A Look at Australian Insulation Requirements and How they Affect You
Installing insulation is arguably the most effective step you can take to improve the thermal comfort of your home or commercial building. What’s more, properly installed insulation is proven to cut energy consumption by reducing dependence on air-conditioners and heaters. But do you have to insulate? This article discusses Australia’s “Star Rating” requirements and how it impacts your decision to insulate a new or existing property.
New Standards for New Buildings
With a national focus on sustainability and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency requirements for new buildings are stricter now than ever before. As part of Australia’s National Strategy on Energy Efficiency (NSEE), State Governments have joined forces to amend the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Amendments include an increase in minimum energy efficiency Star Ratings for all new buildings. (NSW requires BASIX scores instead of Star Ratings)
A Star Rating measures the energy efficiency of a building; a zero-rating being the worst score out of a potential ten stars. In theory, a 10-star home is perfectly energy efficient and requires no additional heating or cooling. The most recent BCA revisions stipulate a 1 star increase in minimum energy efficiency rating – upping the standard from 5 stars to a mandatory 6 stars.
Is Insulation Mandatory?
Not surprisingly, insulation is just one piece of the energy efficiency puzzle. There are many factors contributing to a building’s Star Rating – which is given to the overall “shell”, or “building envelope”. The shell includes not only insulation, but also structural materials (of the roof, walls and floor) and windows.
In some unconventional buildings, where structural materials provide a sufficient thermal resistance on their own, insulation is not mandatory. Examples of such materials could include straw bales and aerated concrete blocks. Depending on your climate zone, both could potentially have enough thermal resistance to eliminate the need for additional insulation products.
More commonly however, standard construction materials are used – such as timber, brick or metal – making insulation an essential step towards achieving the BCA minimum standards.
It’s important to note that insulation is not mandatory for existing buildings. Since BCA Star Ratings apply only to new buildings, installing or upgrading insulation in an existing building is a matter of choice for the owner.
Is Insulation Necessary?
Despite the fact insulation is mandatory in most new buildings, you may still be wondering whether it’s truly necessary. The good news is that while you may not have much choice in the matter, there are a bunch of reasons why insulation is a smart investment.
- Increased Comfort. Insulation helps you stay cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter. Although you can’t see it hiding in your ceiling, roof, walls or floors, the effects of insulation can be felt every day. In addition to comfortable temperatures, you’ll enjoy the acoustic benefits of a quieter building.
- Cost Savings. By stabilising ambient temperature, insulation reduces your dependence on heaters and air-conditioners. The result is lower energy bills and substantial cost savings over many years.
- Better for the environment. Hand in hand with lower energy bills is lower energy consumption. Insulation contributes to an energy efficient building with lower greenhouse gas emissions.
- Higher resale value. Buildings with high quality insulation and a high Star Rating for energy-efficiency may attract a higher price on the property market.
The Cost of Not Insulating
Obviously, by not insulating you miss out on the aforementioned cost savings and benefits; however the cost extends further than this. By not insulating now, you compound the loss by risking exposure to increasing electricity and gas prices. Over time, price increases could lead to utility bills far outweighing the original cost of insulation.
How Much Insulation Do I Need?
On the topic of costs, it’s important to get the most value for your money – and that means knowing the exact level of insulation you need. Your specific needs will depend on your local climate as well as the building’s structural characteristics. For a breakdown of the BCA requirements, you can use Kingspan Insulation’s BCA Tool.
Whole Building Efficiency
For new buildings the most important thing to remember is that Star Ratings are assigned based on the whole building envelope. Insulation is a vital part of that envelope and depending on the structural materials used (whether timber, metal, concrete or brick) it’s highly likely you’ll need to install insulation in your roof, ceiling and walls. To improve the star rating of your building, you can extend insulation beyond that and into and floors.
For existing buildings, “whole building” efficiency is just as important. For this reason you should ensure insulation is installed correctly to maximize its effectiveness.
With ongoing advances in technology, Australia remains at the forefront of sustainable insulation products. Whether you’re seeking a 10-Star rating for a new energy efficient home, or just want to upgrade insulation in your existing property, there is an insulation product to suit every need and budget.