As Australia experiences more record-breaking heat waves, consumers and community groups alike have begun demanding more energy efficient homes, according to Suzanne Toumbourou, executive director of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).
One of the reasons is the potential for lower energy bills. A report titled Built to Perform, published by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) in partnership with ClimateWorks Australia, found that improvements in energy efficiency standards could reduce household energy costs by up to $1,300 per household per year. This is especially impactful for the poorest who could use the money on improving other areas of their life.
There is also a health benefit to more energy efficient homes. A study in The Lancet, a medical journal, found that more than 6 per cent of annual deaths in Australia are caused by cold from inadequately heated homes, with a further 1 per cent related to heat.
As climate change causes temperatures to fluctuate between the extremes, these problems are expected to occur more often. Staying cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter will mean energy efficiency can increase the safety of our homes.
Improved building standards will also ease the strain on the electricity grid, which is currently ageing and in need of large investment. The cost of this inefficient energy supply is currently being passed on to consumers. By building homes that are more responsive to heat, less air conditioning will be turned on, less money will need to be spent on the grid, and lower energy prices will be available to all.
Emissions are another positive, with a potential reduction of 78 million tonnes of emissions from housing between now and 2050. We therefore have the opportunity to reduce the risk of climate related problems for people in Australia and around the world.
Recommendations in Built to Perform include the creation of user friendly tools for understanding energy performance, a regulator with power to enforce the rules, better training for building practitioners, and ensuring a 7 Star NatHERS for new residential buildings by 2022.
Australia’s building sector is already set to deliver more energy efficient homes. Our market already has the technology available, whether it be cutting edge insulation or solar power generating rooftop tiles. In 2018, over 20 per cent of new houses and almost 45 per cent of apartments across Australia were already designed to 6.5 NatHERS Stars or more. The industry now needs certainty through the provision of new rules.
The National Construction Code is such a tool, governing minimum performance standards of new builds and renovations. Adjusting the energy performance standards in this code would improve all new builds and renovations.