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Your chance to shape the future of residential energy efficiency

You don’t get many chances to shape the future of our residential energy rating methods or policy but a CSIRO conference coming up in Melbourne on 28-29 May will provide just that. With one session called “Courting Controversy”, this event is packed with industry luminaries and looks like an ideal place to fast track an agenda or two.

The housing industry is one of our most important industries. It’s worth $50 billion a year and its products are around for 50 years or more.

Considering the energy that housing consumes—and how critical this is to affordability and people’s comfort—a conference to discuss residential energy ratings for the next decade is an important and golden (if not green) opportunity.

According to Ken Guthrie, CSIRO’s energy for buildings relationship manager, this is exactly what the Australian Residential Energy Rating Conference in Melbourne this month is designed to do.

“The people at the conference will be setting the agenda for the next 10 years on whether we are going to move to more sustainable housing,” he says.

And energy ratings offer so many more opportunities than simple tick-the-box exercises. Given the right knowledge and teams supporting them, energy raters can be a driving force for better performing dwellings.

Guthrie insists this is the right time for raters to look beyond current codes and regulations. This is due to looming shifts on the horizon—such as the possibility of mandatory disclosure, new tools, trends in performance verification and the use of ratings data to deliver a national snapshot of how our residential buildings stack up.

And the goal of the conference is to get the ideas in front of builders, architects, designers, consultants and energy raters to start a discussion.

“We want to inspire people in the industry,” he says.

A Courting Controversy session, for instance, will tackle some of the more contentious topics such as overheating, compliance, passive versus active conditioning, adaptive comfort and small-house design.

Leading lights from the sustainable building space who will be presenting include Dr Josh Byrne, Cecille Weldon, Tony Arnel, Dr Stephen White, Sean Maxwell, Jesse Clarke, Brendan Condon, PC Thomas, Eli Court, Andy Marlow, JodiPipkorn and Peter Steele.

Plenary sessions will examine the current housing environment, the business case for energy-efficient homes, how to ensure dwellings deliver optimum occupant comfort and energy efficiency, and how the various rating tools are evolving.

CSIRO’s Michael Ambrose, with new housing performanc date beiing developed by CSIRO

Next-gen tools

Parallel sessions will cover a range of specific topics that impact on dwelling quality and performance.

They will include a look at the next generation of tools for energy ratings, and what the data is telling us about our dwellings.

Guthrie says CSIRO has data from energy rating certificates produced in Australia over the past two years or more. This is currently being configured into a dashboard to deliver valuable insights, an initiative that will be covered during the conference.

The latest tools for certifying performance and compliance will also be covered, with an explainer on the use of thermography and blower-door testing.

Tropical controversies

Among the more controversial sessions will be Tropical and Earth Building. Guthrie, who will moderate that session, says there is “quite a bit of controversy” around construction codes and the requirements for compliance when it comes to buildings in tropical zones.

“Some of the governments in tropical areas are concerned the codes are not providing the right options,” he says.

The session aims to put forward alternatives as food for thought and options for change in future approaches.

Speakers will include Peter Hickson from theEarth Building Association of Australia, Tony Isaacs from TI Consultingand Lyrian Daniel from the University of Adelaide.

Another session will delve into the opportunity for renewable energy to be added to an already well-designed and delivered home. The result can be real progress to improving the overall built environment.

Jack Noonan from the International WELL Building Institute will tackle wellbeing and comfort in a presentation that will go “beyond theory”. Also highlighted will be  homes and precincts that have achieved exceptional performance, including Brendan Condon’s The Cape and Dr Josh Byrne’s own super-sustainable home.

Guthrie says a lot of people in the energy ratings space, such as drafters and designers, may not be aware of the power their role has to make an impact wider than the immediate home plan they are working on.

The conference is therefore also a chance for those new to thinking about sustainability to exchange ideas with those who have been working in the area for a long time.

The conference will be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 28 and 29 May, and will also be available via webinar.

Find out more and check out the program here

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