The WA Government’s choice to substantially delay implementation of the latest updates of the National Construction Code (NCC) is very worrisome at a time when energy efficiency is important for supporting economic stimulus, according to the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).

ASBEC president, professor Ken Maher, states that delaying the introduction of improved standards for new buildings and fit outs will slow potential benefits to businesses, homes and the broader economy.

Maher calls the move a disappointing outcome, saying that amendments to the 2019 Code were developed through a great deal of contact with industry and evidence-established research. COVID-19 restrictions have made an impact on construction productivity, and meaningful concessions can be made to adjust to untimely delays.

However, Maher continues, sans more extensive consultation, the WA Government has deferred putting the changes in action for a full year, which means putting off the financial benefit to energy consumers and businesses. This in his view is nonsensical in today’s environment, where each economic lever is crucial.

ASBEC executive director Suzanne Toumbourou states that failing to act on progressive change represents a missed chance.

The evidence speaks for itself, she said. Better performing structures bring many benefits like lower energy bills for household and corporate consumers, alleviating stress on the electricity network and supporting a lower cost pathway to decarbonisation.

Research by ASBEC and ClimateWorks in 2018 revealed that solid energy standards for new buildings in West Australia could, between this year and 2050, lower energy costs by up to $4 billion, bring at least 10 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings and save families up to $1,000 per year in energy bills. On a nationwide basis, more solid energy standards could lower energy bills by $27 billion and reduce energy network costs by up to $12.6 billion.

The recent update to the NCC symbolised the first big overhaul of the commercial provisions since 2010 and resulted in a package of measures centred on lessoning commercial energy consumption by a possible 35 per cent, promising to introduce some major changes throughout the nation.

Toumbourou said that in the near future, leaders must address every sector of the economy, including buildings. Elevating building quality and efficiency and enhancing the building code should be a key government priority at this important time.