A leading services engineer is asking the Australian government to introduce a cap and trading system for carbon emissions from all non-domestic buildings.

Lincolne Scott, the Australian subsidiary of WSP, made the suggestion in a submission with developer Lend Lease to the Garner Review, which will advise the government on reducing carbon emissions.

The proposal, the Efficient Building Scheme, would drive sustainable solutions for old stock as well as new, the firm claimed.

Under it, a market average carbon emission would be established for particular building types in particular locations. Penalties would be imposed on buildings that emit more. This mirrors Australia’s approach to utilities, where consumers are penalised for exceeding the national average.

Lincolne Scott managing director Ché Wall said the idea had international potential.

David Glew, sustainability specialist at Parsons Brinckerhoff, argued that EPCs were doing almost the same thing in the UK.

“EPCs inform the market on the performance of a building. Where this particular proposal differs is in the notion of an enforced penalty system,” he said.

“EPCs don’t take location into account of course, but the UK has only 14 different weather data sets to use. Listed buildings may also pose a problem and it begs the question of who would enforce it?”

Wall said previous attempts to introduce emissions trading for buildings had failed. “They have tended to come from economists down. We wanted to see what it would look like coming from building professionals,” he said.

Ricardo Moreira, director of UK firm XO2 Energy, said: “Such a scheme has the potential to introduce the principles of personal carbon allowance in a less politically risky manner…

“There is, of course, the risk that the high emission average of the existing building stock would drive new buildings to either be lax on their targets or sell all of their permits to existing buildings.

“Such a scheme should not be introduced in lieu of gradually stricter legislation for new stock.”