The "builders’ bible" known as the National Construction Code lays out all requirements and minimum standards for Australian buildings, informing the work of everyone across the building sector, from architects to plumbers.
It is intended to keep our buildings safe and ensure they are of decent quality.
Improvements to the Code have ramifications across the building sector, determining design and performance standards for all new houses and commercial buildings.
Last year, the Code moved from annual reviews to a three-year review cycle. The next update is due in 2019.
In the context of both the rising cost of energy and worldwide efforts to address climate change, energy performance requirements in the Code are very important. Raising minimum energy standards delivers more energy efficient buildings, with lower running costs, benefiting Australian business and households, alongside the environment. Improved energy performance requirements would also help to drive uptake of advances in technology, attracting new investment to the sector and helping Australia meet our global emissions reduction targets.
The most recent increases in energy efficiency requirements in the Code were made in 2010. With technology and innovation moving fast, these are out of date, lagging well behind current best practice.
If we miss the next chance to improve the energy efficiency provisions in the Code, we’ll be locking in less-than-optimal standards until 2022. The ramifications would be felt for far longer – throughout the lifespan of every building constructed before the Code is improved.
Building stock that performs poorly in terms of energy means expensive bills, unproductive working environments, and homes that are hard to light, heat or cool. On a global scale, we would be losing opportunities to cut our emissions for relatively little cost, at a time when it’s becoming increasingly urgent to do so to mitigate climate change.
But how we will know what up-to-date energy efficiency in our National Building Code should look like?
ASBEC believes the building sector is best placed to know, and we’ll be working in partnership with them to identify world’s best practice in energy efficiency.
An industry-led vision for improvements to the Code will provide certainty, foster innovation, and deliver the benefits of rapidly improving energy technology and design approaches for Australia. We’ll consult across the sector and produce a comprehensive guide for the energy efficiency improvements that are needed.
There is no shortage of possibilities. Improving minimum energy performance requirements will ensure that better standards are built into all new buildings as soon as possible. Creating a trajectory for future increases will ensure that standards don’t stagnate, but keep improving throughout the life of the Code.
Currently, energy performance is a very complex area. Improvements to the design of energy performance requirements should make the Code simpler and more useful for professionals like designers, architects and engineers. This should also mean compliance could be more easily monitored and reported on.
Improving the Code is crucial to converting what’s technologically possible into what’s real on the ground. It’s the first step toward a future where our all of our buildings are more innovative, efficient and cheaper to run.