NSW caves in on energy efficient housing

The NSW government has backed down on its energy efficient housing guidelines.

The targets require new homes to achieve a more stringent 40 per cent reduction on the average energy usage of a home in NSW. The targets were also due to be extended to alterations and additions from this date.

But now only free-standing houses and townhouses will need to meet the tougher standards, and then only in coastal areas. Houses in cooler climates will have a less stringent target of 25 per cent or 35 per cent, depending on which zone they are in.

The biggest change to the scheme is the Government’s decision to exempt blocks of units higher than six stories from the second stage of the scheme. They will have their energy-saving target frozen at 20 per cent.

As was reported a few weeks ago, blocks of high rise units are much more energy inefficient than free standing houses, nearly twice as much per person. Apparently much of the high energy usage is common costs – heated swimming pools, ventilation, and inefficient lighting. While I’ve never lived in a modern block of units, from visiting friends who do its always seemed that the common facilities usually seem poorly utilised. How do you rid yourself of them and where is the incentive to save when the costs are shared?

Industry says that the cost of implementing the new rules were prohibitive for units and would drive the costs up too much. While they are probably exaggerating the size it’s also no doubt true that it would push the price up some amount. Surely though an energy efficient block of units is more desirable to live in because of the cost savings over the long run? How do you tell an energy efficient house from a non-energy efficient house?

As I mentioned a few days ago, we are faced with hidden costs in a number of purchases, such as white goods but at least for them some effort has been made to rate their energy efficiency. I notice on the website you can get typical dollar costs for white goods. Hopefully it will appear on the in store labels.

As I suggested for white goods, we not only need a rating but some sort of dollar value comparison for houses . We really do need to know that with some typical usage parameters that this unit or house will cost about $500 more a year to run than some other house.

The good news and surprising news to me (its amazing what you can find with Google), is that there is already an Australian household rating system called NatHERS, which some the states are adopting. I was also going to suggest that it is done on all house sales and is mandatory to be published, but then I discover that the ACT has introduced a scheme where all houses being sold must be rated. So pretty much the only thing left for me to advocate is that we should be able to turn the energy efficiency rating into a typical dollar value easily, and that all states introduce it.

If this were done it would make the market for this much more transparent, and mean that you would be recouping at least a portion of the additional money that you spent on putting in energy efficient fittings in the first place. I can’t help but think that such measures, along with a carbon tax, would pretty soon start making people able to think carefully about their energy usage and give industry an incentive to build more cleverly rather than needing to be forced by the sorts of rules discussed above.


6 Responses to NSW caves in on energy efficient housing

  1. Sacha says:

    “If this were done it would make the market for this much more transparent…”

    I reckon the goal should be to make markets as transparent as possible, (eg here in relation to energy use/energy efficiencies) – unclear costs, monetary and environmental, are bad!

  2. Sacha says:

    Sorry for hogging the comments, Steve, but I’ve always thought that having pools/concierge/expensive common facilities in blocks of units a strange thing – it costs a fair amount, and they’re often unnecessary. I’ve thought that perhaps the motivation to have such a surfeit of common facilities is that
    (a) it gives the impression of luxury
    (b) the costs, while potentially substantial (eg the pay for a concierge) is shared by all the unit owners/residents, and so appears quite small per person.

  3. Steve says:

    Sacha, don’t worry its good to have someone commenting! Gives the place a worthwhile feel.

    I think a lot of these services are things that people like to have, but typically under utilise. So people move into the block of units excited about the tennis courts,pool and gym, but use them once or twice particularly pools. If you want to do laps most people will prefer a full 50m, if you want to just have a dip then the beach or an outdoor pool is nicer. Atually my impression is that the gyms are sometimes well used if they have a sufficient range of equipment.

  4. Sacha says:

    Perhaps one way to deal with it is to unsocialise the costs of these services – pay $2 each time you use the internal gym/pool/BBQ!

    A friend of mine lives in a converted woolstore/meriton development in ultimo and I’ve noticed that there are always lots of lights on in the corridors – which is understandable of course for safety. But the total amount of energy and total cost with all those lights being on all the time, in all the corridors, must add up…

  5. Nyvaeh says:

    Wow! Great to find a post with such a clear meaesgs!

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