A building industry scandal regulators want to ignore

Governments are ignoring a review they commissioned which finds homeowners are being ripped-off as the building industry flouts laws aimed at reducing energy bills and improving the energy efficiency of new homes.

A review of the energy efficiency requirements applying to new homes has found that there is widespread flouting of the rules, which means homeowners are buying houses that fall well short of the 5- and 6-star efficiency levels they have been promised. In addition, while this is well known by government authorities, they have shown little interest in addressing this widespread breaking of the law.

The review was undertaken by engineering consulting firm Pitt & Sherry and Swinburne University and commissioned by the federal, state and territory governments to examine key weaknesses or points of non-compliance with the energy efficiency requirements in the National Construction Code. It consulted with more than 1000 stakeholders across a broad section of building industry sectors in all states and territories.

The report states that “virtually all stakeholders” confirmed that compliance with energy efficiency requirements was poor.

The report is a damning indictment of government building code regulatory authorities, who have clearly turned a blind eye to the need to properly monitor and enforce rules that should help to significantly reduce household energy bills.

It suggests the problems of non-compliance are deep and widespread, stating:

Stakeholders raised a very large number of concerns about the effectiveness of current energy performance requirements in the Code and their implementation. These concerns appear systemic in nature, in that they cover all aspects of the building supply chain and regulatory process and all building types. Further, there was a remarkable degree of consistency in the views expressed and issues raised in all states and territories, despite widely varying building markets and conditions. Few stakeholders offered the view that no (major) reforms were needed. Many stakeholders believe that Code compliance is poor and, further, that Australia’s building energy performance falls a long way short of best practice. This implies higher energy use, higher emissions and higher overall costs for building owners and occupants.

What is amazing is that in spite of the building industry itself largely admitting the energy efficiency requirements are flouted, not a single builder has been prosecuted across any state for failing to comply with the requirements, according to Rodger Hills, a building energy efficiency expert with the Building Verification Forum.

While the report is dated November 2014, Climate Spectator has been informed that this report has been sitting with state and Australian government authorities since February this year. A range of stakeholders and policymakers close to energy efficiency regulatory institutions have explained that the governments have little appetite to address the issues discovered by the review.

Rodger Hills notes that federal and state governments have shown “at best a wavering commitment, and at worst, open hostility to policies that improve the efficiency of our residential buildings”.

No wonder this damning report has been quietly released on the eve of everyone going on Christmas holidays.

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