Measuring Australian Building Efficiency

A brief history of Australian building regulations

  • Victoria introduced residential insulation regulations in 1991 after Parliamentary Committee recommended regulations in 1976
  • Attempt to develop national commercial building energy code in early 1990s failed
  • ACT introduced residential insulation regulations, then 4 star performance based regulation using the VicHERS rating tool (predecessor of FirstRate) from 1994
  • 1997 NSW Sustainable Energy Development Authority worked with many NSW councils to introduce the Energy Smart Homes Policy to work around state government inaction
  • In 2000, ABCB began work on introducing national energy regulation, introduced in 2003, 2006 and upgraded in 2010
  • Victoria began phasing in 4, then 5 star regulations from 2004

More information on the requirements at National Construction Code Requirements


Australian accreditation programs and requirements for energy efficiency

Currently two voluntary national accreditation programs exist to measure and report on environmental performance of office tenancies and assist in guiding best practice office fit outs.

  • Green Star assesses the design of your office fit-out
  • NABERS measures its ongoing operational energy efficiency
  • NatHERs measures residential buildings in Australia

Green Star is a rating system that evaluates the environmental design and construction of new buildings. Green Star is a national voluntary environmental rating system developed by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Green Star – National rating toll for the built environment in Australia

  • Application – Voluntary
  • Issues – Environmental
  • Building Type – All (except single detached dwelling)
  • Stage – Design and post construction
  • Launched – 2003
  • Rating – 1 Star to 6 Stars

NABERS is a performance-based national rating system that measures the environmental performance of existing buildings, tenancies and homes. NABERS is a national system run by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage on behalf of the Australian, state and territory governments.

NABERS – National rating for performance of buildings in Australia

  • Application – Voluntary / Mandatory (linked to CBD Program)
  • Issues – Energy, water, waste, indoor environment quality
  • Building Type – Commercial and Residential
  • Stage – Operation
  • Launched – 2004
  • Rating – 1 Star to 6 Stars (7th star added in 2013)

Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERs) is a national assessment framework for residential buildings in Australia and regulated through theBuilding Code of Australia. Its purpose is to regulate how Australian homes are rated for their thermal performance.

he Australian Building Codes Board introduced energy efficiency measures for residential houses into the Building Code of Australia (BCA) on 1 January 2003. It has been adopted by all Australian states and territories which did not already have an equivalent system in place. Victoria and South Australia have gone beyond the standard, and mandated, instead of 4-stars, a 5-star rating (enacted July 2004) – all new homes and apartments built in Victoria must since 2010 comply with the 6 Star standard. This means it is compulsory for new houses to have:

  • 6 Star energy rating for the building fabric, and
  • A rainwater tank for toilet flushing or a solar hot water system, and
  • Water efficient shower heads and tapware.

During 2006, requirements for 5-star energy ratings were introduced for new homes through the BCA in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. As of mid-2007 Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory have not adopted 5 star requirements for new homes. New South Wales has not adopted requirements under the BCA and operates its own Building Sustainability Index or BASIX.

The costs and environmental impacts of heating and cooling a home can be reduced through good design and construction of our homes. Assessment of a building’s thermal performance at design stage by a NatHERS accredited assessor can identify simple, economical ways to make it more comfortable and save energy.

  • Application – Mandatory
  • Issues – Energy (orientation and build fabric)
  • Building Type – Residential
  • Stage – Design
  • Launched – 2003
  • Rating – 1 Star to 10 Stars
  • Software – AccRate, BERS and FirstRate

Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) is an assessment for residential buildings in New South Wales and regulated through the State NSW Planning and Environment Department. BASIX is one of the strongest sustainable planning measures to be undertaken in Australia. BASIX aims to make all residential dwelling types in NSW energy and water efficient.

BASIX encourages the reduction of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through the following strategies: hot water systems, heating & cooling, ventilation & exhaust, lighting, pools & spas, alternative energy sources, other energy uses (i.e. refrigeration, clothes drying, appliances) and central systems in multi dwellings only (lifts, saunas, central hot water, central heating, central cooling, etc.)

  • Application – Mandatory
  • Issues – Energy, water and comfort
  • Building Type – Residential
  • Stage – Design and Post Construction
  • Launched – 2004
  • Rating – % against Building Consult Australia (BCA)

BCA Section J is a national assessment framework for residential buildings in Australia. All new commercial building projects are required to have a compliance report completed; generally at construction certificate stage to demonstrate they comply with Section J of the Building Code of Australia.

Section J of the BCA relates to Energy Efficiency. The objective is for all new buildings ‘to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by efficiently using energy’.
Efficient Living’s Section J reports address the following: Building Fabric (Part J1); External Glazing(Part J2), Building Sealing (Part J3), Air Movement(Part J4), Air-Conditioning and Ventilation Systems (Part J5), Artificial Lighting and Power(Part J6), Hot Water Supply (Part J7) and Access for Maintenance (Part J8).

  • Application – Mandatory
  • Issues – Design
  • Building Type – Commercial
  • Stage – Design
  • Launched – 2003
  • Rating – Minimum requirements

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