Volume builders are pushing for a compromise in emissions standards in the updated version of the country’s building code that would make it easier and cheaper than the proposed requirement to meet seven-star thermal efficiency standards.
The Housing Industry Association says building industry ministers, who will make a final decision in July, have accepted its proposal to insert a so-called whole-of-house assessment of energy efficiency in the National Construction Code.
The HIA-promoted measure focuses on renewables without considering the energy efficiency of homes, the Green Building Council of Australia says. Bloomberg
The new assessment measure – to be used for apartments and detached houses – would replace the planned move to a seven-star minimum NatHERS (nationwide house energy rating scheme) thermal rating for new homes and apartments from the present six-star equivalent.
It is a win for the volume building lobby group, which has been fighting the push – supported by the Green Building Council of Australia and Property Council of Australia – for a seven-star minimum rating.
“The assessment takes into account the megajoules for a house’s performance and adds on lighting, heating, airconditioning, pool pumps – where they exist – and puts them into a sum, and says they now have to meet new benchmarks in terms of whole-of-house energy use,” Kristin Brookfield, the HIA’s chief executive for industry policy, said.
“You may have to work harder with lighting, heating and cooling or pool pumps if you remain a six-star thermal performance. But our point is that it’s more cost-effective for the builder and for the running costs of the home for the owner. It’s a win-win.”
The lobby groups have long been at loggerheads over energy standards. The HIA says energy efficiency is harder to achieve in detached homes with large spaces such as voids than in smaller, more-contained apartments.
The change in position, which only Victoria is thought to oppose, follows another rollback in energy efficiency policies – that of NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts’ decision to ditch the environmental policies of his predecessor, Rob Stokes, such as outlawing dark-coloured roofs to prevent heat-island effects.
But it put the housing industry at odds with the changing tone of the country after a federal election fought on the key issue of climate change, Green Building Council chief executive Davina Rooney said.
The new measure failed to improve the energy efficiency of a home, Ms Rooney said.
“Australian houses are like unsealed tents,” she said. “If we don’t increase efficiency, we’re not solving heat stress, we’re not solving grid resilience issues. Instead, we allow them to consume heaps and throw renewables at it.”
The HIA policy was not concerned about energy efficiency but increasing the use of renewables such as solar energy, Ms Rooney said.
“That’s great, but the grid won’t be able to function. I love renewables as much as the next person, but we’ve got to get efficiency first and then use whole-of-house to get to net zero from there.”
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