08/05/2007 - 22:00

Aiming high on energy cuts

08/05/2007 - 22:00

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For the third time in four years, the state government has introduced a new set of building requirements to combat climate change.

Aiming high on energy cuts

For the third time in four years, the state government has introduced a new set of building requirements to combat climate change.

The government believes the new measures have the potential to almost halve household water and energy consumption.

The initiative, called Five Star Plus, builds on the government’s Five Star Building Standards, which came in to affect on May 1 2006.

Under the first stage of the initiative, to be implemented from September 1, new homes in WA will be required to install water-efficient showerheads, tap fittings, dual-flush toilets, a solar or gas-powered hot water system, and swimming pool blankets to reduce the rate of evaporation for those households with pools.

A second stage is expected to be introduced over 2008-09 and will require rainwater tanks and plumbing for potential greywater recycling units and alternative supplies of water. 

Master Builders Association of WA housing director Gavan Forster said its members preferred Five Star Plus to the government’s proposed Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) scheme of last year because it appeared to reduce the administrative workload required by the former scheme.

“Five Star Plus doesn’t require documents to be submitted and then certified, because it will be mandated within the building code. It’s a more commonsense approach,” he said.

The MBA believes the cost to consumers of implementing stage one of the initiative could be as little as $750 for a gas-boosted hot water system, because the building industry was already meeting many of the requirements as standard practice.

However, the costs would add up if consumers wanted a swimming pool, with a pool blanket (costing between $500 and $1,000) to be mandatory after September 1, Mr Forster said.

Two-storey homes would also cost more to build, as pipes between taps and hot water systems will be required to be a maximum of 20 metres in length and insulated, translating to a cost of $1,200 according to the MBA.

“Stage Two will be where the big bucks are needed,” Mr Forster said.

“We estimate this will cost between $6,000 and $7,000 for rainwater tanks and pre-laying pipes for alternative water supply and grey water.”

Housing Industry Association WA president Anthony Kinder suggested the cost of climate change reparation should be shared across all households, and not just shouldered by those making alterations or purchasing new homes.

“The industry is prepared to support Five Star Plus on the basis that the phase-in period is realistic for manufacturers and suppliers to supply the market, BASIX is disbanded, the details of stage two are resolved with industry, and measures put in place for the established housing market by the time stage two is implemented,” he said in a statement.

Mr Forster believed BASIX was not a viable option but said the index could be used to help set benchmarks for future water and energy savings.

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