NCC Update: 7-star minimum energy rating finally approved

by | Aug 29, 2022 | Designs, Performance

Last Friday, the Building Ministers of Australia finally approved the long awaited update to the National Construction Code (NCC) to lift the minimum energy rating for new homes to 7 stars. The update was long overdue and we are excited to finally see some moves in the right direction within the industry.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new NCC regulations.

WHAT IS THE NCC?

The National Construction Code (NCC) of Australia provides minimum standards for the construction of buildings, structures and premises. The NCC was established in 2011 to combine both the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA).

The NCC ensures that all buildings, structures or parts of structures are built according to safety and sustainability requirements. This includes a so-called energy rating, which basically calculates the heating and cooling load of a new built home.

WHAT ARE ENERGY RATINGS?

Energy ratings are a measure of how energy efficient a home or building is. They’re based on how much energy the home or building uses, and measured in stars – the more stars, the more efficient.

There are actually 4 methods stated in our National Construction Code that can be used to achieve compliance with the NCC’s Energy Efficiency requirements:

  1. A NatHERS thermal assessment
  2. Verification against a reference building
  3. Deemed to Satisfy: Achieve all the performance values set in the NCC
  4. Performance Solution: Show how your home is reducing carbon emissions

But according to NatHERS, it is the most popular pathway to demonstrating compliance with the National Construction Code energy efficiency requirements, with about 90% of building approvals in 2020 to 2021 being assessed via the scheme.

THE NATIONWIDE HOUSE ENERGY RATING SCHEME

Since 1993, the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) has been used to assess a building’s energy performance. The NatHERS software focuses on the selection of construction materials for walls, insulation, windows, and roofs, to calculate the overall heating and cooling load and ultimately issue a star rating out of 10.

We need to mention though, that these ratings are purely theoretical and are not being checked during construction to see if the house actually achieves the energy rating it was given.

If you want to make sure that your home is performing as intended, you can book an as built energy rating verification with an independent contractor such as Outlier Studio. Find out more here.

THE MOVE FROM 6 TO 7 STARS

For more than 10 years, the NCC’s energy efficiency requirements were stuck at 6 stars. But looking at the effects of climate change as well as constantly increasing energy prices, it was long overdue to increase this minimum standard.

That’s why many industry professionals have been campaigning hard for the change. One of them is Renew, a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for people to live more sustainably in their homes and communities.

Finally, after years of campaigning and working with policy makers in Australia, the lift from 6 to 7 stars will finally come into effect by 2023.

THE BENEFITS OF INCREASING THE ENERGY RATINGS

There are several benefits of this increase in the standard. Not only will the move help to reduce carbon emissions created by buildings, but it will also help to reduce operational heating and cooling costs – and lower the cost of grid updates at the same time.

Additionally, the update will increase quality of life for renters and people in social housing, as well as help to reduce deaths and health issues caused by exposure to extreme temperatures.

Here are the benefits of the increase from 6 to 7 stars in the NCC:

  • Reduce emissions by up to 78 million tonnes by 2050
  • Reduce deaths due to exposure to extremely hot or cold temperatures inside homes
  • Lower energy bills in solar-powered full electric homes by more than $1,000 per year
  • Reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a home by 25%
  • Lower the cost of grid updates by up to $12.6 billion by 2050
  • Reduce energy poverty and inequality by increasing standards for renters and in social housing

Source: https://renew.org.au/advocacy/ncc-win/

HOW ARE WE PREPARING FOR THE NEW NCC ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARD?

At Outlier, we have been dedicated to designing energy efficient homes for a while. That means that getting homes to a 7 star energy rating is nothing new for us – it actually has been our own minimum standard already for over a year.

In fact, we have many homes that are performing even higher than 7 stars, with some being given energy ratings in the high 8s, without being certified passive homes.

We achieve these great results by using our hybrid home method: Taking passive house principles and applying them to our designs without including some of the more expensive features of the passive house certification process. Learn more about our hybrid home approach here.

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