Homes across Australia will be more energy efficient if proposed changes to the National Construction Code are pushed through for 2022.
Consultation has begun on the final tranche of the Australian Building Codes Board’s National Construction Code 2022, which has been flagged as the most substantial change to the residential construction code since 2010.
Proposed changes include raising the thermal performance of homes to a 7-star NatHERS rating, whole-of-home annual energy usage, and improving the provisions for retrofitting on-site renewables and electric vehicle charging equipment on multi-dwelling and commercial buildings.
RMIT University senior lecturer in the Sustainable Building Innovation Lab Dr Trivess Moore welcomed the more stringent energy efficiency requirements, which he said could reduce heating and cooling costs substantially.
“An increase from 6 to 7 stars would result in an average reduction in energy for heating and cooling of 24 per cent across Australia,” he said.
“The likely increase from 6 to 7 stars as a minimum performance requirement is a critical step on the path towards near zero carbon/energy housing … this will be the most significant revision to the residential construction code since .”
Moore said the performance of Australian housing was at least 40 per cent worse than its peers in similar climate zones in many other developed countries.
“Research undertaken at RMIT University found that more than 80 per cent of new housing in Australia is only built to the minimum 6-star standard, with less than 1.5 per cent built to the optimal environmental and economic performance of 7.5 stars,” Moore said.
Proposed changes will also provide for enhanced condensation management and whole-of-house energy usage, to help ratchet energy consumption ahead of the 2050 net zero carbon target.
Stage 1 of the consultation on the NCC 2022 proposed amendments included draft provisions for accessible housing, including wider hallways and reinforced bathroom walls, amendments to allowable lead levels for plumbing products that contact drinking water, egress windows for early childhood centres and primary schools, bushfire protection for non-residential buildings (fire resistance levels of construction materials), and the weatherproofing and waterproofing of commercial buildings.
HIA executive director of building policy Simon Croft said the 2022 code would be most the significant change to the national building code since its inception.
“[The changes are] shaping up as the largest single amendments … in terms of the volume of changes and the scope and impact of the proposed reforms, particularly for houses and low-rise apartments,” he said.
Plumbing product prices could go up between 10 and 30 per cent as a result of the changes, and the changes to accessibility could cause upwards pressure on pricing for new builds.
The National Construction Code is updated every three years, based on required regulatory practices, industry research, public feedback and Government directions. Each state and territory is responsible for administering it.
The Australian Building Codes Board said it would undertake a Regulation Impact Statement to determine the financial impact of the new provisions.
The board would also determine the timing for implementing the new provisions, including potential transitional arrangements with a view to adoption in the third quarter of 2022.
Consultation on Stage 2 of the National Construction Code 2022 relating to the energy efficiency measures closes on October 17.