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Top End looks to end dominance of energy-intensive “esky” houses

Troppo Architects' Troppoville, built for the NT climate
Troppo Architects' Troppoville, built for the NT climate

The Northern Territory government has initiated a review of the construction code for houses due to concerns it is not delivering the “tropical friendly” homes the Top End requires.

It has formed a Domestic Building Code Review Group including architects, engineers and construction experts to find ways to encourage more climate-appropriate design, NT lands and planning minister David Tollner said. The group will also suggest possible territory-wide changes to the NCC.

Darwin architect Phil Harris, of Troppo Architects, is chair of the group, which also includes representatives of the Building Designers Association, Engineers Australia, the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Association, the Australian Building Sustainability Association and Master Plumbers NT.

Mr Tollner said there was widespread concern that the national building regulations were delivering highly airconditioned “esky” homes with small windows and a lack of traditional Top End features.

“Territory homes have to comply with the National Construction Code, but this code was designed with the aim of encouraging energy efficiency in the southern states,” Mr Tollner said.

“It means new homes in the Top End are highly insulated and there is concern this discourages the use of traditional cooling features, such as verandas and large louvered windows.

“That’s why I’m bringing together our local building experts to review how these requirements affect housing in the NT and how we can fix the situation.”

The review group will have administrative support from the Territory Government’s Building Advisory Services department, and will seek written and verbal submissions from the building design and construction sectors, technical experts and stakeholders. It is due to report to the minister in March 2016.

“While well-intentioned, energy-efficient provisions under the national code have led us away from our commonsensical past,” Mr Harris said.

“With the science of today, this review offers a great opportunity to get back to shaping a charismatic tropical face for Darwin, building on the Top End’s unique architectural heritage.”

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