About 50 percent of all the greenhouses gases generated in the world come from buildings, both residential and commercial. It’s a big reason why most developed countries set high standards for energy efficiency in new construction.
However, Australian homes still aren’t up to par compared to the energy efficiency standards of other developed countries around the globe.
According to the Australian Academy of Science, the average Australian home generates carbon emissions each year equivalent to an atmospheric column measuring more than 1 square meter of land.
In other words, each house generates enough carbon emissions to fill the entire atmosphere above it.
Therefore, Australia is working diligently to catch up with its American and European counterparts in creating better energy building codes. That way, carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases can be reduced significantly each year.
In the meantime, Australia is plagued by inefficient energy use, some of the areas in greatest need for improvement including:
High Electricity Prices
Australian households are paying the highest electricity prices in the world. According to Markintell data services, residents of South Australia pay an average of 47.13 cents per kWh, Victoria pays 34.66 cents per kWh, and Queensland pays 35.69 cents per kWh. This development comes after the nation paid the world’s lowest energy rates in the 1990s.
Australian politicians are fighting to create better energy efficiency standards in the three states. Homes that contain features like double-glazed windows, LED lighting and high-quality insulation will be deemed as more energy efficient.
Outdated Building Code
The National Construction Code of Australia is responsible for creating the construction requirements that must be met when a new building is constructed in the country. A portion of these requirements pertains to energy efficiency.
Unfortunately, the building code is a bit outdated and does not factor in the increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by Australian homes each year.
The Australian federal government created the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme to grade homes’ energy efficiency. The star system rates how energy efficient a home is. The government requires there to be a 6-star rating on a newly built home.
The more stars it has, the better a building’s energy efficiency. The rating can go all the way up to 10 stars, although the score could only be earned by a home that doesn’t have any air conditioning or heating.
Lack of Enforcement
The building code helps ensure newly built homes are energy efficient. However, the code does not do much about existing homes that are energy inefficient.
There is no mandatory requirement for homeowners to renovate their existing homes in order to comply with new building code standards.
Until such a requirement is mandated, there will still be a huge greenhouse gas emissions problem in Australia.
Roughly 70% of new Australian home construction receives energy efficiency accreditation under the star rating system. However, there is another way for new homes to meet energy efficiency standards.
Rather than using the star system, a builder can take advantage of a loophole in the code, known as “Verification Using a Reference Building.”
The option was designed to accommodate alternative construction methods that differ from the norm.
It is simply a pass or fail system which has allowed builders to construct and sell houses that fall under six stars.
It is perfectly legal, and builders love to use the loophole because it saves them from performing thousands of dollars in renovations.
Lack of Follow-Up
A big problem facing the enforcement of energy efficiency standards is the lack of follow-up. Once the initial design stage of a home is completed, there are no government officials who come around and make sure the energy saving requirements are installed properly if at all.
Therefore, builders can finish construction of the building without anyone conducting the proper inspections and ensuring the design plans were properly implemented.
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