in lieu of BESS.

MUSIC and STORM are tools used to assess the stormwater management initiatives of the building site against the relevant environmental guidelines. In Victoria, this is generally the The Best Practice Environmental Guidelines (BPEG), published by the Victorian Stormwater Committee. These tools are required as an input when using BESS to address the stormwater section. 

The release of BESS V1.4 in June 2016 ended the free trial period for all Victorian Councils. This means that tool users are now only able to select subscribing councils in the drop down box on the Project Details page. 

BESS is provided free of charge to planning permit applicants. Ongoing management and maintenance of the tool is funded by participating local governments via annual subscription fees paid to the Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE). 

STEPS and SDS have now retired. STEPS is closed to new applications, however will remain online for a period of time so that existing projects can be accessed.

Developers may use any tool of their choice to complete an ESD assessment for a planning permit application, however it is recommended that all new applications use BESS.

BESS is a purpose-built tool to assess sustainable design at the planning permit stage. Use BESS to explore sustainable design initiatives for your new development. By integrating sustainable design from the concept phase, you will ensure your new building is comfortable and pleasant for occupants and efficient to run. 

BESS supports the Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process (SDAPP) framework. By using BESS you can be sure that the information you supply with your planning application is in the correct format as required by your local council. 

You do not need training to use BESS. However, if you use BESS regularly for Planning Application purposes, or you will be preparing complex assessments it is recommended that you complete a BESS training course with one of the registered providers. Refer to training for more information.

BESS has been designed to be user friendly so that almost anyone can assess the environmental performance of their dwelling. This is important as a simple extension or stand alone development should not require the need for an industry professional to undertake it. It is designed so that all design information can be entered into the tool.

For larger scale and more complex developments, it is strongly encouraged a sustainability professional be engaged to undertake the assessment to ensure a not only a streamlined outcome be achieved, but also to maximise the potential to integrate ESD initiatives into the building at every opportunity in the design phase.

All of your projects are stored in your account. You can come back and add information at any time. However, once a project has been submitted it is no longer editable. If you need to make changes after this time you will need to copy your project to a new version. 

BESS can be used to assess mixed use developments. On the Project Details page, you are asked for the building type. Select 'Mixed use development' and then continue to enter residential dwellings and non-residential spaces in the tables below. 

BESS is designed to be user friendly and streamlined in its operation. The questions and information that you need to complete your BESS assessment depend on the size and type of your development. 

For a single house or renovation, a BESS assessment can be undertaken by the applicant in an hour or less. 

Larger and more complex buildings require more detail. The BESS assessment may require input from a number of different parties within and external to the project team. 

For general assistance using the BESS you should contact the Statutory Planning Department in the relevant Council, or fill in the Contact Us form. 

An energy rating under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) will have to be completed for most new dwellings and some extensions at the building permit stage at the latest. However, as the building’s orientation, glazing proportions and construction materials largely impact the rating, it is strongly recommended to conduct a preliminary assessment before lodging your drawings for a planning permit. The results of a preliminary rating will differ from a full rating assessment due to precise dimensions and material specifications being final, however a reasonable perspective of the overall rating of the development can be determined at a preliminary (early) stage.

Furthermore, feedback from applicants shows that many designers nowadays use energy rating tools as design tools rather than as compliance tools. Also bear in mind, should a later energy rating show that you have to amend the building design to meet minimum NCC standards, you might have to apply for an amendment of your planning permit.

Some components of BESS have to be considered at the building permit stage. A building permit is obtained by complying with the National Construction Code requirements and meeting the conditions of a planning permit.

For example, Energy Efficiency is reflected in the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), which determines a dwelling’s expected energy demand for cooling and heating.

Other categories, such as Indoor Environment Quality, Water Resources or Building Materials, are not really covered in the NCC. In order to cover not only energy efficiency but all components of BESS, the relevant categories have been incorporated into the BESS tool for users to demonstrate how their proposal will perform in these other categories. 

You do not need to know exactly which model appliances you will be installing, however you are asked for an energy or water efficiency standard. If you don't know the star rating appliance you'll be installing, select the lowest star rating you are willing to commit to, or select the default option and the tool will assign you the lowest available star rating for that appliance. 

Note that you may need to revisit your appliance selection if you are having trouble passing the relevant section. 

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- Firefox 24+

BCA/NCC – Building Code of Australia now called National Construction Code (as of 2012)
BESS – Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard
ESD – Environmentally Sustainable Design 
GBCA – Green Building Council of Australia
IEQ – Indoor Environment Quality
MUSIC - Model for Stormwater Improvement Conceptualisation
NABERS - National Australian Built Environment Rating System
NatHERS - Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme
SDA – Sustainable Design Assessment
SDAPP – Sustainable Design Assessment in the Planning Process
SMP – Sustainable Management Plan
STORM - Stormwater Treatment Objective - Relative Measure
WSUD - Water Sensitive Urban Design

The STEPS tool was designed for assessing residential developments. It assessed a building's environmental performance against a conventional building in the areas of energy efficiency, peak demand, water, stormwater and materials. While SDS was used to assess the performance of  non-residential buildings.

STEPS is a simple web based tool while SDS is excel based that is more detailed and complex in nature. Additionally, both tools did not cover the same sustainability categories and performance benchmarks also differed.

BESS is considered a “one stop shop” for sustainable design assessments that can be undertaken online. All 10 key sustainability categories are included in the tool. A prescribed score must be met. When the development information is entered into the tool, a number of algorithms will automatically set the required performance benchmarks.