The 2014 National Energy Efficiency Building Project report notes collection of rating tools is having a negligible effect in improving the sustainability of the built environment.
The project involved consulting with key building industry policy makers, stakeholders and regulators through workshops, meetings, a survey, and submissions to an issues paper with over 800 people from the construction industry participating.
Their responses indicate that the current collection of rating tools is having a negligible effect in improving the sustainability of the built environment.
“Few stakeholders offered the view that no (major) reforms were needed,” the report states. “Many stakeholders believe that Code compliance is poor and, further, that Australia’s building energy performance falls a long way short of best practice. This implies higher energy use, higher emissions and higher overall costs for building owners and occupants.”
This view held across the country, with a “remarkable degree of consistency in the views expressed and issues raised in all states and territories, despite widely varying building markets and conditions.”
Why are the the current rating tools having so little effect? The report highlights a variety of factors, including:
- Homebuyer ignorance: key energy-efficiency features are difficult for non-professionals to discern, e.g. adequate insulation, solar orientation, etc.
- Homebuyer preference: homebuyers want the largest home they can afford, and “are largely uninterested in energy efficiency outcomes.” Many would trade energy-efficiency measures for other amenities, such as more space.
“Many industry professionals noted that this routinely translates into energy efficient designs or inclusions being ‘traded away’ during the design process, or not being specified in the first place,” the report states.
Regarding the regulatory side, participants noted the following:
- Lack of oversight, and lack of consequences, for cutting corners on energy performance.
- Funding shortages that preclude “key enforcement activities, such as audits, which might potentially lead to enforcement action for non‐compliant buildings.”
- The view of energy efficiency “as the lowest of their priorities behind issues such as health, amenity, structural integrity and bushfire safety.”
A better system may be available soon. According to Suzanne Toumbourou, executive officer of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), that group’s framework for a national home sustainability rating system will be released in the next few months. ASBEC is a body of professional and industry organisations, government observers, and non-government organisations that work in multiple facets of the built environment, including operation, delivery, planning, and design.