A Sustainable Building Policy for Australia

BASIX five year outcomes summary

About 4 million new Australian households are projected by 2036, a 50% increase from 2011. (ABS, 2015).  The design standards for these buildings are fundamental to future urban energy and water needs but performance based water and energy saving targets are missing or not consistent across Australia.

Independent economic research by Dr Peter Coombes in SEQ and Melbourne showed a sustainable buildings approach, including water efficient appliances, better use of stormwater and rainwater harvesting have a major impact on capital and operational costs for water utilities. Supplying less less water results in greater operational savings than the water revenue lost. Additional savings are achieved through stormwater management associated with rainwater harvesting. In Victoria the savings are $6 billion by 2056.

The RHAA would like to see all of Australia adopt an approach similar to BASIX in NSW. Using a State Environmental Planning Policy tool to set energy and water targets integrates energy management, water management and urban planning. BASIX is achieving its targets, is cost effective and by 2050 the net savings (after administration and compliance) are estimated between $294 million and $1.1 billion. Most of those savings are enjoyed by the homeowners in reduced utility bills. (BASIX, 2011)

A sustainable buildings policy will help make households more affordable and save the community billions in infrastructure and operational costs. Incorporating the non-prescriptive option of using rainwater harvesting creates local jobs, benefits our creeks and rivers, reduces flooding and provides more water in drought. Sustainable buildings deliver benefits at a local, precinct and regional scale

The RHAA has approached Stormwater Australia and the Planning Institute of Australia, Victorian Branch, to support the policy.

The key elements of a policy approach are set out as follows

Sustainable Buildings Policy Statement

  • 40% reduction in mains water use as compared to 2013 levels in all new and significantly renovated dwellings.
  • 25% reduction in demand for grid electricity as compared to 2013 levels for all new and significantly renovated dwellings.
  • Implemented as a state environmental planning policy that stipulates water and energy targets for dwellings
    • Supported by a simple web enabled planning approval tool and model design guidelines
  • Objective is to implement evidence based planning policy to avoid substantial economic costs and environmental impacts
  • Continuous improvement using independent monitoring and assessment
    • Annual reviews and progress reports

Michael Smit, Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia, based on the original principles and research carried out by Dr PJ Coombes, Urban Water Cycle Solutions.

References

ABS 3236.0 – Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2011 to 2036, March 2015

BASIX website and publications https://www.basix.nsw.gov.au

BASIX 5 Years Outcome Summary Basix Building Sustainability Index, 2011

Coombes, Smit and MacDonald 2015, A Case Study: Resolving Boundary Conditions in Economic Analysis of Distributed Solutions for Water Cycle Management