Thinking

Green Buildings - Section J is only the start of the journey!

Matthew Parnell - Sunday, September 07, 2008

The energy efficiency provisions of the BCA have been with us since November 2006. For those of us who have been hoping for such legislation for years, it represents a major step forward. However, it has been a difficult step for many in the property industry: many designers, developers and builders have been caught by surprise, being were unaware of Section J and its requirements. This is rather peculiar, as these provisions have been in development since the mid-1990s, with substantial input from industry bodies.

In spite of all this struggle in the industry, it is important to make a simple point: the journey is only just starting! The provisions of Section J are not onerous – they were developed to bring about modest energy efficiency improvements in the context of a 2-3 year payback period, with only modest targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

For those developers seeking government tenants or seeking to differentiate their property in the marketplace, compliance with Section J is simply inadequate. Recent research through the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change shows that compliance with Section J achieves a range of 2.5 to 3.5 stars on the NABERS Energy (formerly ABGR) rating system, for a model office building as modelled in the climate zones of all Australian capital cities.

Since 4.5 stars is often required by government departments as a minimum requirement, a developer just aiming to comply with Section J will not qualify as eligible for a Government tenancy. Further, if a developer is positioning their building project as a high performance green building, then an energy performance of 2.5-3.5 stars is inadequate. If seeking a Green Star rating, a minimum performance of 4.5 stars is required.

Achieving 4.5 stars or better requires much greater attention to the design of the building fabric, especially for glazing and shading, as well as large efficiency improvements in the selection of lighting and aircon systems and their controls.

Thus to futureproof your next development, you must consider the Section J requirements as your starting point, not your goal!

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About Dr. Matthew Parnell - With a built environment background, Dr. Parnell's specialty is buildings and their environmental impacts. Greensynergy Consulting is also active in bringing about change by developing the capacity of people, communities and organizations to adopt sustainable practices and develop strong sustainability cultures.
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