Ministers agree to increased energy efficiency and accessibility standards

On Friday, 26 August 2022 the national Building Ministers Meeting agreed to increase energy and accessibility standards for new homes in the National Construction Code (NCC).

The energy efficiency upgrades mark the first increase to energy efficiency standards in over a decade and will reduce cost of living pressure and cut emissions. The upgrade to accessibility standards is also overdue, with the changes, including a step-free entry and shower, ensuring homes will continue to meet the needs of residents throughout their lives.

Officially, the new NCC will be published and useable from October 1 2022; formally adopted May 1 2023; and with a transition period ending on 1 October 2023.

The updated energy efficiency requirements include:

  • Increasing minimum NatHERS energy efficiency ratings from 6 to 7 Stars.
  • Homes to meet an ‘energy budget’ – in practice requiring energy efficient appliances, solar PV, or additional thermal efficiency.
  • New rules for electric vehicle charging availability in apartment buildings.

The updated accessibility requirements include:

  • Silver accessibility standards that one step-free entrance, a ground floor toilet and wider doorways and hallways.

The full communiqué from the August Building Minister’s Meeting can be found here.

Implementation Timeframe in WA: Not Confirmed

While the new NCC has been endorsed nationally and many states and territories are pressing ahead adopting the changes, each jurisdiction has the power to determine their own implementation pathway.

Regarding the accessibility standards, WA has not committed to an implementation timeline for adoption and has previously stated that it is not in a position to do so at this time. Last week, Shelter WA released an Open Letter, signed by housing and disability organisations, to Minister Cook urging him to adopt the accessibility standard updates and commit to timely implementation in WA.

Shelter WA was also a signatory to an Open Letter led by the Australian Institute of Architects WA calling for the adoption and implementation of the energy efficiency upgrades, including a move from 6 to 7 star NatHERS ratings. The WA government has yet to outline their formal position on the implementation of the energy efficiency upgrades and whether we will proceed with the 12 month transition period built into the NCC 2022 update.

We firmly believe that Western Australians should have the same right to energy efficient and accessible homes as people living in other states and territories. Increasing the efficiency of our homes will reduce the cost of living for households and universal accessibility standards reduce the need for costly renovations later. Delaying these changes will also lead to inconsistent standards across the country, adding unnecessary complexity for businesses operating nationally.

Shelter WA is continuing to work with government, industry, housing, disability environmental and community groups to ensure WA commits to timely implementation of the updated energy efficiency and accessibility standards.