Why insulation is key to sustainable building

Bradford Insulation
Wednesday, 12 June, 2024


Why insulation is key to sustainable building

With rising home prices and soaring gas and electricity costs that exceed inflation, energy-efficient homes have become a pivotal solution for reducing expenses.1,2,3 For industry professionals like builders, architects and designers, it is crucial to guide clients through the process of making informed decisions about insulation and energy efficiency, especially when building or renovating homes. Bradford Insulation has produced the following detailed guide on how to advise clients to make optimal choices for year-round comfort and sustainability.

Insulation is key to slowing heat flow and maintaining a stable indoor temperature regardless of the outdoor climate. Commonly installed in walls, ceilings and floors, effective insulation is essential, especially in older Australian homes that often lack it, leading to extreme indoor temperatures in summer or winter. Educating clients about the importance of insulation in new builds is crucial, as retrofitting wall insulation later can be challenging due to structural limitations. For renovations, enhancing roof and ceiling insulation is a viable alternative that significantly boosts thermal efficiency.

Compliance with the national standards

The introduction of the 7-star rating by the National Construction Code (NCC) is all about ensuring better energy efficiency while making significant strides in Australia’s race to combat greenhouse gas emissions. This standard varies by state and territory, affecting local building practices:

Australian Capital Territory

  • Adopted liveable housing and 7-star provisions from October 2023. Clients in this region, primarily falling within Climate Zone 7 (Cool temperate), should be advised to invest in superior insulation for walls, ceilings and floors to effectively manage the colder conditions.
     

New South Wales

  • Aligned BASIX thermal targets with 7-star ratings. Builders should recommend high-performance insulation materials to address thermal bridging and seasonal temperature variations. This is particularly important as NSW spans Climate Zones 5 to 7 (Warm to Cool temperate), necessitating versatile insulation solutions.
     

Northern Territory

  • Continues with 5-star requirements but is transitioning to higher standards. Emphasise phased improvements in insulation to clients, especially considering the predominant Climate Zones 1 and 2 (High humidity and warm humid conditions), which demand materials that can handle both high heat and humidity.
     

Queensland

  • Implemented 7-star standards from May 2024. Focus discussions on optimal house orientation and insulation to enhance building shell energy efficiency. In Queensland, spanning from Climate Zones 1 to 3 (High humidity to Hot dry conditions), insulation needs to effectively manage both heat and humidity. Note that Queensland’s Development Code grants a one-star credit for homes or apartments with qualifying outdoor living areas.
     

South Australia

  • Transitioning to 7-star by October 2024, with some exemptions possible. Stress the importance of choosing suitable insulation for mild winters and warm summers, in Climate Zone 5 (Warm temperate), ensuring that homes are equipped to handle these conditions efficiently.
     

Tasmania

  • Will adopt liveable housing standards by October 2024, but not 7-star. Recommend insulation that effectively combats the cold conditions prevalent in Climate Zone 7 (Cool temperate), which is crucial for maintaining comfort throughout the state’s harsh winters.
     

Victoria

  • Transitioning from May 2024. Advise on versatile insulation solutions that cater to a range of thermal demands due to varied climate zones. Victoria covers Climate Zones 6 to 8 (Mild temperate to Alpine), requiring a flexible approach to insulation to address the diverse thermal needs. The state’s transition to 7-star aims to enhance the energy efficiency of the building envelope and include considerations for the ‘whole of house’ energy consumption of household appliances for the first time, which should also help to reduce energy consumption to lower emissions.
     

Western Australia

  • Set to adopt 7-star by May 2025. Recommend adaptive insulation strategies to accommodate diverse climatic conditions. Western Australia, ranging from Climate Zones 3 to 6 (Hot dry to Mild temperate), necessitates a highly adaptive insulation strategy to meet the varying needs of different regions.

Guidance for compliance

It’s important that clients understand they must comply with local regulations and energy efficiency standards. Discussing the long-term benefits, such as reduced energy bills and increased home comfort, can help justify the initial higher costs of quality insulation. Clients should be guided in selecting the right type of insulation based on the local climate to maximise efficiency and comfort.

Building professionals should encourage their clients to collaborate directly with local building authorities or energy certification bodies during the planning phase to ensure that all compliance requirements are met from the outset, reducing the risk of costly adjustments later in the project. Additionally, it is important to inform clients about any government rebates, tax incentives or financing programs available for energy-efficient home projects. Since these incentives can vary significantly between different states and territories, homeowners should be advised to check the specifics applicable in their location. Understanding the local financial support options can make the investment in quality insulation and other energy-saving technologies more appealing, helping to offset initial costs and highlighting the long-term benefits of their investment.

  1. Australian Capital Territory: The Home Energy Support program offers up to 50% off (capped at $2500) for rooftop solar installations, alongside interest-free loans for remaining costs. It includes incentives for energy-efficient heating, cooling systems and insulation, as well as a feed-in tariff for excess solar energy. https://www.climatechoices.act.gov.au/policy-programs/home-energy-support-rebates-for-homeowners
     
  2. New South Wales: The NSW Climate and Energy Action offers various energy rebates, including discounts for low-income households, gas rebates and support for energy-efficient upgrades like solar panels and heating systems. https://www.energy.nsw.gov.au/households/rebates-grants-and-schemes
     
  3. Queensland: Queensland offers several rebates, including the Life Support Rebate, Electricity and Gas Rebate, and the Home Energy Emergency Assistance Scheme. These programs support households in reducing their energy costs and improving energy efficiency. https://www.queenslandsavers.qld.gov.au/all-savings/energy-utilities
     
  4. South Australia: South Australia provides energy bill relief of up to $500 annually for households and up to $650 for small businesses. https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/care-and-support/concessions/household-concessions/energy-bill-relief
     
  5. Tasmania: The Energy Saver Loan Scheme provides zero-interest loans for energy-efficient home upgrades, including solar panels and batteries. The program also includes rebates for electric vehicles and energy-efficient appliances, and a feed-in tariff for excess solar energy. https://recfit.tas.gov.au/household_energy/energy_saver_loan_scheme
     
  6. Victoria: The Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) program provides discounts on energy-saving products such as lighting, heating and cooling systems. Victorian residents can also access rebates for solar panels and hot water systems. https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/households/victorian-energy-upgrades-for-households
     
  7. Western Australia: The ‘Energy Ahead’ program provides rebates and incentives for energy-efficient home upgrades such as solar panels, insulation, and efficient heating and cooling systems. It also offers advice and support to help households manage their energy consumption. https://www.wa.gov.au/government/announcements/energy-ahead-formerly-the-household-energy-efficiency-scheme

Advocating for sustainable practices

The promotion and implementation of advanced insulation products and energy-efficient building practices can significantly enhance the environmental performance of homes that are being built or renovated. These efforts not only lead to reduced energy consumption and lower energy bills for homeowners, but also contribute to broader environmental goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimising ecological footprints.4

It’s important to educate clients on the long-term environmental and economic benefits of sustainable building choices. Additionally, staying abreast of the latest green technologies and sustainable materials and incorporating them into projects can set a standard within the industry for responsible construction practices. Engaging with community initiatives and partnerships focused on sustainability can further amplify the impact of advocacy, creating a ripple effect that encourages widespread adoption of eco-friendly solutions across the building sector.

1. https://energyaction.com.au/2024-electricity-price-forecast/
2. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/selected-living-cost-indexes-australia/latest-release
3. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/mar-quarter-2024
4. https://constructive-voices.com/green-building-in-australia/

Image credit: iStock.com/jacoblund

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