An event co-hosted by Kingspan Insulation with GIW Environmental Solutions in Richmond, Melbourne in November 2019 brought together several architectural, construction and building professionals to address the PI insurance crisis in the Australian construction sector and also discuss National Construction Code (NCC) compliance.

Amendments made to the NCC 2019 have introduced major changes to the energy efficiency requirements of buildings as outlined in Section J, significantly impacting the roles of many industry professionals including ESD consultants. 

ESD consultants assess compliance to the energy efficiency requirements of the NCC and are absolutely invaluable to designing better buildings. They provide advice on design plans and building materials and can also perform simulations before the building is even started to determine exactly how a finished building will perform in real life.

Kingspan Insulation spoke with Gary Wertheimer, the director of GIW Environmental Solutions, to discuss the impact of the NCC 2019 changes on the industry as well as his work as an ESD consultant.

Last time we spoke, it was at the Kingspan x GIW panel on Performance Solutions. What are your biggest takeaways from that event?

To streamline the design process, early engagement of your ESD consultant is recommended to determine the extent of glazing and thermal envelope permissible under BCA 2019 Section J. Preliminary design details need to be determined in collaboration with the RBS and fire engineer. Lastly, if a performance pathway is agreed upon, you’ll need enough time to incorporate this into a fire engineering study and seek the relevant approvals.

What impact do you envisage the NCC 2019 changes will have on architecture and building design?

Optimisation of window to wall ratio has become a primary consideration at the town planning phase. Based on preliminary modelling results we are seeing that a typical 50-60% window to wall ratio for office buildings using an aluminium improved double glazed Low-E framing system is required to achieve compliance. The location of vision panels is now carefully crafted to balance daylight requirements and views. We can expect to see more efficient glazing systems taking hold in the market. Thermal wall build-ups will focus on reduced material thicknesses given the direct impact on NLA.  

How will the NCC 2019 changes actioned on May 1st, 2020 affect your job as an ESD consultant?

There will be increased upfront engagement to undertake preliminary energy modelling, fenestration analysis and parametric studies at the town planning phase. The introduction of thermal comfort requirements is another important assessment of buildings we are now integrating into our design practises.

What are the biggest effects and changes the industry will see from the introduction of NZS 4214?

I feel that appropriate consideration of thermal bridging is a welcome addition to the compliance regime. For far too long this has been excluded to the detriment of good practice and thermally efficient building outcomes. This will lead to a total reconsideration of design detailing and in respect to Kingspan and other board products, a pleasing opportunity for continuous construction.

With more stringent energy efficiency provisions in Section J of the NCC 2019, do you think we will see more people going down the Performance Solution pathway?

I would think that there is now more justification for this pathway to be applied. The trick will be early engagement and enhanced communication between ESD consultants, RBS and fire engineers. On the other side of the equation, there appears to now be a workable performance pathways roadmap, which may overcome some of the approval bottlenecks.

What can we expect from future NCC updates in terms of Energy Efficiency provisions?

Crystal balling here but in an ideal world I would like to see Section J modelled outcomes mandatorily tested and compared through NABERS. Where actual performances vary from the predicted modelling, there should be an improvement plan put in place. I would also like to see the BCA broadened beyond energy efficiency to include resource efficiency, namely, material embodied energy and water.