Every three years the National Construction Code comes up for amendments, allowing everyone a say on the quality of our new homes and buildings.
Due to be updated next year, the 2022 code will affect the almost half-a-million Australian homes built during the next three years, and every year after for the next 100 years—a home’s average lifespan. Whatever we codify, we will reap for a long time to come.
The 2022 code has an astounding lack of ambition.
While the UK and other wealthy countries set out sweeping plans to transition their buildings and economies to net zero, we continue to show a dispiriting lack of engagement.
This next round of National Construction Code still insists on fossil fuel gas connections, rather than shifting to all-electric homes, primed to capitalise on clean energy and cheap running costs.
We lead the world in residential uptake of solar yet we’re still making it difficult and costly for Australians to get on board.
And what about net-zero? Don’t we think we can do better than a broad-brush “improve efficiency” for our national building agenda?
How about “buildings should create as much power as they use”? Or “we have the people, technology and mandate to build the world’s most energy-efficient homes?”
Instead, it is a lacklustre tweak to the status quo, rather than forging a better future for our children.
We know this is possible. Designing and building net-zero, all-electric homes is not a pipe dream, it’s our bread and butter.
For example, Ferrars & York is a net-zero, all-electric, 8.6 star average apartment building in South Melbourne.
When it opens in April, the apartments are expected to consume 40 per cent less emissions every year than the 6-star equivalent acceptable under the current NCC.
They will be healthy, resilient homes that require less energy to keep cool and warm and are more comfortable and healthier as a result as well as significantly cheaper to run.
We know net-zero and we know what it costs. We know people love these homes, want to buy them and adore living in them. Once you’ve experienced net-zero, you can’t go back.
But it seems our policy makers don’t agree. Perhaps we’re not deserving of better housing. Perhaps the 180,000 Victorian households living under persistent energy hardship shouldn’t expect any better, either.
Now that public consultation has closed, the Australian Building Codes Board will sit down with a regulatory impact statement to weigh up feedback recommendations and expected costs before releasing the final 2022 code in September.
We’re confident that they will take note of our submission and the submissions from many of our peers. How in good conscious could they not?
We know that they will also listen to the Victorian government and leading building representatives who have pointed out serious flaws in the statement that may lead decision-makers to be even more conservative with our future, such as under-estimating the benefits of better energy efficiency and overestimating its costs.
If we’re serious about decarbonising our housing, we need to overhaul the code—and we can. “The cost of increasing performance standards will impact housing affordability further” is no longer a valid argument.
COP26 will energise us to think bigger.
Let’s take this opportunity to mandate all-electric, net-zero buildings for the 2022 code and lock in better outcomes for new homes for the next 100 years.
Managing director, Hip v. Hype