Queensland is set to push back the introduction of higher energy efficiency standards as the government in that state seeks to give builders more time to prepare for the changes.
But new accessibility requirements will come into force next month with transition times for certain builds.
In its latest announcement, the Queensland Government said it had pushed back the planned introduction of tighter energy efficiency requirements for new homes and apartments.
The requirements were previously set to begin next month. Their introduction will now be delayed until 1 May next year.
However, new accessibility requirements will be introduced from the beginning of next month as previously planned. (Transitional arrangements will apply in respect of certain homes which are constructed on narrow lots as well as small, prefabricated homes – see here for details.)
This leaves Queensland as the only jurisdiction apart from the Northern Territory that still plans introduce the accessibility requirements according to the October timeframe.
Earlier this month, the ACT announced that it would delay introduction of the both the accessibility and higher energy requirements until the middle of January.
Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will adopt the accessible housing provisions throughout various times in 2024 whilst New South Wales and Western Australia have chosen not to adopt the changes (see here for adoption dates nationwide).
Introduced into the National Construction Code via the 2022 update of the Code, the new energy efficiency provisions will require new homes and apartments to meet 7-star thermal performance levels under the Nationwide Housing Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS).
This is up from 6 stars under the previous version of the Code.
In addition, appliances which are included in new homes will need to meet a whole-of-home energy budget.
Meanwhile, the new accessibility provisions will mean that new homes need to meet the Silver level standard under the Livable Housing and Design Standard (LHDS).
To meet this requirement, properties will need to have features such as:
- at least one step-free entry
- wider internal doors and corridors to facilitate easy movement around the home (such as for people in wheelchairs)
- a step free access into a bathroom and shower
- an accessible toilet; and
- reinforcing of bathroom and toilet walls to allow handrails to be installed should they be needed.
The new accessibility standards aim to ensure that new houses and units are designed and constructed to be accessible for everyone.
This includes older people, people with disabilities, families with young children and people with temporary mobility injuries.
The new standards also aim to enable people to remain in their homes as they age without needing to undertake costly adaptions.
The move to push-back the introduction of the tighter energy efficiency requirements follows similar moves by Victoria, which pushed back its adoption of the requirements from October until May next year.
The delay also follows pressure from industry lobby groups such as the Master Builders Association of Queensland, who have argued that the building industry needs more time to prepare for the changes.
In a statement, Queensland Minister for Energy and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, said that the delays will provide the building industry with more time to implement the changes.
“We have listened to advocates, industry and the community and our phased implementation plan balances the needs of industry to transition, alongside the community’s expectations that we adopt these improved standards,” De Brenni said.
“Queensland is already well placed to meet the new 7-star energy-efficiency requirements –with the average home across the state already reaching 6.5 stars energy efficiency.
“With the availability of a 1-star credit for outdoor living areas (see below), most builders won’t have any problems meeting the new requirements, and with the timeframe for compliance of energy efficiency requirements now May 1, 2024, we are allowing additional time to train in the new tools.”
(In Queensland, an optional credit valued at one star is available for the provision of outdoor living areas and/or photovoltaic solar energy systems. This can be applied toward meeting the 7-star requirement for thermal performance.)
Building industry lobby groups welcomed the delay to the energy efficiency requirements but expressed disappointment that the state was moving ahead with the October 1 date for the introduction of accessible housing standards.
Master Builders Queensland CEO Paul Bidwell says the that rules regarding the accessible housing design were finalised only last week.
He adds that there is a lack of sufficient education and awareness about the changes among both the building industry and consumers.
“We are disappointed that the Minister didn’t delay the livable housing requirements, as there is a lack of practical information available to licensed builders and trade contractors on how to implement the changes without incurring significant costs. Changes that commence in just 11 days,” Bidwell said.
“How can licensees comply with substantial changes to the way houses must be built when information has not been issued to them ahead of the changes commencing on 1 October?”
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