The Australian Institute of Architects has called for governments to focus on the demand side of the energy equation in the built environment to ensure greater energy security. Submissions to the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (the Finkel review) closed last week.  

AIA National President, Professor Ken Maher said that the Review’s preliminary report addressed some of the key issues facing Australia’s future energy security, but was largely silent on the critical role the built environment can and should play in the reform process.

Maher explains that buildings account for nearly half of the country’s electricity consumption, making the building sector an important part of the discussion. Research from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) shows that Australia's building sector can deliver up to 28 per cent of Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target, save a staggering $20 billion in energy savings, and create healthier, more productive cities. ASBEC’s 2016 Low Carbon, High Performance report convincingly demonstrated how Australia’s built environment sector can become a global leader in energy and sustainability.

According to Maher, smarter design is critical to achieving savings as demonstrated over the past decade, when improvements in the energy performance of buildings through good design saved over $28 million (gross) in avoided energy bills. However, he believes more is needed, particularly from the residential sector for Australia to achieve the Paris COP 21 targets adopted by the government.

Governments must, therefore, introduce nationally consistent policies such as strong minimum standards for commercial and residential buildings through the National Construction Code, as well as more stringent performance standards for equipment and appliances.

In closing, Maher notes that a better balance of supply and demand based policies will allow for more flexible, adaptable and future proof energy systems that are not overly reliant on one-way transmission via the grid.

Read the full report from ASBEC here.