Requirements for mandatory energy efficiency of buildings and houses should not go beyond six stars, a building and construction industry lobby group says.

That same group says the focus on improving energy efficiency should shift toward existing buildings while the energy focus for new buildings should revolve around improving fixed appliances, equipment, building services and on-site renewable energy systems rather than the thermal shell of buildings.

Master Builders Australia chief executive officer Wilhelm Harnisch says the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency’s National Building Energy Standard-Setting, Assessment and Rating Framework confirms the building industry’s concerns regarding minimum requirements for new homes.

In particular, Master Builders is concerned about suggestions in the framework that every rating tool used for regulatory purposes use a 10-star rating scale. In a submission on the draft framework, Harnisch calls on the Department not to recommend any increase to mandatory energy efficiency requirements.

While builders and customers were welcome to go beyond six stars should they wish, he says mandating this would increase the compliance burden for builders and add further to the cost of a new home.

“Mandatory energy efficiency requirements have been a moving goal post for builders for several years,” Harnisch says. “It has created a major compliance headache and has added up to $10,000 on the cost of a new home. It can be a big barrier for new home buyers. People are welcome to go beyond the six stars, but the mandatory level imposed on new home buyers should not increase beyond that.”

The objective of the draft framework is to drive continuous improvement in buildings throughout the country.

It seeks to do this by establishing a pathway for future increases in minimum building standards up to the year 2020 and improving the approach to assessing and rating buildings.

Public submissions regarding the draft closed on July 6 and will be considered in the development of a framework policy statement for consideration by governments in early 2013.

Focus on new buildings

Despite his opposition to increases in mandatory ratings, Harnisch notes that Master Builders supports a conclusion in the draft framework that improvements should not be made to the thermal shell of existing buildings. Instead, he says, the energy efficiency focus for new buildings should shift to fixed appliances, equipment and building services and on-site renewable energy systems.

He says, however that first and foremost, the focus should be on existing buildings rather than new ones.

“Increased stringency for the thermal shell of residential buildings introduced over the past few years is close to an optimum level and supports the argument not to increase energy efficiency stringencies beyond the current six star rating,” Harnisch says. “Policy to ensure existing buildings become more energy efficient is the most effective way of achieving carbon abatement and was identified in the COAG National Strategy on Energy Efficiency Blueprint. There is $6 trillion in existing stock of buildings to be retrofitted to be more energy efficient and less carbon intensive.”

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