Assessments of the energy performance of buildings in Australia could soon undergo significant change as a result of proposed amendments to the National Construction Code (NCC).

The slated changes are expected to foster greater innovation when it comes to the energy efficiency of new building projects by means of a small yet pivotal alteration to the language employed by the code.

“Alternative” pathways in the code will be changed to “performance” pathways, placing them on par with prescriptive, deemed-to-satisfy solutions and opening the way to more innovative methods for raising efficiency and reducing energy consumption.

Under the current iteration of the NCC, building developers are left with few choices should their projects fail to satisfy DTS requirements or compliance benchmarks following assessment using designated energy ratings software.

The changes will be make the code less restrictive about which methods can be employed for achieving compliance with performance benchmarks, granting designers and developers access to a far greater range of assessable options.

Renewable energy systems could be included in energy performance assessment given their ability to reduce the usage of electricity sourced from the grid.

Other changes include making Class 2 multi-residential buildings subject to energy and thermal assessments closer to those undertaken for Class 5 commercial office buildings, which are stricter yet easier to implement.

The rating required for Class 2 multi-residential buildings will be raised from a minimum of five star NatHERS for each apartment at present to six star NatHERS for buildings as a whole, removing the need for assessment of each individual apartment.

While the amendments will make greater demands of the energy efficiency of multi-residential buildings, critics have pointed out that it could also lead to a situation in which individual apartments vary significantly in performance, as only the overall average for the building is subject to assessment.

The proposed changes to the NCC will remain open to comment until 3 August 2015, with the finalised 2016 version slated to come into effect in May of next year.