Posted on November 18, 2021 by Stuart Simington

ALERT: BASIX Higher Standards on Public Exhibition

Proposed increases to Building Sustainability Index (‘BASIX‘) requirements have just been released by the DPIE for public consultation (‘Higher Standards‘). The consultation period closes on 17 January 2022.

BASIX is a scheme created by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 and State Environmental Planning Policy (Building Sustainability Index: BASIX) 2004 which aims to improve the environmental sustainability of residential developments in NSW. It requires certain development applications to be accompanied by a list of environmental sustainability commitments in a certificate issued by the Planning Secretary. This certificate certifies that the proposed development meets the Government’s requirements for sustainability, which currently relate to mains-supplied potable water consumption, thermal efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions (see here for details). If a development consent or complying development certificate is given to the application, the applicant is legally required to fulfil those commitments when carrying out the development.

The Higher Standards propose to increase the standards for energy efficiency and thermal performance for all new residential developments, except for apartment buildings of up to five storeys and homes in the North Coast climate zones.

The Higher Standards are said to be consistent with the NSW Government’s Net Zero Plan (2020), proposed changes to the National Construction Code (from 2022), and the federally agreed Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings (2019).

The DPIE claims that the Higher Standards will result in ‘cheaper energy bills‘, ‘more comfortable homes‘, and ‘fewer carbon emissions‘. More precisely, the DPIE expects that the Higher Standards will save an average of 150,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year (approximately 7–11% of current energy usage) and increase the average NatHERS (Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme) ratings from 5.5–6 to 7 stars out of 10.

The cost of complying with the Higher Standards for developers is modelled to be $7,152 for the average home. However, the energy efficiency of these homes is modelled to save homeowners $845 in 2022 and $7,200 over 12 years. Further details are explained in a Cost Benefit Analysis report accompanying the Higher Standards.

Also accompanying the Higher Standards is a Frequently Asks Questions document which further explains the proposed changes. The document foreshadows other BASIX-related changes which the NSW Government intends to integrate with its proposed Design and Place SEPP. These are:

  • A new BASIX materials index to assess the embodied greenhouse gas emissions of the material used to build a home.
  • Rebuilding and integrating the BASIX Tool with the Planning Portal (a sandbox version of which is currently available to test).
  • Updated BASIX methodologies.
  • A new ‘merit assessment pathway‘ by which a recognised professional can complete a sustainability assessment of a proposed development using accredited modelling software and submit it with a development application as an alternative to a BASIX assessment.

The DPIE has foreshadowed that BASIX requirements will be reviewed ‘every few years‘ to meet the the State’s net zero objectives.

The proposed BASIX changes come as the Planning Minister has been reported announcing that commercial buildings will be required to operate with net zero emissions from 2022.

Evidently, climate policy as it relates to the building sector is in a  state of flux. We will continue monitoring and reporting on significant changes as they come.

The Higher Standards can be seen by following this link. You can make a submission and find out more by following this link.

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please leave a comment below or contact Stuart Simington on 02 8235 9704 or Lachlan Penninkilampi on 02 8235 9719.