Take a bow Section J Industry Working Group and all the other sustainability-minded experts that participated in the consultation on the 2016 version of the National Construction Code late last year.

The new and final NCC 2016 has been released this week, and in it the Australian Building Codes Board has backtracked on all of the most contentious changes proposed for energy performance requirements.

There have been some issues with the ABCB website this week that made it problematic for many people to download the code, but director of Sustainable Development Consulting Ben de Waard managed to look through the revised Section J for The Fifth Estate.

He said the ABCB had listened to industry concerns and had mostly left everything as it was originally, with one small positive change. Class 2-9 buildings will now be required to add slab-edge insulation to improve thermal performance.

There has also been a small change around no longer needing to meet extra provisions where insulation has been lost due the installation of a downlight, for example.

Mr de Waard said that while it is disappointing the code does not contain any significant improvements, at least it hasn’t made things worse.

“You would hope though a building code would gradually lead to improved performance over time,” he said.

President of the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Association of Australia, Sean Maxwell, said he had looked at the building sealing parts of Section J of the 2016 NCC.

“It’s basically unchanged from 2015, which means it is still weak, vague and unenforceable,” he said.

“Building codes should be used to influence how buildings are built, and this code does not do that.”

He said in some ways, the complete lack of guidance or clarity on building sealing is not all bad, because “the code is basically a blank slate on which sensible improvements can be written”.

“We should take lessons from the voluminous building science research done over the past 50 years abroad and apply that to the Australian codes,” he said.

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  1. Hi Nicholas

    Using Performance in lieu of prescriptive is not a problem where the professionals involved are ethical. Unfortunately, alternative solutions using performance provisions quite often result in designs that do not meet or exceed the prescriptive provisions and are based solely on lower cost outcomes as the main driver.

    In my opinion, where Energy Efficiency report providers use alternative solutions, they should be included in the building practitioner registration framework so that a level of auditing is available at a state level.

    1. Thanks Laurie,
      Correct on both counts. The ethics of building has dogged the construction industry, however legislation for ethics is difficult.
      Audits, reputation loss and penalties may deter most/some, and withholding building practitioner registration will undoubtedly send clear messages. At the end of the day caveat emptor unfortunately will continue to rule the sale of properties until certified energy performance of the completed dwelling is mandatory at sale/contract. On the one hand that may solve the problem but these costs will be passed on to the purchaser, thus adding another regulatory layer (government red tape) impacting on affordability.

  2. So there still no policeman checking and logging down non-compliance. There is plenty of opportunity to add value to both the public and private housing stock. We are seeing commercial buildings feel the push from clients for better performing buildings, residential apartments are sadly a free for all.
    At the Passive Haus(building) conference there are great examples of well modelled buildings that would get energy use down to 10-15 kW/m2. Imagine have a place that only cost $120 per quarter rather than $800. That is a lot of shoes and text books we could buy for the kids.

  3. As Sean said:” We should take lessons from the voluminous building science research done over the past 50 years abroad and apply that to the Australian codes,” – Exactly – and develop a performance solution for Australian conditions to meet the performance requirements of the BCA/NCC. That would be wonderful.
    I suspect many wish for tighter prescriptive solutions but the ABCB is encouraging users to design with performance solutions. Sean has it right.
    The NCC has it right. Prescriptive solutions only favour incumbents and strangles innovation.If designers have a better solution that meets or exceeds the performance requirements – go for it!