Australia’s buildings must be built for a zero carbon future

Energy standards in Australia’s National Construction Code must be urgently upgraded if new buildings are to be fit for a zero carbon future, according to a new report by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia.

The report, Built to Perform, shows that setting stronger energy standards for new buildings in the Code could, between now and 2050, reduce energy bills by up to $27 billion, cut energy network costs by up to $7 billion and deliver at least 78 million tonnes of cumulative emissions savings.

“Australia needs to transition to a net zero emissions economy by 2050 to meet our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. But new analysis by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy shows Australia scores the lowest in energy efficiency among all developing countries. Although market-leading Australian companies are demonstrating world-class commitment to a sustainable built environment, the market alone cannot fix this problem,” ASBEC Executive Director Suzanne Toumbourou said.

“All of the buildings being built today will still be operating in 2050, at a time when we will need to be at or near net zero emissions. Our Building Code needs to be ‘zero carbon ready’, ensuring that today’s new builds are prepared to operate in a zero carbon future.

“We welcome proposed improvements to the 2019 National Construction Code to advance energy performance in commercial buildings and adjust the requirements for residential buildings. However, to meet the full potential of the Code, we need to shift away from ad-hoc, periodic updates. Governments must agree to a longer-term plan with targets and a clear, regulated and transparent process for Code updates out to 2030, starting with a step-change in residential standards in 2022.

“While the Code is important, it can only take us part way to net zero. Improving compliance and enforcement with Code requirements is paramount, as well as improving appliance energy standards, retrofitting existing buildings, providing building owners and occupants with better information, and driving faster decarbonisation of the electricity grid. The Code should be seen as one part of an integrated strategy to deliver a zero carbon building sector by 2050.”

Read Built to Perform: An Industry Led Pathway to a Zero Carbon Ready Building Code.