Australia can cost-effectively strengthen residential energy efficiency standards in the Building Code and cut heating and cooling energy use by up to 51 per cent, according to a new report released today by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia.

Implementing these changes now could deliver Australians savings of up to $150 per household per year on energy bills, with savings more than offsetting additional capital costs.

It could also deliver more comfortable homes, reduce stress on the electricity grid, and cut emissions by around 10.8 million tonnes to 2050 – more than the amount emitted annually by Victoria’s Loy Yang B coal-fired power station.

"The Bottom Line – household impacts of delaying improved energy requirements in the Building Code report" shows these savings could come from simple energy efficiency improvements such as air tightness, ceiling fans, and roof insulation.

The chair of ASBEC's national construction code working group, Tony Arnel, said the houses built in the next few years will be in use for decades, well beyond 2050 when Australian homes will be near net zero emissions.

Buildings account for almost a quarter of national emissions, and more than half of electricity use.

With half a million homes projected to be built between 2019 and 2022, delaying improved energy standards by just three years would lock in an estimated $1.1 billion in unnecessary household energy bills, and 3 million tonnes of additional emissions by 2050.

“Looking further ahead, the benefits of an improved Code will add up fast. An estimated 58 per cent of Australia’s expected building stock in 2050 will be built after 2019,” Arnel said.

“With buildings accounting for almost a quarter of national emissions and more than half of national electricity consumption, this makes the Code an indispensable policy tool to transition to zero emissions in line with Australia’s commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

The Australian Building Codes Board has today released a proposal to update the Code energy requirements for 2019. This includes improvements to the requirements for housing, but there is no proposal to strengthen the required level of energy efficiency for homes.

“We welcome the proposed improvements in the non-residential energy requirements,” Arnel said.

“If implemented, these changes could deliver significant energy and emissions benefits in the non-residential sector.

“The draft changes for residential buildings are also a good start. However, our report demonstrates that greater opportunities exists to improve residential performance.”

Arnel said the energy requirements in the Building Code were last updated in 2010 and are next due to be updated in 2019.

“There is currently no plan to strengthen standards for residential buildings in this Code update. Further delay means that we will be building to 2010 standards all the way to 2022, locking in higher emissions and energy costs,” he said.

At a time when families are struggling with rising living costs, ASBEC executive director, Suzanne Toumbourou, said
low standards for energy efficiency mean higher bills for Australian households.

“With the threat of 50 degree days in Sydney and Melbourne, we need to consider whether our homes are ready to provide safe indoor temperatures. Air conditioning may not be enough if our homes are not built to strong energy standards,” Toumbourou said.

Improving Australia’s built environment provides some of the most ‘shovel-ready’ opportunities to meet Paris Climate Change Agreement obligations, according to ClimateWorks program manager, Eli Court.

“If we miss this opportunity, other sectors of Australia’s economy will need to cut emissions more. That may not be as fast or cost-effective, making Australia’s emissions reduction task more expensive overall,” he said.


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