According to a new report, energy standards in Australia’s National Construction Code must be urgently upgraded if new buildings are to be fit for a zero-carbon future.

Called Built to Perform and prepared by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia, by setting stronger energy standards for new buildings in the Code, by 2050, there would be a reduction in energy bills of up to $27 billion, a cutting of energy network costs by $7 billion and there would be at least 78 million tonnes fewer carbon emissions.

“Australia needs to transition to a net zero emissions economy by 2050 to meet our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. But new analysis by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy shows Australia scores the lowest in energy efficiency amongst all developing countries. Although market-leading Australian companies are demonstrating world-class commitment to a sustainable built environment, the market alone cannot fix this problem,” says ASBEC executive director Suzanne Toumbourou.

“All of the buildings being built today will still be operating in 2050, at a time when we will need to be at or near net zero emissions. Our Building Code needs to be ‘zero carbon ready’, ensuring that today’s new builds are prepared to operate in a zero-carbon future,” says Toumbourou.

“We welcome proposed improvements to the 2019 National Construction Code to advance energy performance in commercial buildings and adjust the requirements for residential buildings,” she says.

“However, to meet the full potential of the Code, we need to shift away from ad-hoc, periodic updates. Governments must agree to a longer-term plan with targets and a clear, regulated and transparent process for Code updates out to 2030, starting with a step-change in residential standards in 2022,”  she adds.

“If developers and manufacturers know how the Code requirements will evolve over the next 15 years, this will provide the regulatory certainty industry needs to plan and invest in new technologies, delivering higher building energy performance at lower cost, “ says professor Tony Arnel, chair of ASBEC’s Building Code Task Group and president of the Energy Efficiency Council.

“Even this conservative analysis shows that, by 2030, improvement in Code energy requirements could reduce energy consumption of new buildings by up to 56 percent. This could be achieved through simple, cost-effective energy efficiency measures such as improved air tightness, double glazed windows, increased insulation, outdoor shading, and more efficient air conditioners, hot water systems and lighting,” according to ClimateWorks project manager Michael Li.

“While the Code is important, it can only take us part way to net zero,” says Toumbourou.

“The Code should be seen as one part of an integrated strategy to deliver a zero carbon building sector by 2050,” she says.

“A three-year delay in further upgrades to building energy performance standards could lead to a further $2.6 billion in wasted energy expenditure and lock in an additional 9 million tonnes of emissions by 2030, increasing to 22 million tonnes by 2050,” says Li.

Built to Perform: An Industry Led Pathway to a Zero Carbon Ready Building Code can be downloaded here.