Efficiency targets heating up

Australian homes are getting larger and more energy efficient, and select building products can help to make that happen.

Image supplied: Bondor

Over the next decade we are likely to see a more central focus on more energy-efficient buildings. This is in response to concerns raised regarding reduced emissions and energy consumption, to lowering energy costs, as well as consumer and industry interest in sustainable housing. 

With a trajectory for low energy buildings agreed upon by COAG earlier in the year, increased energy efficiency provisions are set to accelerate over the next decade and beyond. 

The CSIRO has announced it is centralising a vast amount of energy efficiency data through the Australian Housing Data Portal, and says this will help to underpin key decision making, training and awareness. It is anticipated this resource will pinpoint where energy efficiency efforts are on track, and where they may need increased focus.

Exceeding minimum requirements

Since the introduction of the energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code (NCC) in 2003 we’ve seen a jump in the energy efficiency of Australia’s new housing stock. 

According to a recent report by CSIRO, with data chiefly sourced from the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), prior to the introduction of the NCC energy efficiency provisions, the average home was built with an energy efficiency rating of 1.8 stars. Today, the average home is a more thermally comfortable 6.2 stars – translating to annual savings of around $560 in household energy costs. Tasmania and the ACT have the highest ratings in the country, with the nation’s capital averaging 6.9 stars, and 41 per cent achieving more than seven stars. Currently the minimum NCC requires is a six-star home or equivalent.

The CSIRO says data shows this increase in energy savings has occurred even with the overall size of Australian homes increasing, with an average floor area of 132 square metres (including houses and apartments). 

Dr Stephen White, grids and energy efficiency research director at CSIRO, says this shows a steady progress in residential sustainability efforts. ‘In order to meet national challenges of sustainable energy and resilient cities, it’s vital that we track progress,’ he says. ‘Tracking these changes is an important step to ensure emissions goals are met, while seeing where more attention is needed across the industry.’ 

A number of building products currently on the market are helping to improve a home’s energy efficiency.

Exterior cladding
LuxeWall’s high-performance, integrated insulation, delivers good thermal performance in winter or summer, keeping occupants comfortable year-round
Image supplied: Bondor
Living room
With lightweight systems that incorporate construction materials such as Knauf OPAL plasterboard, thermal comfort can be achieved without the high energy bill
Image supplied: Knauf

Innovative insulation

Sustainable and superior performing building surfaces are an important element when it comes to reducing the energy required to heat or cool a home. 

Australian manufacturer of innovative, insulated building systems, Bondor, says it is raising the bar for upmarket sustainable surfaces to the modern home with LuxeWall®, a high-performance, lightweight walling product. With architectural exterior finishes, the product is designed to help create a thermal barrier around the home and isn’t reliant on bulk insulation found inside traditional framing.

Developed specifically for the Australian climate, LuxeWall’s high-performance, integrated insulation, delivers good thermal performance in winter or summer, keeping occupants comfortable year-round. The company says LuxeWall also offers lower maintenance and higher resistance to cracking caused by building or ground movement that can be experienced with traditional masonry and coated products, which can lead to further air leakage and the poor thermal performance of a home. LuxeWall is designed and engineered for increased speed of construction with a unique concealed fixed system. The wall modules are fixed to traditional timber or metal-stud wall framing, offering an alternative to other labour intensive systems.

Architects, developers and building designers alike will appreciate this advanced lightweight cladding technology for its beautiful aesthetics and climate control benefits – for sustainable and budget-conscious projects. 

In addition, LuxeWall offers smarter boundary wall options for detached residences on small blocks requiring FRL 60/60/60. Bondor says that as a result, access to an AS1530.4 tested and certified boundary-wall system that reduces costs and installation time, as well as provide a low-maintenance pre-finished boundary wall, is now possible. 

The company says LuxeWall has been tested and certified to Australian Standards, conforms to the NCC and has CodeMark certification. The product is available nationally, manufactured in Australia across six states.  

High ceilings

OPAL plasterboard features a UV-resistant surface to withstand the effects of the harsh Australian sun

Powerful plasterboard

Approximately 40 per cent of household energy is used for heating and cooling to achieve thermal comfort, but by choosing the best design for a particular climate it is possible to significantly reduce this rate.

In warmer climates, Knauf says its lightweight construction systems, incorporating OPAL plasterboard, are a natural choice due to its low thermal mass. Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. It takes a large amount of energy to change the temperature of high-density materials with a high thermal mass, such as concrete, bricks and tiles. But with lightweight systems that incorporate construction materials such as Knauf OPAL plasterboard, thermal comfort can be achieved without the high energy bill.

OPAL plasterboard for walls and ceilings features a UV-resistant surface to withstand the effects of the harsh Australian sun. Knauf says its product has a high-density gypsum-core, delivering good sound insulation and impact performance, making it the ideal choice for living areas, bedrooms, media rooms and children’s play rooms. 
The surface liner paper is pre-coated using Level+® Technology, offering a more even match of texture between board surfaces and joints and ensuring a smooth, white premium finish.

Durable and low-maintenance, Knauf says its 10mm OPAL plasterboard has been independently certified under the eco-label scheme Global GreenTag for a GreenRate Level A credit, and is recognised by the Green Building Council Australia (GBCA) for materials and VOC credits. 

The manufacturing of OPAL and other light construction materials also has a much lower impact on the environment, contributing to its inherent sustainability.
With the building industry products such as these that improve thermal comfort and reduce a homeowner’s heating and cooling needs will make achieving new targets easier. 

This article was compiled with contributions from Bondor and Knauf.

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