Australian homes should be fitted with higher-performing uPVC windows that balance optimisation of heating and cooling loads with the residents’ desire for more natural light. Calling for active encouragement of windows with high-performing qualities, the Vinyl Council of Australia has sought to raise the country’s current standards, which are low in comparison to the UK and Europe.

The Vinyl Council of Australia was responding on behalf of its uPVC Window Alliance members to consultation on proposed changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) 2019. Strongly supporting the objective to improve energy efficiency of the built environment, the Alliance believes that windows, as a key building element, offer significant cost-effective opportunities to strengthen commercial and residential energy requirements in Australia.

Commenting on the existing low standards in Australia, Vinyl Council Chief Executive Sophi MacMillan said there is currently ‘little incentive’ for builders or landlords to create energy-efficient properties. Observing that homes have a fundamental impact on occupant health and wellbeing as well as the capacity of the energy market, she said the built environment presented opportunities to make significant in-roads to achieving Australia’s commitment to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

However, lack of regulatory certainty on future updates to energy requirements would discourage industry from innovation and investing in improved products that would deliver better energy efficiency in the move towards net zero emissions.

The Alliance supported its call for the introduction of regulations by highlighting the role windows play in a building’s thermal performance as well as its aesthetics.

Research by the CRC for Low Carbon Living reveals that 87% of consumers want a home filled with natural light and 85% want a cool home in summer and a warm home in winter. Studies have also shown that consumers are willing to pay more to achieve this.

According to the Alliance, there are higher-performing window systems (Uw Values of <4 W/m²K) available in Australia that outperform basic double-glazing for a similar cost. Use of the lowest performing, single-glazed metal-framed windows may cut costs but should be discouraged.

Sophi observes that the use of higher-performing, double-glazed windows with larger glazing areas should be encouraged as they can deliver year-round thermal benefits, as well as improved security and acoustic insulation.

The Alliance has contributed to a report by ASBEC and ClimateWorks Australia: ‘The Bottom Line – household impacts of delaying improved energy requirements in the Building Code’. The report highlights the urgency of updating the stringency of energy efficiency requirements that if done now through cost-effective measures, could cut heating and cooling energy use by up to 51 percent.