Buildings research and analysis

A large range of research and analysis has been conducted to inform the development of policy and programs, assess the impacts of current requirements and model future interventions. These reports are intended to be used by industry and government to guide and inform the development of future policies and programs, including initiatives under the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP).

National Construction Code 2019 (NCC)

Section J of the NCC - which deals with energy efficiency provisions for commercial buildings, institutional buildings and apartment building common areas - was extensively revised in February 2019. The revised provisions will be available for use from 1 May 2019, with a 12 month transition period running until 1 May 2020. During the transition, project proponents will be able to choose use either the 2016 or the 2019 version of Section J. 

To support industry consultation and education around the changes, the Department of the Environment and Energy engaged building design professionals in late 2017 to prepare case studies demonstrating how design practices might change to comply with the 2019 version of Section J. A secondary aim of the case studies was to provide feedback on the draft provisions of Section J, as they stood in late 2017 early 2018.

In the 3 case studies, the starting point is a building designed to comply the 2016 version of Section J. The case studies look at which design elements, if any, might change in order to comply with the 2019 NCC. Deemed-to-satisfy, JV3 (simulation) and Greenstar verification pathways are all considered.

The New South Wales case studies examine:

The case studies were presented at stakeholder engagement sessions in March 2018 and were complemented by additional case studies commissioned by the Australian Building Codes Board. The case studies have not been updated to reflect the final provisions of Section J released in February 2019.

Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings: Infrastructure and Customer Impacts

The Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings (the trajectory) considers opportunities for the NCC in the context of a broader trajectory for the building sector. Developed cooperatively between the Australian Government and state and territory governments, it identifies cost-effective opportunities for energy efficiency improvements throughout the building system, from thermal performance to appliance energy usage and renewable energy generation.

Improving the energy efficiency of new buildings from 2022 as proposed in the trajectory, has the potential to reduce electricity and gas demand. This will impact on future electricity generation investment, peak demand and the retail price of energy.

Where regulations encourage increased demand for on-site renewable energy generation, this may also impact on the need for future energy generation infrastructure, while creating load shifting challenges where generation does not align with periods of peak demand.

Energeia was commissioned to examine the impact of the proposed NCC 2022 changes on the electricity network and the results are presented in this 2019 report.

It estimates the reduction in National Electricity Market (NEM) summer and winter peak demand due to:

  • the proposed improvement of energy efficiency
  • the value of deferred network infrastructure investment because of the reduction in NEM summer and winter peak demand
  • the value and timing of deferred generation infrastructure requirements in the NEM due to reduced electricity demand and the possible changes in retail electricity prices and the implications for where the changes in electricity prices would potentially flow, including to those consumers who can least afford it

Proposed changes flowing from the trajectory are expected to create a 15% reduction in Australia’s future electricity consumption relative to the baseline for new and refurbished residential and commercial premises. The report also shows the proposed trajectory changes are expected to reduce peak electricity demand growth to 2050 by 74%.

Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings: Infrastructure and Customer Impacts

Building Code Calculator

The Australian Government commissioned the development of software to estimate the emissions reduction and energy savings arising from future changes to the NCC. This calculator in the form of an Excel spreadsheet is accompanied by a report. 

Building Code Calculator

Establishing an industry learning rate for new non-residential building construction

An issue critical to understanding the costs and benefits of increased energy efficiency stringency in the NCC is that of Learning Rates. This is the rate at which the extra costs that occur delivering new or innovative products decrease over time as firms adapt, adopt new technologies and revise their designs and/or production processes. How quickly this occurs is currently not well understood in the Australian commercial building construction industry.

To understand this issue the Australian Government commissioned a report that explored both how other countries treat the issue and the best methods for establishing a learning rate that could be used in the industry. 

The 3 methods proposed are:

  • working with quantity surveyors to identify how key cost elements relating to energy efficiency have evolved over time
  • capturing data on how the costs and cost premiums associated with ‘beyond Code’ energy performance ratings (NABERS, Green Star, CBD) have evolved through time
  • taking a top-down approach examining historical trends in the value of construction work done to show changes in actual costs per unit of work over time

Commercial Building Learning Rates—Final Report 2016

Commercial Buildings Baseline Study

This project was commissioned by the Australian Government in 2011 to improve the availability of quantitative information on commercial buildings in Australia, their energy use and associated greenhouse emissions

This research project involved the creation of a bottom-up model of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with commercial buildings in Australia. It covers the majority of commercial building types including stand-alone offices (base buildings, tenancies, whole buildings), hotels, shopping centres (base buildings, tenancies, whole buildings), supermarkets (tenancies, whole buildings), hospitals, schools, vocational education and training buildings, universities and public buildings (including galleries, museums, libraries and law courts).

In addition, a de-identified version of the model was created, segregated by building type, to enable interested parties to access the data collected, without compromising confidentiality of the buildings included in the database. The data contained in the model provides estimates of the building stock, energy consumption by fuel and end use (where possible), and greenhouse gas emissions by state/territory and region, from 1999 to 2020, with 2009 as the base year. It draws on a substantial amount of actual data from a variety of sources.

Baseline Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions—In Commercial Buildings in Australia

Mid-tier commercial office buildings research project

The uptake of energy efficiency improvements in the mid-tier sector has been slow due to a range of factors including difficulty accessing capital, a diverse ownership profile which is hard to reach (including foreign investors, families and not-for-profit organisations), lower rental returns from smaller/older buildings and a lack of on-site facilities managers. This research project was commissioned by the Australian Government to gain a greater understanding of how to improve the energy productivity within the mid-tier commercial office building sector.

This project aimed to quantify the energy productivity opportunities and identify the barriers to implementation of energy efficiency initiatives in Australia’s mid-tier commercial office building sector. It included preliminary research, an interactive workshop and a pathway report prepared by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

Changes Associated with Efficient Dwellings project

This report was commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Energy who have managed this project on behalf of all Australian jurisdictions under Measure 31.2 of the National Productivity Plan.  The report contributes to research in the residential buildings sector, by conducting an independent study into, and providing examples from the building industry of, the changes that have been implemented and are associated with constructing more energy-efficient dwellings.

Changes Associated with Efficient Dwellings project—Final Report 2017

Residential Buildings Regulatory Impact Statement Methodology

This report was commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Energy who have managed the project on behalf all Australian jurisdictions under Measure 31.2 of the National Energy Productivity Plan. The report provides a methodology for evaluating the benefits and costs of possible future increases in the stringency of the energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code.

Residential Buildings Regulatory Impact Statement Methodology—Report 2017

Initial Scoping Work for Implementation of NEPP #31—Advancing the National Construction Code

This report was commissioned by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as an input to Measure 31 in the National Energy Productivity Plan, 'Advancing the National Construction Code'. The report identifies two prioritised short-term research programs that could be undertaken to inform a future regulation impact statement (RIS)—that is likely to be undertaken in early 2017—relating to possible changes to the energy performance requirements for residential buildings in the 2019 edition of the NCC.

Initial Scoping Work for Implementation of NEPP #31—Advancing the National Construction Code—June 2016

Pathway to 2020 for Increased Stringency in New Building Energy Efficiency Standards

This study is an update of the findings of the building benefit cost analysis, for residential buildings only, undertaken in pitt&sherry's report Pathway to 2020 for Increased Stringency in New Building Energy Efficiency Standards: Benefit Cost Analysis (2012). The original report was commissioned by the former Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency as a contribution to the National Building Energy Framework measure described in the former National Strategy on Energy Efficiency.

In December 2015 the COAG Energy Council agreed to the National Energy Productivity Plan which includes a measure to advance the building energy performance requirements in the NCC.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science commissioned this update on the benefit cost analysis contained in the 2012 report, for residential buildings, to help inform potential policy settings for future.

Pathway to 2020 for Increased Stringency in New Building Energy Efficiency Standards

House Energy Efficiency Inspections Project

Concerns were raised in various forums that the energy efficiency features of houses that are required to achieve the minimum energy efficiency standards in the NCC (Australian Building Codes Board, 2015), e.g. insulation and weather sealing, are often poorly installed by builders, thus leading to houses that have lower energy efficiency performance than expected. There has also been little data collected on newly built houses to quantify air‐tightness and assess the quality of installation of insulation and heating/cooling ductwork.

This study investigated new house construction around Australia to gain insight into the quality of house construction with regard to the energy efficiency aspects of air‐tightness and quality of installation of insulation and heating and cooling ductwork and involved recruiting 20 houses in each capital city around Australia (Darwin was not included).

House Energy Efficiency Inspections Project 2015

Response to the Environment and Communications References Committee report

The Senate referred the inquiry into the performance and management of electricity network companies to the Environment and Communications References Committee on 2 October 2014. The Committee presented an interim report on 20 April 2015 and its final report on 5 June 2015.

The Australian Government formally presented its response to the Committee’s reports on 27 April 2016.

Australian Government response to the Environment and Communications References Committee—Report 2016

The Evaluation of the 5-Star Energy Efficiency Standard for Residential Buildings

CSIRO was contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of the 5-star energy efficiency standard for houses introduced in 2006, compared to the previous 3.5 to 4 star standard. 'The Evaluation of the 5-Star Energy Efficiency Standard for Residential Buildings is the first evaluation of energy efficiency standards for houses in Australia based on comparison of actual energy use. The study monitored the energy use of more than 400 houses (with around 50% the houses undergoing more detailed monitoring of heating and cooling) in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, from June 2012 to February 2013.

The Evaluation of the 5-Star Energy Efficiency Standard for Residential Buildings—Final Report 2013

More information

Energy data 

Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) Australian Government

Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) Australian Government

National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) NSW Government on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments

Green Building Council of Australia GBCA

Report—Mid-tier Commercial Office Buildings Pathway Project (PDF 6.8MB) GBCA

Australian Building Codes Board ABCB

Report—Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings COAG Energy Council