Queensland will push back the introduction of higher energy efficiency standards amid concerns that the government did not provide buildings with adequate information to prepare.
It means NSW is the only jurisdiction rolling out mandatory seven-star NatHERS ratings for new builds from next week.
As reported by Wood Central last week, Australia’s largest builders have been left in the dark by the changes, with confusion centring on the use of commercial software.
They claimed the government failed to communicate changes, adding to uncertainty plaguing the building and construction industry.
Now, Sourceable reports that the Queensland State Government has pushed the introduction of higher energy standards until May 1, 2024.
Significantly, Queensland will still push ahead with accessibility requirements – with transitional arrangements applying to certain homes constructed on narrow lots and small prefabricated homes.
It means that Queensland and the Northern Territory are the only jurisdictions in Australia pushing ahead with the new accessibility requirements in line with the original October 2023 deadline.
Later today, the Wood Central publisher will host a panel discussion exploring the National Construction Code changes and their impact on the building and construction industry.
The panel includes Andrew Dunn, CEO of the Timber Development Association and organiser of the Australian Timber Design Awards, Boris Iskra, the FWPA National Standards Manager and Toby Wilkin, lead assessor at Torple Energy Ratings.
Leading up to the panel, Mr Ross spoke to Mr Wilkin, who said the concerns centre around using Accurate or Hero software to certify projects against the 2022 version of the National Construction Code.
“If you are going to assess under the new NCC22, you must use the latest technology – Chenath engine V3.22.”
However, where it gets complicated is in other jurisdictions, “where the states that are not taking up the NCC22 this year, they must decide if they are going to allow the new software or only the previous technology – based on Chenath Engine V3.21 which is compliant under the NCC19.”
“I’ve contacted multiple states and had meetings with them; none have given guidance yet.”
Mr Wikins said that the different jurisdictions are at various stages of adoption and provided Wood Central with an updated status:
- QLD – 1st MAY 2023
- NSW – 1st OCT 2023
- ACT – 15th JAN 2024
- VIC – 1st MAY 2024
- SA – 1st MAY 2024
- WA – 1st MAY 2024 (choice to do quite a few options here)
- NT – NO PLANS (commercial going to NCC19 from 1st OCT 2023)
- TAS – 2025 (no set date as yet)
Under the new version of the National Construction Code, the new energy efficiency provisions will require new homes and apartments to meet 7-star thermal performance levels under the Nationwide Housing Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS).
In addition, appliances in new homes must meet a whole-of-home energy budget. And according to Mr Wikin, “Accurate is the only software tool accredited to the new standard.”
Under the new standard, new houses must also have new accessibility provisions under the Livable Housing and Design Standard (LHDS).
New dwellings must now meet “a Silver level standard” with properties including the following:
To meet this requirement, properties will need to have features such as:
- at least one step-free entry
- wider internal doors and corridors to facilitate easy movement around the home (such as for people in wheelchairs)
- a step-free access to a bathroom and shower
- an accessible toilet and
- reinforcing bathroom and toilet walls to allow handrails to be installed should they be needed.
The new accessibility standards “aim to ensure that new houses and units are designed and constructed to be accessible for everyone,” according to the Australian Building Codes Board.
This includes older people, people with disabilities, families with young children and people with temporary mobility injuries.
The new standards also aim to enable people to remain in their homes as they age without requiring costly adaptions.
The move to push back energy efficiency requirements follows a similar move in Victoria, which pushed back its adoption of the requirements from October until May of next year.
The delay also follows pressure from industry lobby groups such as the Master Builders Association of Queensland, who have argued that the building industry needs more time to prepare for the changes.
In a statement, Queensland Minister for Energy and Public Works, Mick de Brenni, said the delays will give the building industry more time to implement the changes.
“We have listened to advocates, industry and the community, and our phased implementation plan balances the needs of industry to transition alongside the community’s expectations that we adopt these improved standards,” De Brenni said.
“Queensland is already well placed to meet the new 7-star energy-efficiency requirements –with the average home across the state already reaching 6.5 stars energy efficiency.”
“With the availability of a 1-star credit for outdoor living areas (see below), most builders won’t have any problems meeting the new requirements, and with the timeframe for compliance with energy efficiency requirements now May 1, 2024, we are allowing additional time to train in the new tools.”
Building industry lobby groups welcomed the delay to the energy efficiency requirements but expressed disappointment that the state was moving ahead with the October 1 date for introducing accessible housing standards.
Master Builders Queensland CEO Paul Bidwell says that rules regarding the accessible housing design were finalised only last week.
He adds that there needs to be sufficient education and awareness about the changes in the building industry and consumers.
“We are disappointed that the Minister didn’t delay the livable housing requirements, as there is a lack of practical information available to licensed builders and trade contractors on implementing the changes without incurring significant costs. Changes that commence in just 11 days,” Bidwell said.
“How can licensees comply with substantial changes to the way houses must be built when information has not been issued to them ahead of the changes commencing on October 1?”