The bottom line on energy efficiency

Australian homes can consume less energy, produce fewer emissions and be more comfortable places to live – but only if energy efficiency requirements for new buildings are strengthened.

That’s the bottom line, according to a new report from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks and supported by the Green Building Council of Australia.

The Bottom Line – household impacts of delaying improved energy requirements in the Building Code finds that simple improvements could deliver energy savings of up to $150 per household each year, as well as cut energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 51 per cent across a range of housing types and climates.

This is equivalent to an increase of between 1-2.5 stars in the National House Energy Rating (NatHERS) scheme.

The findings are a call to action for governments and industry, highlighting the immediate opportunities for residential energy efficiency during the design and construction of new homes.

To meet our obligations under the Paris Climate Change Agreement, Australia will need to be at or beyond net zero emissions by 2050. Research shows that the building sector can transition to zero carbon by 2050, but updating the National Construction Code is essential to achieve a cost-effective transition.

With the next update to the Building Code scheduled for 2019, the Australian Building Codes Board has also this week released a proposal to update the Code including the energy efficiency requirements for commercial buildings. The proposed improvements in the non-residential energy requirements have been welcomed across industry. 

The Green Building Council of Australia is pleased to see the ambition of these improvements, and we encourage our members to engage with the review as we develop our submission in support of these changes in the weeks ahead.

Tony Arnel, President of the Energy Efficiency Council and Chair of ASBEC’s National Construction Code Working Group has noted that “If implemented, these changes could deliver significant energy and emissions benefits in the non-residential sector. The draft changes for residential buildings are also a good start. However, our report demonstrates that greater opportunities exists to improve residential performance.”

The report notes that delays to improve residential energy efficiency will lead to higher energy bills and wasted emissions, particularly given that half a million homes are expected to be constructed between 2019 and the next scheduled update to the Code in 2022.

The findings also highlight how improved energy efficient homes can boost comfort and affordability. While households have little influence over housing and energy prices, low-energy homes can reduce living costs, and improve the health, wellbeing and quality of life of residents.

The next phase of the project will establish long-term targets and a pathway - or forward trajectory - for improvements in the Code energy requirements.

Sandra recently joined the Green Building Council of Australia as Senior Advisor – Policy and Government Relations.

Following a role with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Based in Melbourne, her work will focus on the delivery of the GBCA’s advocacy strategy, through engaging key government and industry stakeholders.

In previous roles, she has worked extensively with the property industry to drive sustainable outcomes for the built environment.

Sandra can be contacted at sandra.qian@gbca.org.au or 0430 304 168.

Read the GBCA’s press release on the report.