Insulation Australasia has welcomed the findings of the hard hitting National Energy Efficient Building Project report, which called for wide-ranging reforms to Australia’s culture of ‘non-compliance’ at all levels of the building industry.
The report, commissioned by the South Australian Department of State Development on behalf of the Federal Government, found that the National Construction Code and its current form of regulatory enforcement failed to encourage the delivery of energy efficient buildings up to an appropriate standard.
It also identified shortcomings at all levels of building construction, including inadequate or highly subjective energy efficiency assessments, product switching and materials substitution, poor initial planning guidelines regarding ‘best practice’, and inadequate customer knowledge or awareness.
“The report was confronting, but sadly not surprising,” says Scott Gibson, President of Insulation Australasia (IA), adding that the results vindicate hearsay that energy efficiency is frequently a sacrificial lamb to expediency and cost cutting.
“As the Report states, ‘These concerns appear systemic in nature, in that they cover all aspects of the building supply chain and regulatory process and all building types.’
“Furthermore: ‘A key view expressed to the review team is that the industry perceives little risk that cutting corners on energy performance will be discovered or, if it is, that there will be any serious consequences.’ This state of affairs simply is not good enough.”
Acknowledging that tough initiatives to address these poor industry practices, and ultimately improve energy efficiency as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are necessary, Gibson says IA supports the report’s recommendations for an overhaul of the entire industry.
This includes mandatory product certification (testing as well as labelling), tighter documentation of full-project Code-compliance, rigorous scrutiny of adherence to specifications, and limited divergence from approved designs.
“Insulation is at the coalface of energy efficiency in Australia’s built environment – the very word ‘insulation’ appears 98 times in the report – so we will work diligently and respectfully with all relevant industry stakeholders to make sure rhetoric doesn’t swamp practical reform,” says Gibson.
“We have been saying for years that mandatory third-party product certification is needed as a first step towards correct and consistent product identification, fit-for-purpose usage, and clear code compliance. Appropriate high-quality insulation is a key ingredient of any building’s energy efficiency – we have to recognise that practical reforms are urgently required to prevent energy wastage.”
And while meaningful reform will post tremendous challenges, Gibson believes a high degree of cooperation between different agencies, peak bodies and the wider building community will help to overturn current poor practices.
Non-compliance has proven to be a huge problem in Australia; one not limited to the energy efficiency of buildings – last year an Australian Industry Group study found that most sectors in the building supply chain are encountering sub-standard products.
To combat this issue, the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) released a guide to help the industry better choose products that are compliant with the relevant codes and standards. Industry bodies have also begun taking action, such as the Australian Steel Institute which introduced a dedicated scheme to enable building design professionals and specifiers to assure steelwork for construction is fit for purpose, and aligned to address potential risk factors.