The New Proposal to Increase Residential Energy Efficiency Requirements

The New Proposal to Increase Residential Energy Efficiency Requirements

6 minute read

The New Proposal to Increase Residential Energy Efficiency Requirements.

What it is and what it means for new Victorian homes.

Currently, a proposal has been put forward to review the National Construction Code’s requirements for energy efficiency.

This change would raise minimum requirements of all new home construction, with the aim of reducing energy use and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Master Builders Victoria (MBV) has concerns with the proposal.

They acknowledge the importance of changes, but feel the intended benefits won’t work if these aren’t introduced properly.

A bit of background

The Australian Building Codes Board (or ABCB) has been directed to investigate possible changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) energy efficiency provisions, focusing mainly on residential buildings for NCC 2022.

Functionally, they’re proposing incremental changes to improve energy efficiency in all new homes constructed as of 2022 in the state. This is while maintaining other performance-based minimum requirements for new work, like safety, health, amenity, accessibility and sustainability through design, performance and liveability.

Energy efficiency requirements have been part of this code since 2003, initially focusing on thermal performance (building fabric), then expanding to water heating, water pumps and lighting in 2010.

What’s being proposed?

Residential houses and apartments would be required to reach a 7-star energy rating, with either net zero or moderate annual energy use for any shared services (space conditioning, heated water systems, pool and spa pumps and so on).

These proposals aim to bring energy bills down and lower the demand placed on energy networks, with a long-term benefits due to the buildings’ long life.

They may also result in other benefits, like better thermal comfort for residents, and even potentially safeguarding them against blackouts caused
by mass air-conditioner use – important for vulnerable occupants, like infants or the elderly.

The MBV response

While Master Builders Victoria has acknowledged the value of some of the proposal’s goals, they have also raised issues. They express a sense that the Victorian Government is trying to push these substantial changes to the building code without addressing some important concerns for homebuyers as well as the building and construction industry.

Accessibility

The additional costs of reaching these higher standards, the MBV argues, will have an impact on accessibility and affordability of housing for all Victorians. MBV CEO Rebecca Casson said the consequences of not addressing these changes carefully would impact work compliancy and costs, plus put responsibility on builders to explain why seemingly unnecessary requirements are needed.

Lack of flexibility

By enforcing tighter restrictions on homes, the MBV is concerned the proposal will limit the materials they can use. There is also concern homebuyers will find the design choices they can make further limited when planning their new house.

Energy efficiency

In meeting the new 7-star efficiency requirements, Ms Casson said the costs to homebuyers may far outweigh the benefits of the proposal’s current form. “The changes will mean higher glazing requirements, increased ceiling and wall insulation, stricter provisions for heating, air-conditioning and hot water systems – all of which will mean homebuyers ultimately bear the cost,” she said.

Other concerns

The MBV also expressed concerns with the pace at which the changes would be implemented. They cite a need to identify the risks of large code changes to quality of work, adapt the parameters for a home’s energy efficiency, and land subdivision and access to solar for housing in the future. 

What does the MBV want to see changed?

If the changes do go ahead, the MBV would like to see:

  • A clear transitional period for training builders.
  • Time for the construction of compliant display homes.
  • More flexibility in affordability and design options for homebuyers.
  • Consideration of exemptions in cases where changes will be too inhibitive.
  • Potential trial periods to demonstrate the changes in-situ and identify any supply, construction or liveability issues

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