What makes ECOLATERAL different
When a star loses its sparkle
In 2003 the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) introduced a small but powerful clause under section 3.12 of Vol 2 of the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The Energy Efficiency section requires all new residential homes in Australia to meet a minimum standard of energy performance in their heating and cooling loads. The BCA determined a level of delivered energy requirements for heating and cooling that was considered acceptable, given the demands on the grid and used a star rating scale as a communication methodology to both industry and the house purchaser. Since then, the minimum standard has been revisited on a number of occasions, resulting in the escalation of the performance levels to the six star minimum performances required in most States and Territories of Australia today.
The construction and delivery of a home is a complex process involving many different services, products and stakeholders. For the purpose of this discussion only, the home purchaser, the builder and the energy assessor have been considered.
The delivery of an energy compliant home can be compromised at any stage during its design and construction. However, for simplicity sake, I have identified three key stages where non-compliance can occur and I have speculated on the risk associated with these events.
Stage 1: Certification
Software inputs are massaged to achieve the desired level of performance. If this is not done correctly, or by somebody who does not have the necessary knowledge, it could result in a false result and a diminished performance capacity of the building envelope.
Likelihood of future litigation against the builder or assessor or both for falsification of the modelling results for commercial reasons.
Stage 2: Authorised Construction Variation
A variation to the simulated plan is raised that will compromise the certified rating. No subsequent remodelling is done to reassess the star rating of the building.
If, as a result of the variation, the home is unable to perform at its certified level, a client may challenge the performance of the home and pursue litigation for breach of contract.
Stage 3: Unauthorised Construction Variation
A variation to the construction is undertaken on site by the builder, without authorisation from the client that compromises the integrity of the rating. No subsequent remodelling is done to reassess the star rating of the building.
If as a result of the variation, the home is unable to perform at its certified level, a client may challenge the performance of the home and pursue litigation for breach of contract or failure to inform.
Any or all of the above situations could mean the principal contractor could be open to litigation. It is possible that litigation could go beyond the initial purchaser to the subsequent purchaser of the building, as the property was purchased as a certified building.
Failure to correctly determine or maintain the star rating between certification and completion of construction could lead to litigation. Who would be held responsible or required to pay for rectification works is an interesting question but whatever the outcome, it is likely to add significant coin to the coffers of the legal fraternity over time.
Star ratings for buildings are a good development but need to be managed by professionals who can guide builders and home owners in the right direction. Results can be compromised at any stage throughout the design and building process. The appointment of a knowledgeable and professional energy expert early in the lifecycle of the building will be a wise investment.
These experts understand the dynamics of the building and will provide an ongoing stewardship of the rating, while maintaining the integrity of the building. This will prove to be a good risk mitigation strategy for the building professional and give peace of mind to the home owner in terms of ensuring they are getting what they signed up for.