One of Victoria’s highest-profile developers is pushing to raise the 6-star energy efficiency minimum standard for homes to seven.
The increase in thermal efficiency for homes would cut hundreds of dollars from a typical new build’s energy bills a year, but raise construction costs by thousands.
It comes as the Victorian government confirmed the nation’s planning departments are considering increasing residential energy performance requirements under the National Construction Code.
The code is due to be updated next year and led to the countries current 6-star energy efficient standard being implemented in 2011.
In addition to the national review, the Victorian government pledged $5.9m to explore a shift from a 6-star energy efficiency standard to seven stars in last year’s budget.
“We are also providing rebates to registered builders and land developers to design and build 7-star NatHERS rated homes that will reduce household power bills with little or no additional construction cost,” a government spokesman said.
Villawood Properties boss Rory Costelloe said the 7-star standard would be unavoidable within a few years and buyers would have to accept added costs and “sacrifice other parts of the home they don’t need”.
Mr Costelloe estimated the industry would need about 12-18 months to redesign homes, and noted the increase couldn’t be forced overnight.
But with rising energy and water bills as well as predictions of 50-degree heatwaves in future summers, there would soon be no other choice, Mr Costelloe said.
His firm has already set a 7-star requirement for between 24 and 40 homes, a full stage, in all of its estates going forward.
The first, Aquarevo in Lyndhurst, has had enough demand for blocks they have auctioned several with the 7-star build requirement in the past few weeks.
Frances and Mark Malig were among the first to buy and said despite the extra costs the requirement was a win.
“It will be a bit more expensive than other standard homes, but we are looking at it as a great long-term investment as we know we will have better energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs,” Ms Malig said.
She added while many builders had initially been unsure if they could meet the requirement, many eventually concluded they could reach a 7-star build with a few upgrades.
The state’s leading homebuilding authority, Master Builders Victoria said while raising the bar was possible it would raise prices and the risk of moisture issues like mould growth.
“Those with good access to the sun to the main living areas can be upgraded fairly easily,” Ms Casson said.
“Different designs, two-storey houses, and a poor lot layout will cost more to reach the standard.”
Arden Homes director Dean Morrison said their firm had found building a 7-star efficient home cost an extra $5500 for a 270sq m single-storey house, or $9000 for a 371sq m double-storey home.
It would cost a further $3300 to make either home fully electric, allowing it to take full advantage of solar panels and batteries which could cut $1600-$2000 from bills each year.
Despite this, Mr Morrison said compelling builders to add solar panels and energy efficient appliances to reach a seventh star rating would be wiser than forcing thermal efficiency improvements that could cause moisture build up.
“Otherwise there will be homes in new estates we will need to demolish in 20 years time as they aren’t efficient enough,” Mr Morrison said.
Many Victorian councils aren’t waiting for a mandate from state or federal governments.
A coalition of 31 Victorian municipalities dubbed the Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE) is currently pushing reviews planning policies with a view to initiatives such as zero-carbon builds that use solar energy production to offset greenhouse gasses, as well as electric vehicle charging.
COUNCILS AHEAD OF THE GREEN CURVE
– Environmental Sustainability Design Officer works to decrease energy and water use, reduce storm water pollution and boost vegetation on developments;
– Requests projects meet higher standards, including external shading, no gas connections and electric vehicle charging;
– Among several councils considering sustainability requirements including zero-carbon builds;
– Has a ‘Breathing Space’ levy on developments to help council create or improve open spaces;
– Melbourne Planning Scheme requires office, retail, education and accommodation projects to meet performance ratings set by the Green Building Council of Australia;
– Has developed Green Factor, a voluntary assessment tool for developers to benchmark and improve greening designs;
– Pursuing planning amendment to protect winter sunlight in public parks from intrusion by development;
– One of several Melbourne councils to introduce a shared Environmentally Sustainable Development policy;
– Seeking amendment to planning scheme to require zero carbon standards for all new commercial and residential builds;
– Waives planning application fees for solar installations;
– Developing zero carbon planning policy reforms and investigating planning tweaks for renewable energy systems, green infrastructure and electric vehicle infrastructure;
– Offers a voluntary planning tool aimed at design excellence including 7.5 star energy efficiency ratings for high-density developments and seven-star efficiency for medium density;
– Offers financial support to homeowners on low incomes to install rooftop solar arrays;
– This week reviewed plans to enter a Green Factor Tool Memorandum with City of Melbourne;
– Includes Best Ecologically Sustainable Design in its annual Built Environment Awards;
– Medium and large-scale developments are assessed by a Sustainable Development Officer;- Partnered with South East Councils Climate Change Alliance which has developed a zero-net carbon home that produces enough solar power to offset the greenhouse gasses of its annual energy use;
– Discussing adopting an Environmentally Sustainable Development Policy in its planning scheme at next ordinary meeting, on June 15.
After three months living in their 7.2-star energy efficient home, Nick Bromhead and Aikhwa Tan are already noticing benefits.
“We are turning the heater off at 11pm and it’s 22 degrees, then you get up at 6.30am and it’s still 19 degrees,” Mr Bromhead said.
“And the house is about twice the size of where we were and we’re saving about 20 per cent on our energy bill.”
The house has extensive insulation as well as Low E double glazing, which in their main living room spans close to 10m and can heat their home on a sunny winters day.
Additional environmental benefits come from building with low-energy density Hebel instead of bricks and an exhaustive draft-proofing process by builder Arden Homes.
They are yet to install solar panels but intend to do so to ramp up their savings and alongside a green energy provider, drive their CO2 production towards zero.
“Everyone needs to do their bit for the climate and sustainability,” Mr Bromhead said.
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