Stepwise energy improvements waste time and money Aus industry expert says, bake it in from the beginning

22 November 2023 by Jason Quinn

Neil Savery had a 20 year career with the Australian Building Codes Board, nine years as its CEO. Let’s say that gives him some perspective, and industry experience worth listening to. In a story on Fifth Estate, he’s quoted as saying that Australia would have done better to ‘bake in’ the highest energy codes into its building standards from the start instead of the incremental slow creep approach it is taking. 

It’s just as applicable here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our planned stepwise change to the energy code is stepwise because it’s politically expedient, not because it is the best way to proceed. It would be cheaper in terms of total costs and savings to transition straight from our current energy hogging homes to nearly zero energy homes—in one big step. This means industry can re-tool once instead of at each step. And it brings about the savings and benefits sooner.

This is true for industry as a whole: the transition would need better planning but be less expensive. It’s also true for each building. It is better to jump to the end goal. The exception is retrofits; but they need each step to be compatible with the EnerPHit end goal. 

It takes volume to lower the costs of components and new methods of design or construction. New Zealand’s current stepwise approach means retooling multiple times. We will get to the same point at the end but it will cost a lot more.

Some improvements take legislation to bring about. Believe it or not, industry once lobbied against seatbelts as they would make driving cars less enjoyable and add cost. I do remember lobbying against fitting cars with airbags.


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