Industry groups have criticised the West Australian Government’s decision to delay implementation of the latest updates to the National Construction Code (NCC).

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) said it is the wrong time to delay updates when energy efficiency is critical to support economic stimulus measures.

ASBEC president, Professor Ken Maher AO said that stalling the introduction of better standards for new buildings and fit-outs will only delay the benefits to businesses, households and the wider economy.

“This is a disappointing outcome. The changes in the 2019 Code were developed through extensive engagement with industry and using evidence-based research,” he said.

“COVID-19 restrictions have impacted on construction productivity and appropriate concessions can be made to accommodate last-minute delays. 

“Yet, without broader consultation, the WA Government has deferred the implementation of the changes by an entire year, which means delaying the economic benefit to energy consumers and businesses. Such a decision makes absolutely no sense in the current environment, where every economic lever is critical.”

ASBEC executive director Suzanne Toumbourou said that failure to act decisively on carrying forward the changes is a missed opportunity.

“The evidence is in. Better performing buildings deliver a myriad of benefits such as lowered energy bills for household and business consumers, reduced stress on the electricity network and supports a least cost pathway to decarbonisation,” she said.

Research by ASBEC and ClimateWorks in 2018 showed that strong energy standards for new buildings in Western Australia could, between now and 2050, reduce energy costs by up to $4 billion, deliver at least 10 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings and save households up to $1,000 per year in energy bills. 

Nationally, stronger energy standards could reduce energy bills by $27 billion and cut energy network costs by up to $12.6 billion.

The latest update to the NCC represented the first major overhaul of the commercial provisions since 2010 and delivered a package of measures focused on reducing commercial energy consumption by a potential 35 per cent, promising to usher in a major step-change around the country.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we need leadership that delivers for every part of the economy, including our buildings. Ramping up building quality and efficiency should be a key part of every government’s arsenal to drive more economic benefits particularly at this critical time,” Toumbourou said.

“The National Construction Code sets minimum standards for all new buildings and fit-outs, so adopting the latest changes to the Code should be one of the first places that governments look to deliver improved building energy performance.”

The delay follows the release of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing building and construction industry jobs have fallen 5.3 per cent in the last six weeks.

Master Builders Australia CEO,  Denita Wawn, Master Builders Australia, said it is a dangerous situation for the entire country which is why the government needs to act.

“Stimulus can’t wait because jobs are being lost now and we need to protect the livelihoods of the 1.2 million people employed by the industry around the country and the viability of the nearly 400,000 building and construction businesses that pay their wages,” she said. 

“Results of a new Master Builders survey of its members shows that 73 percent have seen a substantial fall in forward work on their books of 40 per cent on average.

“Governments must act now because while many builders and tradies are getting by on work that commenced prior to the onset of COVID-19 that work is fast running out and new orders have fallen off a cliff, “she said. 

“State and Territory governments must provide their infrastructure planning agencies with more resources so that actual construction work can commence, and Federal Government payments can be made, and money enter the economy.”

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