Green traffic light

One bright note from last week’s Building Ministers Forum was an agreement to progress work to increase the energy performance requirements for residential construction under the National Construction Code for the planned 2022 iteration.

The move is hard on the heels of the COAG Energy Council’s commitment to a low energy buildings trajectory early last week.

The Australian Building Codes Board has now been tasked with providing the BMF with:

  • advice on any changes to the trajectory to ensure delivery of it in collaboration with industry; 
  • a holistic review of the energy efficiency provisions in the NCC; and 
  • a regulatory impact process that “can take account of regional differences”, that is, any variation on requirements within each state and territory. 

Tasking the ABCB with getting the ball rolling is good news, according to executive director of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, Suzanne Toumbourou.

Ms Toumbourou told The Fifth Estate she expects the ABCB will deliver a solid outcome, given it “worked well with industry” to achieve results when it was tasked with strengthening the code’s energy efficiency provisions for commercial buildings.

Improvements to the code for energy efficiency in residential buildings is expected to follow a similar trajectory that resulted in the new NCC 2019 Section J, she said.

The changes in NCC 2019 are “pretty significant”.

The BMF announcement follows the COAG commitment to a low carbon built environment last week.

It’s also the result of several years of technical analysis, collaboration and advocacy by ASBEC, the Property Council of Australia and other industry stakeholders following the release of the National Energy Productivity Plan in 2015.

Ms Toumbourou said steps have been taken towards the implementation of measure 31 in the NEPP, which is related to the built environment.

A key goal was to advance the National Construction Code.

“We’re pleased the BMF kept this moving and referred it to the ABCB.”

PCA national policy manager sustainability and regulatory affairs Francesca Muskovic said the COAG Energy Council’s approval of the Trajectory for Low Energy Homes and subsequent referral to the BMF to continue its progress through the work of the ABCB is “very welcome”.

It’s the result of sustained industry advocacy by the Property Council, ASBEC and a host of consumer advocates, she said. 

“We’re hopeful that the BMF will ultimately approve the advice they’ve sought from the ABCB on how best to implement the Trajectory into the future, starting with prospective changes to the NCC in 2022 with a focus on residential buildings.”

“ASBEC’s Built to Perform report showed that a forward pathway for stronger energy standards in the NCC, in addition to providing much needed regulatory certainty for industry, could reduce household energy bills by up to $900 each year, contributing to $29 billion in reduced energy bills and 78 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings across the economy by 2050. 

“These are conservative estimates because we haven’t accounted for improved health and productivity outcomes that come from energy efficient, comfortable buildings.”

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  1. Air tightness in buildings does not exclude openable windows. It allows occupants to choose if they want to shut the building from the ambient environment.
    Having said that, I completely agree with your opinion about ventilation systems. Not everyone is capable and willing to maintain the ventilation system. It’s only part of the solution NOT THE SOLUTION.

  2. When I moved to Australia in 2012 I estimated Australia was only 30 years behind some of the European Countries in terms of energy efficiency. With this bold leap into the unknown, they will only be 40 years behind. At least they will have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t based on the trials of other countries. About time!

  3. John and Graeme – you are my brothers from another mother.

    As Cedric Price once said “Technology [systems] is the answer but what was the question?” Heat stree is certainly not a satisfactory outcome.

    I’m encouraged by the condensations measures in the NCC 2019. This may boost hygrothermal modelling, and hopefully an improvement in the building envelope, and a reduction in poor IAQ from mould and other toxins. Now that’s another way of aiming at sustainability – for the occupant!

  4. sigh ….
    I have been pushing for energy efficiency in housing, starting with the way the residential estates are carved up (to facilitate) for orientation, design and building component mix.
    In 1997 I approached my local Council (Pine Rivers Shire), where a condescending was the norm and I was totally ignored.
    I wrote a ‘guide to energy efficient house design’ circa 2002, which the then CEO of that Council (Pine Rivers Shire) prevented me giving the guide away free at the Council’s ‘environment headquarters ‘ Osprey House. (in the guide, I said the BCA energy rating system was rubbish)

    In 2009, I contacted the State government (again) and was told the TAFE tutors teaching Builders ‘already knew it all’.

    April 26 2011, ABC 7.30 Report vindicated me, a couple of Professors and the outcome ‘some 1.5 million house built under the code are NOT energy efficient. Since then SFA.

    And now 2022? wtf

  5. John excellent comments.
    When are you going to realise the “system” has no regard for public health and safety of the environment people live in their homes as the climate temperatures increase.

    At least the Fifth Estate alert the issues, however most of the media do not want to tackle the real issues, instead believe the “system” has the answers, which will be increasing the use of bulk insulations which is going to continue make homes more efficient ovens, and costing people money to service machines that will deliver fresh inside air because of the airtightness myth, and run airconditioning for longer periods. So much for the renters and low income people.

    Most people will not service these fresh air devices by changing filters (which has been a problem in America for years) because of cost, and will end up living in a toxic soup inside environment, which there are many scientific papers regarding this issue worldwide.

    More drastic measures are needed to be pressed by the concerned who are aware of the unproven energy efficiency provision issues and must to band together, yet they are frightened too.

    Most of the media will not engage, yet band together with the bureaucrats and industry suppressing the real truth to attain energy efficiency in homes.

    How sad Australia has become dictated to by the few for the benefit of the economy, where the so -called environment improvement will increase the health budget because of the failing outside and manmade inside environment.

    Oh well, keeps people employed, while some suffer depressing illnesses, or slow death for the benefit of the masses.

  6. The mind boggles that any changes to the code for residential homes will not be made until 2022. NatHERS is totally inadequate in dealing with heat stress in the present climate let alone one under the impacts of climate change. This is particularly so in a location like Adelaide with a low but consistent heating requirement in winter but an intermittent spiky cooling need in summer. The method of assessment based on total energy use over the year biases the evaluation towards winter needs so one can get a highly rated building design that still subjects the occupants to heat stress in summer.