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UniSA Media Release: Launch of RP1024 NextGen Ratings Tool project

Posted 29 September 2016 - 3:15pm

Authors: Hayley Byford & Alicia Hage 

The CRC for Low Carbon Living in association with project partners CSIRO, Energy Inspection, and the University of South Australia launched the RP1024 NextGen Rating Tools project in Adelaide on 29 September 2016. The project launch was hosted by the Research Node for Low Carbon Living, based at the University of South Australia. 

UniSA’s Professor Wasim Saman, the Project Leader, was delighted that so many guests from industry and government braved the stormy Adelaide weather to attend the event. The launch gave stakeholders an insight into the project and an opportunity to provide feedback on the project objectives and expected outcomes.

Scientia Professor Deo Prasad, CEO CRC Low Carbon Living, stated “We measure our success by the impact we make; we plan to move forward with the best research, and the CRCLCL believes it’s important to look at a better rating tool”

These new tools will revolutionise the building industry by enabling designers, builders and homeowners to evaluate all of the major energy consuming activities within the home, delivering a comprehensive understanding of energy usage and how to reduce it. The project, RP1024 NextGen House Energy Design Tools, will be undertaken over the next two years and will help provide one of the fundamental building blocks for low carbon living.

Project Leader Professor Wasim Saman says that it is crucial to develop a national rating tool that will help build comfortable and high performance houses. “These homes will be still there in another 50 years or more and if we don’t build them correctly now we will have issues – particularly with climate change,” he says.

In addition to causing less environmental damage, low carbon houses give homeowners greater comfort, reducing the amount of heating and cooling required and the associated costs. CRCLCL Program 3 Leader (Engaged Communities) Dr Stephen White says better house energy ratings will help consumers and home designers create comfortable, healthy and affordable homes. “In addition to saving on energy bills for heating and cooling, an energy efficient house will be naturally warm in winter and cool in summer – a highly efficient home may not even need an air-conditioner,” he says. “Energy rating tools enable builders to do sensitivity analysis around the house design elements, insulation, window placement and type, shading, materials of construction etcetera, to find the lowest cost way of achieving thermal comfort.”

Chief Executive Officer of Energy Inspection Bryn Dellar says that these new tools will also warn potential buyers or lessees of the energy efficiency of a house. “You can’t tell by looking at a house how efficient it is, so if you’re buying a house or want to lease a house, it should be rated – so it’s about disclosure,” he says. “Low carbon housing is important because of the emissions produced and the potential impacts on climate change and we know there is a  broader economic benefit in avoiding dangerous climate change.”

The current rating tool was first developed in the 1980s and hasn’t been updated for more than a decade, and according to Prof Saman, is based on assumptions that have changed. “People use their houses differently and build their houses differently now – so we are updating all of the assumptions made in the tool and basing them on real evidence from evaluation and monitoring results that we have obtained,” he says. “The current tools only concentrate on the building envelope, in other words the walls, floor and the roof, so we are going to make the new tool include all the major energy using activities within the home, including the hot water, the appliances and the lighting and the air-conditioning system, and that will make it more comprehensive. We have got clear evidence through some real housing development evaluations that this actually works, if we correctly use the rating tool, there are lots of benefits which we have the evidence – and we are going to use this evidence in building the new tool.”

According to a report from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) buildings are responsible for a large portion of emissions in Australia. If house emissions can’t be effectively measured then they are difficult to effectively manage so it is essential for new tools to be developed and integrated into common practice so consumers begin to seek out more energy and carbon efficient homes. “This will drive a market for better quality homes, that better meet the aspirations of home owners, and create new jobs,” Dr White says.

Low carbon living research is vital and this project, funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living, with industry partners CSIRO and Energy Inspection, follows action being taken in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States of America and other developed countries to achieve low carbon homes.