Having energy-efficient homes is important to many Australians. And for good reason. An energy-efficient home is good for the environment and it can save us all a pretty penny in running costs. And the latest changes to the NCC will have us building our homes with a greater emphasis on energy efficiency.
Let’s take a look at what those changes are and how they can impact you when undertaking a major renovation on your home.
What is the NCC?
Before we dive into the NCC changes, let’s first clarify what the NCC is and how it works within Australian housing.
The NCC stands for the National Construction Code. It sets the minimum required level for safety, health, amenity, accessibility and sustainability for building within Australia.
The NCC should not be confused with the Australian Standards. They are two completely separate pieces of information but are used together to make sure our homes (and other structures) are constructed to a safe and structurally sound standard.
Want to know more about the NCC? It is free to access and can be found here: https://ncc.abcb.gov.au/.
Every 3 years the Australian Building Codes board and all the state and territory governments come together to review the NCC and update the standards in which we build to ensure we are achieving a high level of standard in our builds as we evolve both in our construction methods and the materials we develop for our homes.
The latest update was completed in October 2022, with a lot of the changes set to roll out in Queensland both this month (May 2023) and October 2023.
What is changing in the NCC in 2023
We want to talk specifically about the energy efficiency changes coming into effect this year, but some other fairly significant changes should also be noted. These include:
Fire safety standards – New fire safety standards will come into effect for buildings under the updated NCC. The focus will be on improving safety, particularly in high-rise buildings. The new standards will include requirements for the use of fire-resistant materials, the installation of sprinkler systems, and the provision of safe evacuation routes. The new standards will also require building owners to maintain their fire safety systems regularly.
Accessibility requirements – The NCC 2022 will introduce new accessibility requirements for buildings, with a focus on improving access for people with disabilities. The new requirements will include mandatory minimum standards for the design of accessible bathrooms, ramps, and doorways. There will also be new requirements for the provision of accessible parking and the installation of hearing loops and visual alarms.
Building and construction standards – The NCC 2022 will introduce new building and construction standards, with a focus on improving the quality and safety of buildings. The new standards will include requirements for the use of high-quality building materials, the installation of moisture barriers, and the provision of adequate ventilation to improve condensation management.
There will also be new requirements for the management of construction waste and the use of sustainable building practices.
Energy-efficient homes – Sustainability changes within the NCC
As well as the changes listed above, the NCC updates have outlined some fairly significant changes to sustainability and energy-efficient homes.
The updated energy efficiency requirements within the NCC aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by setting higher standards for insulation, ventilation, and lighting. This means that new buildings and major renovations must meet higher energy efficiency ratings to be compliant with the NCC.
Why is this important? Well, Australian homes are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. The reality is that residential buildings are responsible for around 24 to 29%% of overall electricity use and 11 to 12% of total carbon emissions in Australia.
By making buildings more energy-efficient, we can reduce these emissions and move towards a more sustainable future.
There are two key energy efficiency changes being made in the NCC:
Increased minimum thermal performance requirements – Walls, roofs, and floors on all new builds and major renovations must have better insulation to reduce heat loss or gain. The current thermal performance currently requires an energy rating equivalent to 6 stars under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NathHERS). This will be bumped up to the equivalent of 7 stars under the new requirements.
This will provide a significant improvement in the thermal comfort you will feel in the home, and, if you are renovating an older home that has next to no insulation, this is going to make a huge difference to the livability of your home.
Houses in warmer climates will also be required to use lighter-coloured roofs and install ceiling fans to reduce heat gain and provide better cooling.
Whole-of-home annual energy use budget – This is a requirement that now needs to be met by new homes and major renovations. This criteria applies to the heating and cooling equipment that is being installed and used in the home. Equipment such as…
- Hot water systems
- Artificial lighting
- Swimming pool and spa pumps
- Onsite renewable energy systems (solar panels for example)
… will all be taken into account within the new energy budget. The budget, according to the NCC board, is based on the energy cost to society. It’s a little confusing to get your head around right now, but soon this will be our new normal and our homes will be better off for it.
In a nutshell, in order to meet the 7 stars standard and the new energy-efficient home requirements, homeowners will need to consider the following when building and undertaking a major renovation on their homes:
Better insulation – This included better insulation for your roof, walls and floor.
- Improved glazing – new homes will have to use windows with better thermal performance, such as double glazing to reduce heat transfer.
- Greater air-tightness – New homes will have to have better seals around openings to prevent air leakage that contributes to energy waste.
- More stringent requirements for heating, cooling, and ventilation systems – new builds will need to consider more efficient energy-efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, such as heat pumps or high-efficiency air conditioning units.
- New requirements for on-site renewable energy generation – new builds will have to incorporate on-site renewable energy generation, such as solar panels, to offset their energy consumption.
How do the NCC changes regarding energy-efficient homes impact homeowners wanting to build or renovate?
All these new requirements are going to lead to lower energy bills and as the occupant, you are going to enjoy the difference in the livability of your home. It will be much more comfortable and your home will be able to better regulate its internal temperature without the need to rely so much on extra heating and cooling.
All good things for you and your home right? Not only will your home be far more comfortable, it will be cheaper to run and improving the energy efficiency of your home is also going to contribute to the overall value of your home.
But, while the new requirements are a good thing in the long run, it does need to be noted that adding in all these new requirements to your home or renovation means that the costs to build or renovate are likely going to increase. It will be an investment, but as a homeowner who is looking to build or undertake a major renovation, you do need to be aware of and factor in the extra costs that go into building an energy-efficient home.
How much extra will it cost to build with the NCC sustainability changes?
How much extra it will cost to build your home with the new NCC energy efficiency requirements is something that cannot be laid out here and now. Every home is different, every build is different and every budget is different.
What we can tell you though, is that RedKem Constructions are the experts when it comes to building energy-efficient homes. From the very beginning, we have been working with our clients to make sure all the latest energy-efficient products and materials are presented as an option for the project and are incorporated wherever possible.
Building beautiful and energy-efficient homes for Brisbane families is what we do, and sustainability is an important aspect to achieving exceptional results on all the renovations we’ve been involved in.
We are ready to fully embrace the NCC energy efficiency requirements and are committed to providing the best sustainable options in all aspects of your renovation.
Click through to our gallery to view our projects or book a call and we can talk about how we are meeting the NCC requirements for energy-efficient homes and how we can incorporate sustainable measures into your home renovation.