Built to Perform: improving energy efficiency in the building code

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Energy standards in Australia’s National Construction Code must be urgently upgraded if new buildings are to be fit for a zero carbon future, according to a new report released today. Built to Perform, prepared by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia, shows setting stronger energy standards for new buildings in the Code could, between now and 2050, reduce energy bills by up to $27 billion, cut energy network costs by up to $7 billion and deliver at least 78 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings.

Light House director and lead scientist, Jenny Edwards, accepted an invitation to be a volunteer member of the Residential Technical Advisory Group for the project back mid-2017 and we are excited to see this excellent report and its recommendations in print. Our Stray Leaf house appears as a case study on p.27)

“Australia needs to transition to a net zero emissions economy by 2050 to meet our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. But new analysis by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy shows Australia scores the lowest in energy efficiency amongst all developing countries. Although market-leading Australian companies are demonstrating world-class commitment to a sustainable built environment, the market alone cannot fix this problem,” said ASBEC Executive Director Suzanne Toumbourou.

“All of the buildings being built today will still be operating in 2050, at a time when we will need to be at or near net zero emissions. Our Building Code needs to be ‘zero carbon ready’, ensuring that today’s new builds are prepared to operate in a zero carbon future.”

“Even this conservative analysis shows that, by 2030, improvement in Code energy requirements could reduce energy consumption of new buildings by up to 56 per cent. This could be achieved through simple, cost-effective energy efficiency measures such as improved air tightness, double glazed windows, increased insulation, outdoor shading, and more efficient air conditioners, hot water systems and lighting,” said ClimateWorks Project Manager Michael Li.

“With the costs of solar PV and battery storage rapidly reducing, adding on-site renewable energy into the Code could deliver significant additional gains.”

Although there are upfront costs associated with these improvements, these are small (less than 4% for detached homes) relative to overall construction costs and land prices. “While the Code is important, it can only take us part way to net zero,” said Ms Toumbourou.

“Improving compliance and enforcement with Code requirements is paramount, as well as improving appliance energy standards, retrofitting existing buildings, providing building owners and occupants with better information, and driving faster decarbonisation of the electricity grid. The Code should be seen as one part of an integrated strategy to deliver a zero carbon building sector by 2050.”

“Delaying action will mean that many of these opportunities are lost,” said Mr Li. “A three-year delay in further upgrades to building energy performance standards could lead to a further $2.6 billion in wasted energy expenditure and lock in an additional 9 million tonnes of emissions by 2030, increasing to 22 million tonnes by 2050.”

Read the press release and full report.

 POTENTIAL 2030 ENERGY TARGETS - Detached Houses (p21 of the report)

POTENTIAL 2030 ENERGY TARGETS - Detached Houses (p21 of the report)