Thinking

Your residential building project: How green do you want to go?

Matthew Parnell - Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I have update the Greensynergy web pages to provide more information on our AccuRate Thermal Modelling and Basix services for the thermal performance and sustainability assessment of single and multi-residential buildings throughout Australia.

Very shortly, I will post a "white" paper with more information on the process and our service response. However, I have included the material in this blog post:

How "Green" do you want to go?

Most property developers and homebuilders aim for compliance with building sustainability regulations.

If you want your residential development to be as green as possible, compliance is not enough!

To create a residential development that is as green as possible, then you will need to orient your design process on to achieve a high green rating from the earliest possible stage - even including site procurement processes.

Greensynergy Consulting specialises in helping architects, designers, developers and owner-builders to achieve the highest green ratings within the project budget and with the overall design aims of the project.

With over 30 years experience in building science, thermal design, and building sustainability, we apply our understanding of building science, thermal design and green building principles to get optimum solutions. We also apply value-management processes to ensure that the recommended solutions are cost-effective.

We do not do "quick and loose" compliance assessments that appear to satisfy many property developers, preferring to provide professional-standard services to designers and developers of high performance green buildings! Getting a cheap assessment could result in a poorly performing building built to a high cost.

If you are a multi-residential developer and want to achieve a broader green outcome to ensure market leadership, you can also consider getting your development rated under the Green Star system from the Green Building Council of Australia. Go to the Green Star Ratings page.

Our services are fully accredited with the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) for compliance with the Building Code of Australia and the BASIX system in NSW.

Know the green benchmarks in order to exceed them!

The process we apply depends on the State where the development is located. The National Construction Code (incorporating the Building Code of Australia) applies uniform energy efficiency regulations using a star-rating system, applied at the Construction Certificate stage. Currently, the National standard is 6 stars on a scale of 1 to 10 stars. Tasmania and the Northern Territory have not yet adopted the 6 star standard. NSW has a different system: Basix - The Building Sustainability Index, which requires developments to have a projected energy use below designated heating and cooling caps.

Compliance with Building Regulations

Nationally, compliance under the BCA is achieved through two pathways:

  • Deemed-to-Comply
  • Thermal Modelling to determine the star rating

The former is a checklist approach with some calculations for glazing compliance. Thermal modelling uses any one of three nationally accredited software suites: AccuRate; BERS Pro; and First Rate Pro. At Greensynergy Consulting, we use the AccuRate because we believe it provides greater capacity for modelling complex house designs and multi-residential properties.

In NSW, Basix is applied at the Development Approval stage and does not use the star rating system (although it is possible to determine equivalent results). Basix also includes benchmarks for appliance and lighting energy use and water use. Other States also have some consideration of these issues.

If you are considering design a residential development to a high green standard, we recommend that you use the thermal simulation pathway, because it assists the design process in a more detailed way. It also allows the designer to tweak the design of any aspect of the building fabric and to see the relative impact on the rating. We apply a green value management process to find the best performance outcome at optimum cost and buildability, particularly if a high level of sustainability is desired.

Note that Multi-Residential Developments and Mixed-Use Developments must also undergo a BCA Section J Assessment at Construction Certificate Stage. We can incorporate this assessment into the pone service. See NCC Section J

We can also help you with the BCA Deemed-To-Satisfy and Basix Do-It-Yourself processes where appropriate. We will not carry out an assessment under the Basix DIY Tool for projects that are of a scale and level of complexity that is best assessed through the Thermal Simulation approach.

Our Services in Detail

Our broad services for green residential buildings are outlined below:

  • AccuRate Thermal Simulation Service: All States except NSW
  • Full BASIX Assessment Service with AccuRate Thermal Simulation: NSW only
  • Basix Alterations and Additions

AccuRate Thermal Simulation Service: All States except NSW

With this service, we do the following:

  • Prepare a thermal performance model of your current design, based on data you provide, using AccuRate thermal simulation software. This includes an ability to run limited different thermal design scenarios.
  • Prepare a progress report for thermal modelling, with recommendations for changes to design and specification if the design fails to achieve Thermal Comfort Star Rating benchmarks.
  • Value management if necessary or as required
  • Quality Check of final drawings to ensure required details and specifications are shown.
  • Prepare ABSA Assessor Certificate
  • Electronic Stamping of Drawings and Certificates.
  • Preparation of cover report for inclusion with certificates in Construction Certificate documents

The full Thermal Simulation service is subject to a formal fee proposal upon sighting copies of your drawings. Fees are dependent on size and complexity of the proposed development. Multi-Residential projects require a more complex value management process: the NCC has some concessions for multi-residential developments.

Full BASIX Assessment Service with Thermal Simulation: NSW only

With this service, we do the following:

  • Prepare a thermal performance model of your current design, based on data you provide, using AccuRate thermal simulation software. This includes an ability to run limited different thermal design scenarios.
  • Load data into the BASIX on-line model based on drawings and data you provide
  • Prepare a progress report for thermal and BASIX modelling, with recommendations for changes to design and specification if the design fails to achieve BASIX benchmarks.
  • For Multi-Residential, thermal balancing of each unit to meet BASIX whole-of-development performance caps.
  • Value management if necessary or as required
  • Quality Check of final drawings to ensure required details and specifications are shown.
  • Prepare ABSA Assessor Certificate
  • Prepare BASIX Certificate.
  • Electronic stamping of Drawings and Certificates.
  • Prepare a cover report for inclusion with certificates in DA documents

The full BASIX Service is subject to a formal fee proposal upon sighting copies of your drawings. Fees are dependent on size and complexity of the proposed development. Multi-Residential projects require a more complex value management process: units much pass individual benchmarks, as well as a lower average benchmark across the whole development. This may take many software runs to find a compliant specification.

The Value Management process may be required to achieve compliance of a poor design or to find best performance outcome at optimum cost and buildability, particularly if a high level of sustainability is desired.

Condensation Risk

In line with new requirements under the NCC for designing to eliminate condensation in the building fabric, our thermal modelling service also includes an assessment of condensation risk for the chosen construction methods. Where there is risk of condensation, we will recommend appropriate changes

Codes of Practice

Our practice is governed by the Code of Practice of the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA). The thermal performance simulation certificate for both the BCA star rating and the BASIX Thermal Comfort requirement is issued under the administration of ABSA.

 

ABSA has a Continuing Professional Development programs to ensure that consultants are up to date with green building practices.

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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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