The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has called for energy standards in Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC) to be upgraded in preparation for a zero-carbon future. This follows the release of a new report, Built to Perform, prepared by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia.

AIRAH CEO, Tony Gleeson, 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.

“The NCC must reflect this, ensuring that today’s new builds are prepared to operate in the future. The HVAC&R industry is certainly ready to play its part.”

The final changes are being made to the NCC for the 2019 update, but Built to Perform takes a more comprehensive longer-term approach. It calls for greater stringency in energy regulations to be introduced in the 2022 Code, with a strong focus on the residential sector. Further incremental increases are noted for non-residential buildings.

The report also calls on governments to broaden the Code to meet future sustainability challenges, and to provide certainty to industry via clear targets and processes. This, the report said, will encourage investment in more energy-efficient buildings. The changes would form a crucial part of meeting Australia’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

ASBEC executive director, Suzanne Toumbourou, said, “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.”

AIRAH’s executive manager – technical services and government relations, Phil Wilkinson, said the analysis from Built to Perform aligns with the research work AIRAH has completed around net-zero buildings.

AIRAH’s report Future of HVAC – in a Net-Zero World, charts a series of recommendations or actions to help government and industry understand how the HVAC and property sectors can best transition to delivering and managing net-zero-energy buildings.

“One of the key findings of Future of HVAC – in a Net-Zero World is that building regulations must assess true building performance and target net-zero energy over time,”  Mr Wilkinson said.

“A renewed focus on existing buildings is required, including mandatory energy disclosure, incentives for energy-efficiency maintenance, and upgrade assistance and support.

“Training and education initiatives should help all stakeholders understand the risks and opportunities of a net-zero building. And a net-zero building retrofit toolkit and behaviour-change programs for building users are key.

“Of course, the Institute will continue to advocate for energy policy changes to incentivise the design and delivery of net-zero buildings and low-emission HVAC.”

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