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Frustration with NatHERS sparks new verification body

Rodger Hills has stepped down as chief executive of the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors in a move that coincides with his push to establish a new industry-led body, the Building Verification Council, to address what he and other industry figures see as significant failings of the Nationwide House Energy Ratings Scheme, and its administrator.

Mr Hills told The Fifth Estate he had left ABSA at the end of last week after the board and he could not reconcile “incompatible views” on a number of grounds, including how to deal with issues surrounding NatHERS and residential building sustainability more broadly.

Problems with NatHERS have been bubbling up for months, with many emails to The Fifth Estate concerned about the proliferation of unaccredited assessors performing dodgy assessments; new, expensive training requirements for assessors; the move towards a pay-per-certificate funding arrangement for the CSIRO engine used to perform thermal assessments; and issues with the perceived “arrogance” of the NatHERS administrator, with changes being made with little or no consultation.

According to its mission statement, the Building Verification Council will be set up to tackle a key problem plaguing the residential building sector – the gap between designed and as built performance. It would do this by addressing what it sees as two fundamental problems:

  • the market failure and systemic limitations of NatHERS currently
  • the endemic occurrence across Australia of building regulation non-compliance and compromised building performance

“It is generally felt that the current NatHERS scheme is not truly realising the potential of encouraging more sustainable building design,” the document states.

A major problem with NatHERS is a lack of consistency in how it is applied across jurisdictions. Several states have not adopted the scheme, or have only partially adopted it. Only in NSW is there a requirement for assessors to be accredited by either ABSA or the Building Designers Association of Victoria in order to put an energy rating into a BASIX report.

Rodger Hills

Rodger Hills

According to Mr Hills, the Accredited Assessor Organisations – ABSA and BDAV – have been losing members because accreditation is not mandatory in most places. Accredited assessors, he said, were trying to compete with unaccredited ones, who could, because they were not subject to oversight, provide substandard and even fraudulent assessments.

He said there were instances of builders “gaming the system” by hiring unaccredited assessors to provide NatHERS ratings that stated a building would meet minimum requirements when the end product would be anything but compliant.

The number of unaccredited assessors has been proliferating too, from 500 in 2012 to a projected figure of 1100 in 2015. The BVC statement said the NatHERS administrator had “consistently failed to protect the NatHERS logo and brand from inappropriate and fraudulent use in each Jurisdiction”.

Other major problems with NatHERS, it alleged, included:

  • Complex, inefficient and ineffective governance arrangements that divorce the scheme’s decision-makers (state and federal energy/environment departments) from those who are supposed to administer it (building authorities)
  • The inability of the scheme to check as-built dwellings and their ongoing performance
  • Failure of the scheme to foster rating tool innovation and development
  • The focus on regulatory minimum building fabric standards that does not facilitate rating tools and assessors moving to higher standards on a voluntary basis
  • Treating a building as constantly conditioned, which discourages or discriminates against designs that are “climate responsive”free-running and/or passively-moderated buildings
  • Failure to address energy, water and building sustainability issues other than space heating and cooling loads

The BVC, Mr Hills said, would address these issues. It would be an industry-led “quasi-regulatory” body that would be self-regulated and have no government enforcement. It would provide a means for building performance to be demonstrated through “verification, assurance and testing” rather than prediction alone, as currently exists under NatHERS.

Mr Hills wants the body to be up and running in 22 months to correspond with the gazetting of the 2016 National Construction Code. The BVC would sit within the “Alternative Solutions” compliance pathway of the NCC to meet the performance requirements of the Energy Efficiency sections. The new scheme would cover all phases of building lifecycle – design, construction and operation – in new and existing stock.

Mr Hills said he had faith in his proposal because it would provide “a smarter, easier, cheaper system to use” – an “advanced version of NatHERS”.

Industry is interested

Industry is engaging with Hills’ proposal, and he says there is broad interest and support.

He met in Sydney last week with key property stakeholders to discuss the issues and drum up support for the new body, with attendees including the Department of Industry, the Australian Institute of Architects, the Residential Development Council, CSIRO, Green Building Council of Australia, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, ASBEC, LJ Hooker, Green Strata, City of Sydney, Local Government NSW, the University of Wollongong, CSR, Bluescope and pitt&sherry.

Tomorrow (Friday 3 October) he will meet with stakeholders in Melbourne, including CSIRO, Sustainability Victoria, the Australia Glass and Glazing Association, Victorian Building Authority, BDAV, Master Builders Australia and RMIT.

Concerns about the future of NatHERS

There is concern among some industry players, however, that exposing the issues of NatHERS could see the scheme scrapped.

One source told The Fifth Estate she was concerned broadcasting the problems with NatHERS would lead to it being abandoned, which would be a shame because overall it was doing a good job of raising the standard of residential housing energy efficiency.

“A whole lot of these conservative political parties don’t love sustainability agendas,” she said. “If it looks like there are too many holes… it would be a real shame to get rid of it.”

Mr Hills said he understood the risks.

“A lot of people would love nothing better than to get rid of NatHERS,” he said. “But I’ve tried to be fair and reasonable and highlight the limitations.”

He said for a long time he had been “trying to sound the alarm regarding serious issues that need to be fixed” without making it seem so hopeless that the whole scheme needed to be thrown away.

Scathing report to be released

A report to be released in early November isn’t likely to give much comfort to those who’d prefer to keep NatHERS’ issues under wraps, though.

Consultants pitt&sherry along with Swinburne University was engaged to conduct the National Energy Efficient Building Project, funded by the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency and led by the South Australian Government on behalf of all states and territories.

The report is to respond to the “growing concern that the actual energy efficiency of buildings in Australia – both new builds and renovations/additions – may not always match the energy performance requirements in the National Construction Code”.

The findings are expected to be damning, both for NatHERS and Australia’s building industry in general – so damning, in fact, that there was wide industry speculation the findings, which were completed months ago, had been buried.

But according to Phil Harrington, pitt&sherry principal consultant & manager – carbon & energy team, a decision has been made to release the report in early November, though there is currently no firm date.

While the findings can’t yet be revealed, Mr Hills suspects they will be similar to what was found in the UK-based Zero Carbon Hub’s Closing the Gap Between Design & As-Built Performance report, which recommended the development of “commercially viable methodologies acceptable across industry for demonstrating performance”.

Mr HIlls said the BVC was not trying to undermine NatHERS, but attempting to put in place a system that could work alongside it and also function were NatHERS to fall over. Having an alternative, rather than nothing, would be a better outcome for sustainability in the residential building sector, he said.

It was possible, though, that NatHERS would go in time.

The AAOs

When contacted ABSA chair Sid Thoo said the board was “concerned by and does not agree with a number of the criticisms and statements issued by BVC” and wanted to make very clear that the BVC was in no way associated with ABSA.

“ABSA fully supports the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme,” Mr Thoo told The Fifth Estate. “Whilst we may explore initiatives to expand the opportunities for our members in the building sustainability assessment industry, we are highly cognisant that NatHERS assessments make up the livelihood of the vast majority of our members. We would never take action or endorse anything that would risk jeopardising this key source of income for our members.

“As the most established, member-based organisation that strives for the highest standards of professionalism within the building sustainability assessment industry, ABSA will continue to nurture and support our members, protect their livelihoods and maximise opportunities to improve the sustainability of our built environment.”

However, chair of the BDAV Energy and Sustainability Hub Advisory Board, Tim Adams, said that Mr Hills’ lack of confidence in the NatHERS administrator was shared by BDAV.

He said NatHERS had not done “anything constructive” in a long time, and the issues needed to be addressed.

“Rodger has seen that if someone could get into the space and provide a framework for attending to [NatHERS] deficiencies, then it would be less embarrassing for all concerned,” Mr Adams told The Fifth Estate.

He said the scheme could work, but he would withhold judgment until he attended the meeting in Melbourne on Friday.

The need for a “risk of audit” was palpable, however, as non-compliance was becoming a reputational risk for the assessment industry and a liability issue for consumers.

“We would like to see an understanding that a quality control mechanism is put in place, but keeping in mind affordability of housing,” Mr Adams said.

What was not needed was an additional layer of bureaucracy, he said.

 

Comments

14 Responses to “Frustration with NatHERS sparks new verification body”

  • Stan Miller says:

    Unlike most of the guys commenting here I have only been an assessor for a short time, five years. When I started my mentor explained to me that nathers assessments were not perfect but the idea was that they improved the efficiency of homes and reduced greenhouse gases. To that end I have always tried to do the most accurate assessments I can. Eighteen month’s or so ago nathers asked assessors to simulate 4 test homes to get a feel for how assessors were doing their job. Well, I’m still waiting for the software files that nathers promised me in October last year, to see exactly how I went. Have you got your results yet? This highlights the problem with nathers, it’s no good at listening to the people who have to work under it but great at dictating to them! All you have to do is read the outcomes from those studies (bearing in mind that the assessors who took part were probably not the doddgy ones but ones who felt they were component) and they show that almost all the assessors are struggling to get to grips with the ridiculously written tech notes. What does nathers do, help the assessors? No! They rewrite them, make them more difficult to understand. They also make a blanket waffle pod ruling that values need to be reduced. Think of that one act, many project builders has spent thousands of dollars modeling their designs so that they achieved 6 star only for all that work and money to be flushed away. This is the way nathers works. As a BERS user I thought I might be out of a job with only a few weeks notice at the start of this month thanks to nathers and really only found out on the day we were told we would no longer be able to use BERS that we could continue for the time, a real caring organization! What we need is a nationwide scheme, not differences in every state. We need a focus on thermal assessment training, not cert 4 rubbish that I mostly will never use. Forget worrying about whether a down light penetrating the ceiling insulation will decrease the raring by 1mj. I go back to what I learned when I started doing ratings. We need consistent ratings with all assessors across Australia that raise the standard of housing, not constant changes that even competent assessors can’t keep up with, and nathers needs to listen to assessors.

  • John Bergin says:

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A strong and sustainable future economy requires measurements along these lines.

  • Anthony Lieberman says:

    It is great to see this open, honest commentary and debate that will hopefully lead to better sustainable outcomes. Challenging what’s here today is important for what will be here tomorrow.

  • David Baggs says:

    Speaking as a NatHERS assessor of 20+ years standing and one undertaking a large number of multi-residential assessments in NSW every week, I agree with Matthew… right sentiment, wrong actions and bloody stupid timing! Give this Govt any excuse and they hesitate to put the knife in. OMG I’ve just committed to doing the new Cert IV, will I be wasting my time? Uncertainty is the killer, gives everyone an excuse to back off and wait for the dust to settle

  • sean mcardle says:

    The purpose of NatHERS is to raise the bar slowly on thermal performance and to eliminate worst practice without imposing unacceptable costs. NatHERS succeeds at this. If dwellings aren’t being constructed to the standard assumed in the ratings then building surveyors need to take responsibility.
    If energy consumption in dwellings is rising the occupier needs to take responsibility. We find that in multi residential projects heating and cooling is only a small part of the overall energy consumption. Lighting, small power and user behaviour can be much more significant. NAtHERS can’t address these and this is also why a mechanism for testing the energy performance of a dwelling after construction will always be a struggle.
    NatHERS can only work by comparing performance of one design against another with set parameters.
    On balance, NatHERS has done way more good than bad. A lot of work has gone into setting minimum requirements for different climate zones and we often struggle to justify significantly increased spends on thermal performance of the fabric beyond regulatory compliance (in terms of $ payback).
    Until we start talking about resultant green house emissions from dwelling construction and operation instead of energy, NatHERS is good enough.
    The contribution of NatHERS should not be underestimated.

    • Steve King says:

      Sean,
      In 1992, I delivered the paper to the ABCB conference in Brisbane, explaining why Australia was about to implement a ‘simulation based approach’ to energy rating of homes – unlike the rest of the world at the time relying on deemed to satisfy improvements in the building fabric. John Ballinger’s script for my talk emphasised that we were trying to put the choices into the hands of designers, so that the software could be used to test alternative solutions. On behalf of SOLARCH, I was also the academic responsible for the technical oversight of the HERS Management Body (HMB) set up by SEDA New South Wales, and which devolved into the present ABSA organisation.

      I say all this so that it’s not assumed I am on some sort of anti-NatHERS mission. Quite the contrary, I am still a fan of a system where a good tool assists good design. But we are talking about 22 years since the introduction of NatHERS, and it still can’t award a rating for true energy savings by effective passive design.

      Similar things could be said about BASIX. A multi-indicator rating tool, accessible online so that designers could ask ‘what if’ questions in an environment no more threatening than a computer game – and have the potential for continuous improvement through capturing every residential development application – was, and probably still is a world beater. But objectively speaking, it was scuppered when no metrics could be agreed for anything other than heating and cooling, energy use and potable water savings. Still no way to deal with embodied energy, indoor air quality and ventilation, waste management, the benefits of adaptive reuse, etc.

      There are major home builders who have long championed the rating systems as a way of achieving market differentiation. And there certainly are some experienced rating professionals who can give good advice.

      But their efforts are swamped by the more general experience. From my perspective, most players in the industry are more interested in getting around the requirements which these tools should help them to test, than in implementing them. This includes clients, designers, rating professionals, builders and certifiers.

      The system is broken, but I don’t pretend to know the answer to how to fix it, because (as you infer) the problem is much more social and cultural, than it is technical.

  • Alex Bruce says:

    Time to stop having a stinky about it and get a workable solution on the table asap. We are our own worst enemies with all of this infighting and lack of innovation within the current home rating systems. We’ve known about the problems for years so no excuse. With the current government in place there is a chance the whole lot gets chucked out. They and certain industry bodies will be chuckling away over a friday arvo beer…

    Read page 83 of NCC 2012 BCA – Part 2.6 Energy Efficiency – OBJECTIVE
    “The OBJECTIVE is to reduce green house gas emissions.”

    I’m not familiar with Mr Hill’s proposal but am pretty happy to hear it will include all phases of the building life cycle. Without Life Cycle Assessment you’re totally flying blind in attempting to meet the OBJECTIVE. Furthermore there are already commercially viable tools available to the public to take this path (commercial conflict of interest stated here!).

    In regards to cleaning up the delivery of the assessments we really need to focus on quality control and policing rather than more regulation. Start celebrating the good operators and start coming down like a ton of bricks on the dodgy ones. Everyone knows they exist so why hasn’t one of them been taken to court yet?
    They might be saving $200 on the assessment and $2k on building the house but if one of them finally gets stung for the $100k’s of dodgy buildings it will clean things up pretty quick.

    We have the opportunity to build a mechanism for taking our residential buildings from pretty average to brilliant. Lets get it done quick!

  • Steve says:

    Having been an accredited assessor in NSW since inception, the whole thing has become more complicated with the move to National AAOs’ and a Federal Nathers Administrator.
    The people that the administrators listen to are assessors who can not generate enough work, so turn to training and re-training to make their livelihoods. Putting pressure on assessors trying to make a living from the accredited pathway, and making the DIY-Deemed to Satisfy pathways more appealing.
    Lets go back to a State by State based scheme and stop the DIYers.

  • I think we should recognise that Rodger, at least, is actually stepping up to the plate with solutions for what apparently the whole of Australia agrees is a broken system. I’d like to see the industry, regulators and policy makers get on the front foot, support this initiative, AND look to what their accountabilities are for the current state of affairs, and what they can do to make it better.

  • Steve King says:

    Unfortunately, everything that Rodger Hills points to as problems with the present residential sustainability rating system, is clearly manifest in the industry.

    In my very extensive experience, I can confirm that multi-residential design has for all intents and purposes become insensitive to the NatHERS ratings within BASIX in NSW. I am less qualified to comment on the impact on the design of individual dwellings, but in that market segment I have observed the whole range from frustration to cheating.

    It also has to be admitted that there is little or no evidence of the actual delivered building performance. BASIX’s own periodic review confirms that ‘per household’ energy use has risen since the commencement of the scheme, whatever other spin those reports try to put on this fact.

    Without active federal government support it is unlikely that the problems will be fixed. Indeed it is very likely that the present government will simply use perceived problems as an excuse to step away from their responsibilities. That would betray a lot of people who have spent a good part of their lives committed to improving the sustainability outcomes in the Australian building industry.

    I acknowledge that there would be serious disruption for responsible practitioners involved in the current rating system, but on balance I still applaud Roger Hills for trying to bring its problems into the open. Over time, we have no choice but to fix the system.

  • South Australia has already adopted the new accreditation requirements, as of July 1 2014. In addition to assessors with those qualifications placed on the state government Assessors list, the BCA hierarchy of compliance methods is matched by there also being the ‘state building energy expert’ on the state government’s Building Rules Assessment Commission. Thereby the methods from deemed-to-satisfy through to expert judgement are covered.

  • As an ABSA member, I had no idea that the proposed new body was being created by the former ABSA CEO. Here we go again, more bloody in-fighting.

    I strongly agree that the system is broken, but I don’t agree that the path Rodger Hills is advocating provides a solution to the many problems inherent in the system. This will divide and conquer, and demonstrate a level of immaturity and lack of professionalism in the sustainability assessment industry. It will also confuse the crap out of the industry who already don’t properly understand existing systems and processes.

    Problems include: the modelling rules; the software problems and deficiencies; the clunky and poorly written building and planning codes for energy and sustainability (Sect J – I’m looking at you too!); lack of understanding and incompetencies of Councils and Private Certifiers in following through on approvals; and general collusion in the building industry to circumvent the system. Not to mention the outrageous upcoming rort on re-training/RPL for existing assessors where we have to pay inflated sums of money just to stay in the game.

    Also, the emergence of non-accredited China-based modellers working at very low cost has the potential to destroy the business model for any assessors still in the game beyond mid-2015.

    As an assessor of many years experience and 30 years advocacy in sustainable building, all the above is moot, as the NatHERS requirement for new qualifications from next year will either push assessors out of the industry or into the dark side (if not in NSW/Vic). I’m seriously considering walking away from this work as a result of this short-sightedness.

    While I think the whole system needs review and re-tuning, I think it will be in the too-hard basket, as long as the current Fed Govt pursues their anti-sustainability culture wars, as they are the ones who administer NatHERS. They might very well look at the situation, plus the confusion created by Rodger Hills and use it as an excuse to can the whole thing, making sustainability assessment a voluntary choice only, if at all.

    Its hard enough to make a living out of sustainability assessment, this has just made it much worse.

    • Graeme Doreian says:

      ” Frustration with NatHERS sparks new verification body” by Cameron Jewell | 2 October 2014

      Analysis by G Doreian, Building Energy Consultant, Oct 4, 2014.

      I was one of 55 who gave on the stand evidence, one of seven who gave voluntary evidence AND referenced 13 times in the 27 million dollar Royal Commission Home Insulation Program Report.

      Of the 206 e mails received by the Royal Commission, I provided 46 of those e mails detailing thermal and safety matters with insulation and electrical standards,

      Numerical quotations in italics referenced from the Royal Commission Home Insulation Program Report.

      5.2.16 Mr Doreian, a building energy consultant, took an active interest in the proceedings of their Commission. P45

      9.4.31 I mention this because Mr Doreian took such a serious and active interest in the whole of the work of the Commission. P208

      5.2.20 However, the focus of my inquiry is on the actions taken by the Australian Government.
      I recommend, at the conclusion of this Report, that a thorough review be undertaken of the Australian Standards, both pertaining to the installation of insulation, and electrical wiring issues in ceiling voids

      Quotations in Italics from “Frustration with NatHERS sparks new verification body”

      the Building Verification Council, to address what he and other industry figures see as significant failings of the Nationwide House Energy Ratings Scheme, and its administrator.

      CSIRO engine used to perform thermal assessments; and issues with the perceived “arrogance” of the NatHERS administrator, with changes being made with little or no consultation.

      A report to be released in early November isn’t likely to give much comfort to those who’d prefer to keep NatHERS’ issues under wraps,

      The findings are expected to be damning, both for NatHERS and Australia’s building industry in general – so damning, in fact, that there was wide industry speculation the findings, which were completed months ago, had been buried.

      Quotations in Italics from Building Verification Association Mission Statement

      “In 2013, the CSIRO conclusively proved that the introduction 5 star energy efficiency requirements nationally, delivered better, more comfortable and energy efficient housing stock at affordability rates at or below what they were when standards were at 3 stars (CSIRO – The Evaluation of the 5-Star Energy Efficiency Standard for Residential Buildings, 2013).”

      COMMENTS G. Doreian

      CSIRO are the Government “lapdog” and bend to the” will” of the Government of the day doing their “bidding” AND OWN the computer modelling engine Chenath that is used by all energy rating programs in Australia.

      CSIRO need money because of cut backs, so “screw” the users to make up the shortfall.

      The CSIRO 5 Star Evaluation is fatality flawed. WHY?

      Briefest Summary

      Ref to Royal Commission Report Doc 002.001.0033-45

      The report evaluated ONLY 206 homes, for just over A MILLION DOLLARS
      • Most homes with R 3.5 bulk insulation, NO MENTION of any foil products at roof level (WHY?), not like most 5 Star homes that if they comply to correct rating protocols enforce higher R values, these were a small percentage tested in the research?

      The report noted high insulation ‘R’ values (R 3.5, the same insulation mostly installed in the failed pink batts scheme) showed benefits for winter heating, the overall NET improvement was 7.5%.

      o HOWEVER INCREASED SUMMER PERFORMANCE Melbourne 37%, Brisbane 28% Adelaide 11%, An ever increasing trend of warming, should be the concern of everyone in the building industry, which you all for your own agenda turn a “blind eye” for profit at the expensive of the poor consumer “bludgeoned” into paying for the fraud.

      Especially, summer R-values of many insulation materials used in roof spaces, including air-conditioning ductwork insulation R-values, a flawed energy certification system controlled by the Government of the day, and increased running costs. Reduction of green house gases IS IMPOSSIBLE.

      The biggest factor, no computer modelling program or amount of market surveys can account for USER BEHAVIOUR . Refer to Royal Commission Report Doc 002.001.0050-56

      Quotations in Italics from “Frustration with NatHERS sparks new verification body

      Treating a building as constantly conditioned, which discourages or discriminates against designs that are “climate responsive”free-running and/or passively-moderated buildings

      Mr Hills said he understood the risks.
      “A lot of people would love nothing better than to get rid of NatHERS,” he said. “But I’ve tried to be fair and reasonable and highlight the limitations.”
      He said for a long time he had been “trying to sound the alarm regarding serious issues that need to be fixed” without making it seem so hopeless that the whole scheme needed to be thrown away.

      While the findings can’t yet be revealed, Mr Hills suspects they will be similar to what was found in the UK-based Zero Carbon Hub’s Closing the Gap Between Design & As-Built Performance report, which recommended the development of “commercially viable methodologies acceptable across industry for demonstrating performance”.

      Mr HIlls said the BVC was not trying to undermine NatHERS, but attempting to put in place a system that could work alongside it and also function were NatHERS to fall over. Having an alternative, rather than nothing, would be a better outcome for sustainability in the residential building sector, he said.

      “We would like to see an understanding that a quality control mechanism is put in place, but keeping in mind affordability of housing,” Mr Adams said.
      Quotations in Italics from Building Verification Association Mission Statement

      “A regular program of research will be undertaken to ensure that the scheme has a positive and measurable impact on improving housing stock and asset values, while reducing energy consumption, resource use, pollution, water use and other negative community outcomes. Market surveys will determine consumer awareness and confidence”

      “The bulk of the BVC’s activities will be carried out by a series of specialist Task Groups that will research and develop processes for the certification of tools, certification of assessors, development of data systems, regulatory compliance, assessor training and marketing”

      COMMENTS G. Doreian
      For all the intentions and agendas in the quest to reduce greenhouse gases, all the mechanisms that the poor consumer has to pay for ARE UNPROVEN by real time controlled testing in a climate simulator, which could then maybe justify some type of modelling program? Maybe?

      Simply put.

      Would you send your little daughter down the street on a 40?C day, dressed in a thick heavy woollen overcoat ?

      Trapped in the hot desert, to survive what would you prefer to have after water.

      A thick woollen blanket, or an emergency foil space blanket?

      If you get the answers wrong, that’s why building energy efficiency rules and regulations are “broken.”

      So why are consumers forced to use R4 – R7 bulk insulation batts?

      Basically using the analogy of the car industry, they now use computer modelling, because they had decades of actual laboratory protocol crash testing AND visited actual crash scenes.

      Even after designing a car using computer modelling, THEY STILL CRASH TEST THEM, AND visit actual crash scenes, for registration have to comply to unified protocol crash testing.

      Where is the equivalent to protect consumer NET BENEFIT, when forced to comply with un-validated building energy efficiency rules and regulations?

      Thermal Insulation Standard 4859.1 Clause 2.3.1 defines the protocols for a test method, a method that no one wants to enforce, real time controlled testing in a Climate Simulator.

      The current world recognised enforced “Steady State” thermal material test method, at an average (mean) 23 ?C for 4 hours was developed to test refrigerator insulation around 1928, keeping in mind a fridge resides in a controlled temperature environment.

      Whereas, a building resides by comparison in an ever changing “hostile” environment subjected to in most cases AND INCREASING severe external radiant heat loads, typically across Australia roof spaces experience 50 – 70?C for longer periods of 4 hours, WAY BEYOND the laboratory Steady State test method of 23 ?C for 4 hours. What about accounting for humidity?

      Therefore, testing of building materials for energy efficiency requires a more accurate and realistic method to establish the correct insulations in combination to suit the varying climates buildings are subjected too.

      Providing the most technically advanced car in the world, is still challenged by human behaviour that will ensure that some other area, or component of the car will force further improvements.

      “Building energy efficiency” is no different to providing cars, provide the basics for the most energy efficient building to suit the climate, BECAUSE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR CANNOT BE PREDICTED it changes daily, inside and out, just as climate conditions are ever changing.

      WHERE IS THE EQUIVALENT TESTING for building energy efficiency?

      NO WHERE, because vested interests control the “Standards” agenda, which are “called up” in regulations where the NET BENEFIT and public interest is ignored AND abused.

      WHY, for pure greed, PROFIT, aided and abetted by faceless backroom bureaucrats who enjoy long lunches, and the Politicians who “sell their souls” for their power trip.

      The system IS broken everyone knows it, but won’t “stump up.” WHY, because many are driven by the “holy grail”, of survival, MONEY, at the expense of the consumer.

      In conclusion,
      While testing is being undertaken, drop back to some sensible negotiated building energy efficiency strategy to benefit the consumer.

      Say 4 Star or a combination with parts of other programs until testing is complete and a set of guidelines established. WHY, to reduce the excessive installation of bulk insulation.

      Money is not an issue, any Government with independent OUTSIDE consultation can devise a means of gathering funding, IF THEY WANT TO, OR ARE PRESSURED TO.

      Is the Building Verification Association up to the challenge? “THE CLOCK IS TICKING”.

      • Graeme Doreian says:

        Thank you to the staff at the Fifth Estate for the great article, and allowing my blog to be seen, considering the thoughts and comments I provided.

        I made one mistake in my comments and would appreciate this to be corrected if possible with a posting this e mail directly under my original blog Oct 4, 2014.

        Hope this is OK, and once again thanking you all.

        I said in my first blog Oct 4, 2014

        HOWEVER INCREASED SUMMER PERFORMANCE Melbourne 37%, Brisbane 28% Adelaide 11%,

        SHOULD HAVE READ

        o HOWEVER INCREASED BULK INSULATIONS, INCREASES SUMMER ENERGY COSTS Melbourne 37%, Brisbane 28% Adelaide 11%, An ever increasing trend of warming, should be the concern of everyone in the building industry, which you all for your own agenda turn a “blind eye” for profit at the expensive of the poor consumer “bludgeoned” into paying for the fraud. Especially, summer R-values of many insulation materials used in roof spaces, including air-conditioning ductwork insulation R-values, a flawed energy certification system controlled by the Government of the day, and increased running costs. Reduction of green house gases IS IMPOSSIBLE.

        To clarify from my comments above, below is quoted from page 17 of the million dollar CSIRO 5 Star Evaluation Report, Dec 13, 2013.
        This report was to justify the increase of benefits moving from 4 Star to 5 Star, more so ever increasing higher ‘R’ values of bulk insulations.

        http://www.industry.gov.au/5StarEvaluation

        “In summer, preliminary (not statistically significant) results suggest that greenhouse gas emissions may be increased for the higher-rated houses in all cities: by 37% in Melbourne, 11% in Adelaide and 28% in Brisbane. The result in Melbourne was affected by the high emission factor of brown coal-fired power stations. ”

        FURTHER COMMENTS G. Doreian

        • This is outrageous, (not statistically significant) how dare the CSIRO think they can protect the higher ‘R’ values of bulk insulations used in the ever increasing Star Ratings.

        • The facts are the facts, energy is energy, emissions are higher for cooling costs, most capital cities have electricity supplied by coal fired power stations, this comment is irrelevant.

        • The main component of Star Ratings is the insulation in the building fabric.

        • Brisbane hardly has any cool temperatures to warrant the use of heating.

        • Why would Brisbane have an increase in summer cooling costs?

        • ANSWER: Because the bulk insulation is being saturated, and storing heat by day, compliments of solar radiation striking the building fabric.

        • The heat by conduction from the bulk insulation is stored in the internal building linings to be the cooled by the airconditioning.

        • Just like airconditioning ductwork, the bulk insulation around the ducting is absolutely overwhelmed with heat from the roof space, then the cold air moving through the ducting cools this bulk insulation.

        • The cooling unit is doing its job if sized correctly, the ductwork is costing consumers money because the paid for cold air is not properly protected.

        Any comments from others?

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