One bright note from last week’s Building Ministers Forum was an agreement to progress work to increase the energy performance requirements for residential construction under the National Construction Code for the planned 2022 iteration.

The move is hard on the heels of the COAG Energy Council’s commitment to a low energy buildings trajectory early last week.

The Australian Building Codes Board has now been tasked with providing the BMF with:

  • advice on any changes to the trajectory to ensure delivery of it in collaboration with industry;
  • a holistic review of the energy efficiency provisions in the NCC; and
  • a regulatory impact process that “can take account of regional differences”, that is, any variation on requirements within each state and territory.

Tasking the ABCB with getting the ball rolling is good news, according to executive director of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, Suzanne Toumbourou.

Ms Toumbourou told The Fifth Estate she expects the ABCB will deliver a solid outcome, given it “worked well with industry” to achieve results when it was tasked with strengthening the code’s energy efficiency provisions for commercial buildings.

Improvements to the code for energy efficiency in residential buildings is expected to follow a similar trajectory that resulted in the new NCC 2019 Section J, she said.

The changes in NCC 2019 are “pretty significant”.

The BMF announcement follows the COAG commitment to a low carbon built environment last week.

 The ministers have spoken – we could be on the road to no carbon

It’s also the result of several years of technical analysis, collaboration and advocacy by ASBEC, the Property Council of Australia and other industry stakeholders following the release of the National Energy Productivity Plan in 2015.

Ms Toumbourou said steps have been taken towards the implementation of measure 31 in the NEPP, which is related to the built environment.

A key goal was to advance the National Construction Code.

“We’re pleased the BMF kept this moving and referred it to the ABCB.”

PCA national policy manager sustainability and regulatory affairs Francesca Muskovic said the COAG Energy Council’s approval of the Trajectory for Low Energy Homes and subsequent referral to the BMF to continue its progress through the work of the ABCB is “very welcome”.

It’s the result of sustained industry advocacy by the Property Council, ASBEC and a host of consumer advocates, she said.

“We’re hopeful that the BMF will ultimately approve the advice they’ve sought from the ABCB on how best to implement the Trajectory into the future, starting with prospective changes to the NCC in 2022 with a focus on residential buildings.”

“ASBEC’s Built to Perform report showed that a forward pathway for stronger energy standards in the NCC, in addition to providing much needed regulatory certainty for industry, could reduce household energy bills by up to $900 each year, contributing to $29 billion in reduced energy bills and 78 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings across the economy by 2050.

“These are conservative estimates because we haven’t accounted for improved health and productivity outcomes that come from energy efficient, comfortable buildings.”