Raising the bottom line

Friday, 23 February, 2018

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Simple energy efficiency improvements in new housing stock can cut Australia’s emissions by 10.8 million tonnes, finds a new report.

‘The Bottom Line – Household impacts of delaying improved energy requirements in the Building Code’ has been developed by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia.

The report finds that simple energy efficiency changes — such as sealing air leakages, installing ceiling fans in warmer climates and improving insulation in cooler climates — could cut energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 51% across a range of housing types and climate zones. This is equivalent to at least a 1 star National Housing Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating.

Green Building Council of Australia Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew said the report underscores the pressing need for more robust residential energy standards in the National Construction Code (NCC).

“Our residential and commercial buildings represent almost a quarter of Australia’s emissions and over half of the electricity demand, yet they have the potential to reach zero carbon through existing, cost-effective technologies,” Madew said.

“This means buildings can achieve significant emissions reductions today, while other sectors are still developing new technologies and approaches.

“This report highlights the urgent need for action in residential buildings by drawing attention to the immediate opportunities for strengthening residential energy standards in the National Construction Code.”

The Bottom Line also points out that there is currently no plan to increase residential energy standards in the NCC when it is next scheduled for update in 2019.

“The energy requirements in the code were last updated in 2010. By failing to act now, we will be building to 2010 standards all the way to 2022. This would lead to higher energy costs for households for years to come,” Madew said.

The report, which was produced with the support of the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living and the RACV, also found that better energy standards would improve comfort and health in a changing climate.

“Forecasts show that some Australian cities face the prospect of 50-degree days by 2050. We need to update the NCC to ensure that our homes are built to a standard that provides safe indoor temperatures,” Madew said.

Energy-efficient homes are not only more comfortable and healthy, they also put less stress on the electricity grid, according to the report. This means lowering electricity costs and reducing energy bills, at a time when many families are struggling to cope with rising living costs.

ASBEC, of which the GBCA is a foundation member, also emphasises the importance of policy mechanisms that provide certainty and drive investment in higher energy performing buildings.

“Government support can lower the cost of technologies and drive industry capacity. If technology costs are reduced, or industry shifts towards best practice building design, the opportunity could be even larger than that outlined in The Bottom Line,” Madew said.

Image credit: ©kletr/Dollar Photo Club

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