New 5 Star Energy Efficiency Rating is Ridiculous for Queensland

One of the challenges that we face living in such a large and diverse country as Australia is that national standards don’t serve the entire nation. I read an article a while ago about a new 5 Star Energy Efficiency Rating system for new homes and thought that the methods they were using sounded a bit crazy for us up here in the tropics. I wasn’t alone in that analysis as the Queensland Government has decided not to implement that standard in Queensland according to an article I read tonight in our free local weekly paper The Sun – part the Townsville Bulletin.

I do all that I can to make my house energy efficient. Our hot water is not too hot, I use the Air Conditioner as little as possible, our walls are insulated to reflect the heat and we will be insulating our roof with a reflective paint when we have the new roof installed over our deck. The problem with the new 5 Star Rating is that it is written with recommendations for down South in Australia, where it is much colder and they have a very different climate.

Some of the recommendations in the standards are for smaller windows and less natural ventilation. This is crazy for up here where many of the houses depend on large windows and as much natural ventilation as possible to cool the homes. Right now the coolest place in the house (and believe me, our biggest desire up here is to cool the house, not heat it) is the office area where there are two full walls of louvers to let the breeze in. These louvers are fairly new, so once we get our main living area air-conditioner installed they will provide a fairly good seal as well when they are closed to keep the cold inside when it’s just too hot.

My ideal situation would be a house with high cathedral style ceilings and louvers at the peak to allow the hot air to escape and provide plenty of natural ventilation. This combined with plenty of louvers, insulation, overhead fans, window glazing and good exterior shading would provide a house that would remain naturally cool without having to rely too much on the air conditioner.

I was in a fantastic example of a house like this in Fairfield Waters. It is the Fairfield Waters GreenSmart display home and the natural cooling was good enough that when I walked in the house in the middle of summer I was sure the air conditioner was on, but of course it wasn’t. This home would not meet the new 5 Star rating, but for the climate up here it was great.

In Victory these regulations will increase building costs by about 6% or $15,000.
By 2020 the regulations will cost $31.3 billion dollars and contribute only 0.8% of Australia’s greenhouse gas abatement
These standards would virtually eliminate timber floors and replace them with concrete slabs

2 Replies to “New 5 Star Energy Efficiency Rating is Ridiculous for Queensland”

  1. John

    I’m not too familiar with the climate in your part of the world, but a lot of the cooling features you list are popular in traditonal Southern homes. Even in the hotest part of the summer (80% humidity and 90-100+ degrees Fahrenheit, what is that, 50’ish degree Celcius?), our house is 15-20 degress cooler without the AC running. We’re hoping that we’ll only need to use the AC for 2 months out of the year.

    Thanks for the link to Fairfield too. Cool site.

  2. Bill Hutchison Post author

    I have worked with a few people here from the Southern US and from what they’ve told me the climate is quite similar. The temperatures and humidity sound almost identical (35C is 95F). I suspect that the cooling features probably would be quite similar.

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