22. Happy Mum and BabyLegislating For Energy Efficiency … is that ok?

In Australia since 2003, no approvals have been granted to build homes that do not reach a minimum 6 star rating. You can no longer build whatever you want wherever you want. Those days are long gone and the market didn’t decide that, that’s the law around here.

Even if you want to do a major renovation, it still has to be modelled and assessed by one of three possible computer programs that decides whether the local council will approve construction or deny it ever coming into existence.

Your basic human right of being able to build a disgracefully thermally inefficient home has been snatched from you by the authorities. You have no choice.

You have to conform. If the computer says “no”, then you need to go back to the drawing board until you come up with a design that passes muster.

Even if you just want to do a renovation, albeit a major one, it still has to be compliant with the new 6 star compliant regulation. If you live in the ACT, in force since the 31st of March 1999, you have been required to get what I call a “roadworthy” for your home before you can sell it or even advertise it for rent.

The inside story suspects that COAG, (The Council of Australian Governments) has agreed to mandate that the other states and territories should follow suit in due course. Rumour has it that these “roadworthy” certificates will be documents produced by an accredited legal entity and just to confuse us all will be given as a rating out of 6. How that matches up with a NatHERS (Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme)  rating out of 10, … well, … I’ll leave you to do the maths.

If you’re building a commercial building or a two story residential building then you only need a five star NatHERS rating before building approval is granted. If you decide to sell it after that, then you will need an EER (energy efficiency rating) which of course is then inconveniently out of 6.

William Shakespeare correctly announced that “Some (men) are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”.

In this particular case, some homes have greatness thrust upon them. They don’t have a choice. They have to be a 6 star house or they will never be built. I suppose one could argue that they met all three criteria, being built great, achieving greatness whilst they are being built and them having to have these qualities thrust upon them otherwise they never would have been constructed.

Of course achieving “greatness” after construction would require the appropriate retrofitting to achieve a higher thermal standard. Because the majority of homes built in Australia before 2003 would barely reach a one star rating, retrofitting to improve the thermal performance of a home has been rampant and now only permissible in a major renovation.

I will leave the “Civil Disobedience,” to philosopher Henry David Thoreau, where he says that “he who is governed least is governed best”, but I will add that any governing body has a duty of care to, not only the citizens of the day, but also to the citizens of the future.

Homes generally have a life expectancy of decades and once built it is not economically viable to simply pull down a construction because it doesn’t perform as thermally well as one may desire. That is, in the true sense of the quote, “the sins of the father fall on the son”, because it is the sons of the daughters and the grandchildren who inherit the infrastructure of their parents and grandparents. They are very frequently economic conscripts with limited options.

22. Western_Australian_Legislative_Assembly

In an endeavour to leave a better legacy in every respect, I see the building of only the most energy efficient buildings as an obligation by the current generation. I would go further and say it’s not just an obligation but even a duty for each individual to reduce the mess that a high technology society produces. There will be enough to clean up fifty years from now and the pulling down of thermally dysfunctional buildings need not be one of them.

So, should anyone be permitted to build anything they want or should “greatness be thrust upon them”. I have suspected that he who is governed least is governed best. Having said that, a wise man, who would seek advice, would discover that even exceeding a 6 Star NatHERS rating is not that hard to do and these building concepts have been known and utilised for thousands and thousands of years.

You may not be able to change the whole world but you can change your world and the world of those who come immediately after you.

If you are going to build a home, consider just not meeting the minimum requirements
and crying about it. I suggest that you build the best thermal  construction you possibly
can and rejoice that your, or someone else’s grandchildren will inherit and dwell joyfully
in such a thermally comfortably home >>LEARN MORE>>

John Lynn
Suburban Off Grid Living