Changes to federal and state building policies and codes have put the spotlight on the drive towards sustainable building practices in Australia.

The changes mean that new homes and renovations costing more than $50,000 will have to reach a 7-star rating on the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) from October this year, as opposed to the current minimum of 5.5.

It is the third increase to the standard since it was introduced in 2004 and reflects the industry’s move to more sustainable building practices.

Described by the minister as a “new nation-leading policy to help NSW reach net zero emission targets and deliver more comfortable and energy-efficient homes and buildings”, the policy incorporates the introduction of a new index within BASIX to measure the greenhouse gas emissions produced in manufacturing residential building materials.

It’s all about creating energy-efficient homes.

The new policy

The new State Environmental Planning Policy (Sustainable Buildings) 2022 encourages the design and delivery of more sustainable buildings across NSW that minimise energy use. The policy aims to bring NSW into alignment with the National Construction Code, working towards the goal of achieving net zero emissions in NSW by 2050. Released in August 2022, the policy aims to:

  • Minimise the consumption of energy and potable water
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use
  • Monitor the embodied emissions of building materials
  • Deliver buildings that are comfortable in summer and winter

The amendments commenced on 1 October 2023.

How to meet the new standards

Many of the new standards depend on a home’s climate zone, with different regulations for each zone. Understanding which climate zone you’re in is important to ensure that the home is built to suit local conditions, especially in relation to thermal performance.

The National Construction Code (NCC) has different building code requirements for each climate zone. Within each zone are many regional subzones, determined by local geographic features such as wind patterns and height above sea level.

When choosing the right window or door for your build, it’s important to check the NCC to ensure the product complies with the regulations of your zone.

A new window or glass door in climate zone 8 must be:

  • Double-glazed, or
  • Timber-framed and made of pyrolytic low-E glass.

A new window or glass door in climate zone 2, 4, 5, 6 or 7 must:

  • During winter
    • Reduce heat loss from the building, and
    • Increase heat gain from the radiant energy of the sun, and
  • During summer
    • Reduce heat gain from the radiant energy of the sun

Similar regulations apply to skylights and glazed roofs.

Why timber is a sustainable choice

The new updated BASIX standards now include embodied emissions to shift away from fossil fuel use to keep pace with industry best practice. The BASIX online tool incorporates a materials index, which requires materials to be selected from drop-down menus and quantified and reported.

NICCO strongly believes in the use of timber to frame doors and windows. Responsibly sourced timber far eclipses the environmental credentials of other building materials when it comes to doors and windows. Timber frames use much less fossil fuel in their production than either aluminium or PVC, while wood is a natural thermal insulator thanks to the air pockets within its cellular structure.

All of these attributes will help to meet the new standards and create an energy-efficient home. We believe the future is timber – a renewable, natural product.

Looking to build in a more sustainable way?

NICCO has been designing and manufacturing custom-made and sustainably sourced timber windows and doors for more than 20 years. Contact us to see why material selection is an important element of sustainable building.

Image credits

Architecture: Lane & Grove

Photography: Prue Ruscoe

Location: Clovelly, Sydney NSW