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Report finds tougher construction code could deliver big emissions savings in the top end

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A more stringent National Construction Code with stronger energy performance targets would reduce emissions and power bills for buildings in Northern Australia, according to a report released by MSDI’s ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC).

The report - Built to Perform in Northern Australiawas released in November and sets out potential energy performance targets in the National Construction Code, specific to Queensland, Northern Territory and Northern Western Australia’s unique climates.

“The hot tropical and desert climatic conditions of Northern Australia really put buildings to the test when it comes to energy consumption,” said ASBEC Executive Director Suzanne Toumbourou.

“But these challenges actually provide a unique opportunity to reduce Australia’s emissions and save money – if governments act to make it happen,” she said.

“We have modelled the opportunities provided by different building types, including apartments, free standing houses, hospital wards and schools. Even without changing the standard design of these buildings, the report found energy savings of up to 27 per cent in residential buildings, 38 per cent in commercial sector, and 56 per cent in public sector buildings such as schools.”

Ms Toumbourou said improved energy performance of buildings presents “a win-win-win opportunity” by reducing stress on the electricity network, offering bill savings and supporting a least-cost pathway to a zero carbon built environment, while improving health and resilience outcomes for households and businesses.

ClimateWorks Project Manager Michael Li said previous analysis showed that nationwide changes to the National Construction Code could save Queenslanders $6 billion in energy bills between now and 2050, $430 million for the Northern Territory and $4 billion in Western Australia. At the same time, it would reduce emissions by 19 million tonnes, 2 million tonnes and 10 million tonnes respectively.

“Implementing the energy targets in Built to Perform in Northern Australia will enable each state and territory to unlock these savings,” Mr Li said.

Built to Perform in Northern Australia is an addendum to Built to Perform - An industry led pathway to a zero carbon ready building code, published in July 2018.

These reports present the results of the Building Code Energy Performance Trajectory project, which quantifies the opportunities of establishing a clear, consistent and ambitious long-term plan for the energy requirements in the National Construction Code.

“We have got the right tool to strengthen energy performance in the National Construction Code – if governments will use it,” Ms Toumbourou said.

“Right now, industry leaders are delivering buildings that perform far better than the Code’s minimum standards but increased minimum energy requirements in the 2022 revisions to the Code will deliver industry the certainty to roll this out nationwide – and drive down costs,” she said.

“At the same time, state and territory governments should encourage building materials and designs which are best suited to specific local environments.”