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The waiting game

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Here are the latest NCC news on accessible housing energy efficiency and condensation management. 

Kerryn Ramsey

Senior Content Coordinator

While we wait for decisions from governments on the final NCC 2022 changes, here are the latest updates on accessible housing, energy efficiency and condensation management. Check out Housing’s essential guides and quality products on the market today.

For the residential building industry, there’s significant concern and uncertainty on the final suite of NCC 2022 changes, and on timing of the scheduled adoption. There’s little doubt it will be the most significant amendment since the code’s inception. 

In March this year, the national Building Ministers' Meeting (BMM) was held to discuss the proposed stringency increases for the NCC 2022 residential energy-efficiency requirements and the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) released last October. HIA made a comprehensive submission to this RIS.

The BMM oversees policy and regulatory issues affecting Australia’s building and construction industries.

Ahead of the BMM, an industry roundtable was held with industry representatives. HIA was invited, prior to the meeting, to address ministers in relation to the proposed NCC 2022 energy-efficiency changes to provide the housing industry’s perspective. 

Unfortunately, the minsters’ communique released after the meeting provided no greater clarity on what the final suite of NCC 2022 changes will include. There were also no decisions on the timeframe with which the industry needs to prepare their businesses for the substantive changes being proposed. 

The BMM communique did though appear to indicate ministers’ support for progressing with NCC 2022 energy-efficiency changes of a minimum 7-star building fabric stringency for all houses and apartments. It would also introduce a ‘whole of house’ assessment.
 
Simon Croft: HIA Executive Director - Building Policy & Services

HIA advocates for alternate approach and long transition period

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has been working on proposals to potentially increase the energy-efficiency provisions for NCC 2022 since 2019. This is off the back of the recommendations in the Trajectory for Low Energy Homes report that was signed off on by the former COAG Energy Council and, subsequently, the building ministers who directed the ABCB to undertake this work. 

The ABCB’s work on the proposed changes is nearing completion for consideration by the ministers on the final suite of NCC 2022 changes. 

HIA has been heavily involved in this work from the outset both with the COAG Energy Council, building ministers and the ABCB. We have raised concerns throughout on the potential impacts of the changes and, particularly, the further stringency changes directed at the building fabric. Another issue HIA has tackled has been the lack of a truly holistic approach to energy-efficiency requirements. 

Over the past three years, HIA has worked tirelessly on reviewing and commenting on the technical provisions for all the proposed accessibility, energy-efficiency and condensation provisions. This was to ensure that the NCC technical provisions don’t go further than intended, limiting their scope of coverage, and advocating for further concessions and exemptions.

In many instances, HIA has been the lone voice in this work. It has been successful in minimising the impacts of the proposed changes that will occur on the housing industry.
Industry perspective 

At the recent BMM, HIA’s executive director of building policy and services Simon Croft addressed ministers in relation to the proposed energy-efficiency changes and provided the housing industry’s perspective.

He highlighted key points: 
  • Consideration of energy-efficiency provisions should not be done in isolation as NCC 2022 as a whole will be the most significant amendment since the codes inception
  • There is significant concern and uncertainty on the final suite of NCC 2022 changes and on timing of the scheduled adoption
  • The industry is unable to fully prepare or assess the energy-efficiency proposals. The energy rating tools, which are critical to its application, are not operational, with only the least used tool available in September this year. The main rating tools will not be available until mid-next year
  • An alternate 6-star plus option should be considered for NCC 2022 which allows flexible approaches to achieve a whole of home outcome
  • An adequate transition period of three years or at a minimum 18 months is required, given the significance of the NCC 2022 changes. 

Accessible housing and condensation provisions 

The other major reforms for NCC 2022 include the new accessible housing requirements and further expansion of the condensation management provisions.

For the accessible housing provisions, the technical NCC provisions – including the new ABCB accessible (livable) housing standard – has now been settled and was recently released by the ABCB. But there’s continued uncertainty on:
  • which states and territories will and won’t be adopting the provisions
  • whether there will be further building exemptions and concessions enacted other than those already written into the NCC; and
  • what transition period will be given for adoption of the provisions?
For the condensation provisions, the development of, and suitability of, the proposed changes has been a hotly debated topic with many alternate views expressed. The final make-up of the agreed changes are intended to be released alongside the energy-efficiency provisions. 
The Building Ministers Communique did not provide further clarity on these issues and the answers will not be known until post the next Ministers meeting in July.  


Transition for NCC 2022 

Responding to HIA’s concerns around the significant volume of change associated with NCC 2022, the building ministers have asked the ABCB and senior officials to draft a coordinated transition and implementation plan for NCC 2022 as a whole. Ministers expect that advice to be provided by the end of June 2022. 

While the ministers are taking on the industry’s concerns about the full impact of the changes and need for an appropriate transition period, the final code will not be released as a whole until August at the earliest. Deferring a decision on transition arrangements until mid-year is alarming. 
This means there will be continued uncertainty for the industry in preparing their businesses for the NCC 2022 changes and on when the changes may take effect. 

The BMM will meet in July when they will make the final decision on NCC 2022 energy-efficiency proposals. 

HIA has expressed our disappointment on the continued uncertainty and further deferring of the decision on the final make-up of NCC 2022.
 

Handy technical design guides

WoodSolutions Technical Design Guides comprise more than 50 publications containing thousands of pages of information on a vast array of timber products, topics and applications. Keeping them updated and comprehensive is an ongoing task for the experts at WoodSolutions.

‘The guides assist building professionals from designers to builders, and where appropriate, to comply with the requirements of the NCC,’ says engineer Boris Iskra. He’s the National Codes and Standards manager at Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), the industry company that publishes the guides under WoodSolutions.

Written by experts in each area, the guides are a growing library of information that reflects the needs of the design and construction industries. 

The popularity of timber building systems in mid-rise projects originated from a proposal, led by FWPA, to amend the NCC to allow the use of timber in buildings up to a height of 25 metres. 

To help the industry maximise the benefits of this change to the code, new guides were researched and published. These included: 
  • 37R Mid-rise Timber Buildings Multi-residential Class 2 and 3
  • 37C Mid-rise Timber Buildings Commercial and Education Class 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9b
  • 37H Mid-rise Timber Buildings Healthcare Class 9a and 9c
  • 38 Fire Safety Design of Mid-rise Timber Buildings
  • 49 Long-span Timber Floor Solutions
  • 50 Mid-rise Timber Building Structural Engineering
  • 51 Cost Engineering of Mid-rise Timber Buildings.
For low-rise buildings, three- to four-storeys, similar information is available in the first two guides that detail the design and construction of 01 Timber-framed construction townhouse buildings (Class 1a) and 02 Timber-framed construction of multi-residential buildings (Class 2 & 3), in accordance with the provisions of the NCC.

Changes in materials and practice often necessitate updating the WoodSolutions Technical Design Guides. Guide 9 Timber Flooring – Design guide for installation was updated to incorporate new installation practices and the availability of new adhesives and fastening systems.

In some cases, the guides are the result of research commissioned by FWPA. Guide 04 Building with Timber in Bushfire-prone Areas includes the first ‘flame zone’ fire tested timber-framed, sheet metal roof system, which is now incorporated in the bushfire standard (AS 3959). This is not the only fire testing in which FWPA has been involved.

The guides are complemented by a series of fire test reports that provide the information required for the use of timber in specific areas. 
 
When the minimum requirements are confirmed, Knauf Insulation will provide simple guidance to help with compliance
'There’s a range of insulation solutions available to support builders in the move from 6 to 7 stars for their future projects.’

Insulation performance will be key to meeting NCC 2022

Australian homes account for 7.4 per cent of Australia’s energy use. This a crucial part of achieving the country’s commitments within the Paris Agreement. The objective is to reduce GHG emissions by 26-28 per cent versus the 2005 levels by 2030.

‘Knauf Insulation is supportive of the NCC 2022 energy-efficiency changes,’ says Steve Smith, Knauf Insulation APAC’s product and systems manager. ‘There’s a range of insulation solutions available to support builders in the move from 6 to 7 stars for their future projects.’

Here’s how Knauf Insulation helps to achieve these changes:
  • The insulation solutions to move from 6 stars to 7 stars are already widely available in the market – a significant percentage of homes are already built to 7 stars or above.
  • Knauf Insulation has invested in local APAC manufacturing capability using state-of-the-art technology in readiness to service the Australian market. This will achieve higher levels of insulation and energy efficiency
  • The specific insulation requirements within the deemed-to-satisfy pathway vary dependent on a number of factors – for example, look at roofs. They may be ventilated or not, with solar absorbance and the climate zone. However, the thermal performance to achieve the required R-value will increase.
  • Knauf Insulation is well placed to support these requirements.
  • For compliance using NATHERS, Knauf Insulation will look to provide standardised details for each climate zone and scenario. For example, R2.5-2.7 in external walls and R5-6 in ceilings.
  • When the minimum requirements are confirmed, Knauf Insulation will look to provide simple guidance to help with compliance, along with a range of solutions utilising its state-of-the-art technology.

This article was compiled with contributions from WoodSolutions and Knauf Insulation.

 

 

For more information, go to:

HIA has produced a range of information resources on NCC 2022 that can be accessed at www.hia.com.au. Or download ABCB’s preview of NCC 2022 changes; visit ABCB

HIA NCC 2022 Seminars
HIA is running a series of seminars across the country to break down and explain the NCC 2022 changes in detail during August and September. Keep an eye out for more information on these sessions on the HIA website.

How to register
Please register so you can get the latest news on upcoming NCC 2022 changes from HIA.

For any media or government enquiries please contact: j.shanahan@hia.com.au

For any enquires on the NCC please contact HIA Building Services:
hia_technical@hia.com.au

 

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