The National Construction Code (NCC) works to keep Australian houses safe for people and the planet.
They cover everything from health codes to sustainability and provide a clear framework for new home construction across the country. While this probably sounds familiar to many people interested or involved in the construction industry, a new update in efficiency standards changes the landscape of Australian construction and energy.
The new 7-star energy efficiency standards raise the level minimum from 6 to 7 stars. This star-rating system operates on a scale of 0-10, with 0 stars meaning no protection from outside elements and a 10-star house able to regulate its temperature regardless of external weather conditions.
After May 1, 2023, and a transition period stretching to October 2023, all new homes must be at least 7 stars on the NCC’s scale.
Why Are the Standards Changing?
Many homeowners might not even be aware there is such an efficiency standard, but the change is more important than most people think. This set of regulations examines the home’s ability to retain heat in cold weather and circulate cooler air in hotter climates. With the increased standard, the Australian government hopes to reduce emissions to zero by 2050.
With the expected changes, 24.5% less energy will be used to regulate internal home temperatures, a staggering win for eco-friendliness, as buildings produce around 25% of Australia’s emissions.
To achieve this goal, the government included commercial buildings in the efficiency standards. By 2035, all buildings must be able to fully use renewable energy or use all-electric power. Ultimately, the new 7-star standard means more sustainable homes and fewer emissions.
What Qualifies as a 7-Star Rating?
Now that it will be mandatory for construction companies and industry professionals to implement it into their projects, it’s important to know what constitutes a 7-star rating.
One aspect is the inclusion of clean and efficient energy sources to power and regulate heating, hot water, and lighting.
The codes also consider amenities outside of temperature control. Commercial buildings and apartments will need EV charging capabilities for cars. They are also required to build entryways from the street or parking lot that do not require steps. Providing accessibility for everyone is key in these measures – they even extend to bathroom modifications for grab rails near toilets and showers.
For homes, however, the main point of attention is their ability to self-regulate temperatures.
Who Does This Change Impact?
A greener planet is certainly something to celebrate, but who does this standard change really affect? What will change for construction companies and tenants across the country? While there may be some differences in the process, the goal to save our Earth is a noble one.
For contractors, the focus will be on people-centered homes. These sustainable buildings look after the people who live there and ensure the building meets those needs. Forging that strong contractor-client relationship ensures the tenant receives a beautiful, comfortable home that saves them money and establishes a strong reputation for the contractors and their sustainable practices.
Most of the changes for these contracting companies will be in the design portion, with closer attention to layout. Windows, for example, can naturally enhance temperature retention depending on the direction they are facing. Experts urge contractors to implement north-facing windows to maximize natural cooling. However, each project will need to address the natural landscape, climate, and needs of the home. For instance, a coastal project will look at insulation differently than a mountain home.
In the building stages, the contractor can use materials and systems that will regulate heating and cooling, such as cellulose insulation that improves the traditional insulation model. Made from recycled newspapers, contractors can reduce waste and energy consumption in one step.
Meanwhile, people buying houses after May 1, 2023, are saving money and energy. These homes’ ability to retain heat will cut down on the costs of heating and cooling and protect the exterior from storms and snow. Experts estimate homeowners will save $576 a year and have a happier home life along with it.
Australian Energy Efficiency
The new 7-star efficiency standards are making strides toward zero emissions and better homes. Even though these differences in design may take time to adjust to, there are incredible benefits for everyone across the board. If all goes according to plan, Australia will be a leader in energy efficiency and a hero to our planet.
Jane is the editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers green technology, sustainable building and environmental news.