An alliance of more than 100 property, community, health and environmental organisations has today issued a forceful call to the country’s Building Ministers to lift the energy efficiency of new homes built in Australia.
The powerful joint statement, released two weeks ahead of a National Building Ministers meeting, urges the Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers to use the meeting to confirm amendments to the National Construction Code.
The proposed changes would increase the minimum energy efficiency requirements for new homes from a 6 to 7-star energy rating and have the potential to slash the average household energy bill by up to $576 a year, according to the Federal Government’s own analysis.
The public call has been led by the Property Council of Australia, Renew, the Australian Council of Social Service, the Green Building Council of Australia, the Energy Efficiency Council, Energy Consumers Australia, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, and the Climate Council, with the statement signed by more than 100 organisations including architects, health advocates, property developers, charities and social housing providers.
Property Council Chief Executive Ken Morrison said despite a global efficiency push and major advances in technologies, energy standards for new homes haven’t been meaningfully updated in more than a decade.
“With Australia’s National Construction Code sitting idle for ten years, Australia has let itself fall further and further behind international standards, and now is the time to catch up with the rest of the world,” Mr Morrison said.
“With housing and rental affordability at crisis point and inflation yet to peak, if our political leaders are serious about easing long term cost of living pressures, while also addressing climate change, then these amendments, which have been considered for quite some time, should be seen as a no brainer,” he said.
Renew CEO Fiona Gray said their analysis shows lifting standards will leave households with more money in their pockets from day one.
“For the declining number of people who aren’t already thinking about the importance of energy efficiency in their home, then the arrival of winter energy bills across Australia will certainly spark a new level of focus,” Dr Gray said.
The proposed amendments to the Code would include lifting the minimum thermal performance for new homes from 6 to 7 stars (under the NatHERS rating system), introducing a “whole-of-home” energy budget for fixed appliances like hot water, heating, cooling and pool pumps, and would give industry a 12 month transition period to deliver.
According to the joint statement, the lifting of energy efficiency standards will not only reduce household energy bills, but also cut emissions by up to 78 million tonnes by 2050, reduce deaths during extremely cold or hot weather, lower the cost of grid upgrades by up to $12.6 billion by 2050, and reduce poverty and inequality by ensuring higher standards in social housing and private rentals.
The proposal is the result of a 3-year collaborative process led by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and would build on the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings which was agreed to by all Commonwealth, state and territory energy Ministers in 2019.
The Building Ministers meeting will take place on August 26.
“Renew’s analysis shows that lifting standards will cut bills and leave households with more money in their pocket from day one. Reducing cost of living pressure and cutting emissions at the same time should be a no-brainer.” – Renew CEO Fiona Gray
“Raising minimum energy efficiency standards for new homes is essential to reducing poverty and inequality. It means everyone living in housing built in 2023 and beyond, including social housing and private rental, will benefit from cheaper energy bills and better health outcomes.” – ACOSS Acting CEO Edwina MacDonald
“In Australia our homes are usually our most important purchase, and they’re certainly the most expensive. They need to be comfortable, healthy and designed for tomorrow’s weather, today. The proposed code changes will go a long way to reducing emissions and improving the health of our most important investment – our home.” – Green Building Council of Australia CEO Davina Rooney
“As we’ve learned in the pandemic, our homes are our shelter and places of refuge. Making our homes healthier and more comfortable through improved energy efficiency standards is a no-brainer and will play a big part in helping meet Australia’s emissions reduction targets.” Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel
“If we are serious about reducing emissions, saving money, meeting our emissions targets and increasing productivity, we need to continue the momentum towards stronger energy performance of our homes – and this 2022 step change is an important part of the process.” Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council Executive Director Alison Scotland
“With homebuyers becoming more environmentally conscious and seeking ways to reduce their bills, it is time for 7-Star energy efficient homes to become the new normal to lock in decades of benefits in houses that are cheaper to run, more comfortable and emit less harmful greenhouse gases.” – Andrew Whitson, CEO Communities, Stockland
“Many Australians are currently living in glorified tents, and that’s not just bad for our health but it’s also bad for our environment. This is Australia’s opportunity to improve its energy efficiency standards which will make our homes safer, more efficient, more affordable and help to address climate change.” Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie
“Rising energy prices, increasingly hotter and colder temperatures and the imperative to reduce the emissions footprint of our homes mean that we can no longer continue building inadequate housing. There is overwhelming support for lifting the burden of poor housing on Australian families, with 3 in 4 households supporting the 7 star rating standard for new homes.” Energy Consumers Australia CEO Lynne Gallagher
“By strengthening energy provisions in the National Construction Code and mandating the implementation of a 7 star minimum energy standard, Australia’s governments have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to reducing emissions, as well as reducing the cost of living and improving building quality and comfort for Australian householders.” Climateworks Centre Cities Lead Margot Delafoulhouze