Scotland sets example for new building performance Commit to an outcome and the rest will follow

22 May 2023 by Jason Quinn

Commit to the outcome then work out how to get there, argues Andy Marlow, a leading Australian Passive House designer and former APHA board member. In a recent essay on The Fifth Estate, he highlights how the Scots decided all new builds needed to perform to the Passive House standard—before working how what it would cost or how to pay for it. Does that sound reckless or inspirational? What could Australia and New Zealand learn from this?

Andy presents some compelling arguments about the inaccuracies of cost-benefit analyses and how relying on them underestimates human creativity and the adaptability of business*. 

Politics makes everything harder. We’ve already witnessed intense lobbying from feet-dragging parts of the building sector, who successfully postponed the introduction of much needed improvements in building thermal performance. 

Andy’s opinion re applicability to Australia is equally valid for New Zealand: “The Scottish sequence of events may hold the key to policy success: decide and agree [on] the policy outcome and then return to work out how to pay for it later. ” We’ve done this at the top level in New Zealand but MBIE’s Building for Climate Change programme has gotten wound around the axle. It’s been in place for years but we still don’t have performance numbers for operational energy and embodied carbon. Without the policy outcome, it’s pretty hard to figure out what it’ll cost or how to pay for it.

As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice,  if you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.

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