7 February 2018

Government considering stricter energy efficiency rules in climate change strategy

| Ian Bushnell
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How’s the weather like? The ACT Government would like to know your thoughts.

The ACT Government is weighing what further actions it should take in response to climate change, including stricter energy efficiency rules for buildings and ensuring there are cool spaces available during heat waves.

It has unveiled a community survey that asks what people think about the changing climate, how they are responding and adapting to it, and what actions government should take to deal with it.

To be conducted by the University of Canberra over coming weeks, the survey aims to assess community attitudes and its vulnerability to climate change.

Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury said the survey would look at the impact of a changing climate on people’s health and wellbeing; the livability of the ACT’s suburbs and homes; how people cope and prepare for extreme events such as storms and bushfires, and community views about climate change.

“We know the reality of climate change means longer, hotter summers with an increased frequency and severity of heatwaves and droughts, storms and bushfires,” he said.

“Even though the ACT is taking a leading role in tackling climate change, more extreme weather events are an increasing reality. We need to understand how climate change is affecting people in their day to day lives, and how to most effectively reduce vulnerability to these impacts. ”

The survey asks respondents how easy it is for them to keep their home comfortable in hot and cold weather, how much they spend on energy bills and how prepared they are for extreme weather events.

Mr Rattenbury said the survey was part of the ACT Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and aimed to provide a comprehensive picture of the strategies needed to help the community respond to a changing climate.

The Government aims to get at least 1,200 ACT residents to complete the survey in order to establish baseline data about community resilience to climate change, with the survey repeated in coming years to determine trends.

The survey, run by the University of Canberra’s Dr Jacki Schirmer and her team, is open until Friday 9 March. The University will deliver postcards randomly to 20,000 households to raise awareness of the project.

Seven gift voucher prizes of up to $1000 are also on offer to encourage people to participate in the survey before the closing date. For more information and to take part in the survey visit www.act.gov.au/climatesurvey

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We built a couple of years ago and our house had to meet EER 6 (I know there is a push to go much better).

The two big problems we believe the current system has are :

1) There is no regulation on whether the workmanship is good enough. Examples of where ours is shoddy includes: we could see between the window frames (of our lovely double glazed windows) and the wall. The gap under our house to garage door was so big that I could slide my hand under it. The cavity sliding doors open directly into the rest of the frame so we can see wind blowing through them and moving things around. Of course our builder wouldn’t do any remedial work and there was no checking by any authority that the work really was EER compliant. We ended up correcting as many of the faults we could by ourselves.

2) The software used to determine the EER ratings seemed to be obsessed with avoiding south facing windows. In our experience the heat loss through such windows in winter seems to be nowhere as much of an issue as the summer heat gain we desperately try and avoid via our north and west facing windows. At one time our architect increased the EER rating of our house by moving a bedroom window from the south wall to the north wall. We got him to move it back and having been in the house for a couple of summers we can confidently state that moving that window to the north would have been a mistake.

So a first step to improve things would be to ensure the current rules are actually being followed to a suitable standard.

Windows on the (true) north are not a problem. The entire northern side of my house is glass and this does not cause a problem, as at the height of summer, because the sun is high, no sunshine enters the windows from the north. Whereas in winter, when the sun is lower, the sunshine pours in from the north. I only have one smallish window on each of the east and west side, and the only windows on the south are to give the bathrooms a window. All windows have insulated blinds as well.
I think all new houses should have an air test to check they don’t leak, and if they do the builder needs to fix it at their expense, before the house passes…and the builder gets a final payment.

My windows face true north. I agree that the bottom floor windows aren’t too bad as the veranda does provide shade, but not so for the top floor which only have eaves. The sun certainly hits them during summer.

I have virtually no eaves – it’s a solar passive house – and at the height of summer the sun doesn’t come in, but as the days shorten some sun does start to enter. Now the longest day has passed some sun is now entering, but my house has been comfortable all summer. I don’t have air-conditioning.

With a two storey house heats rises, so unless you can close off and separate the air flow between the two levels, heat will rise overheating the top level. I see old (UK) houses on TV and the old style was to enclose the stairway and add a door to access it, to keep the heat from rising to the top. That was likely to keep the heat downstairs when all heating involved effort (wood chopping, etc) and so heat escaping was considered more than today, when at a flick of a switch, hey-presto, heat.

If your house is like most modern builds, you also likely don’t have internal mass to regulate the temperature inside in winter and summer, keeping the house comfortable inside.

Already done the survey. It’s pretty innocuous, In common with most government surveys that may result in more government spending, it lacks any means of answering the question “What spending should we give up if this new policy will result in increased spending?” Thus we end up with a ratchet were spending always increases.

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