In brief - BASIX scheme aims for greater reduction in water consumption and energy emissions

The NSW government's proposed changes to the BASIX scheme involve a 20%-50% reduction on baseline water consumption and a reduction of up to 50% in energy emissions.

NSW government announces proposed changes to BASIX targets

The Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) scheme was introduced in 2004 as a water and energy efficiency target requirement for all new homes constructed in NSW. 
In December 2013 the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure announced proposed changes to the BASIX targets. The proposed new targets were published for public comment until 31 January 2014, but it appears that significant interest from stakeholders who raised their concerns resulted in an extension for submissions to 14 February 2014. 
Currently BASIX targets require energy and water use reductions of up to 40% on residential developments and 20% on multi-unit residential developments of over six storeys. 
The government's proposed new BASIX targets include increases to the following targets:
  • Water consumption targets - between 20% and 50% reduction on baseline consumption
  • Energy emissions - up to 50% reduction 
  • Thermal comfort (heating and cooling) - an increase of approximately one star equivalent to 5.5 to 6 stars out of 10 under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS)

NSW government's view of benefits of increased BASIX targets

The NSW government claims that the proposed increases to BASIX targets will:
  • bring them in line with national standards
  • create a "fair for all" scheme
  • prepare for the changing climate 
  • provide financial savings by reducing the overall projected price increases for water, electricity and gas
  • ensure that more people benefit from water and energy efficient homes
  • create improved design utilising more energy efficient technology in keeping with current trends
The Allan Consulting Group cost benefit analysis supporting the proposed new BASIX target estimates $1.3 billion in household savings over time, less $794 million increased capital costs for buildings.
Further, the government claims that the average cost of compliance with the proposed new BASIX targets will be $3,322. 

Cost of complying with increased BASIX targets could exceed government estimates

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 January 2014, titled Cost increases as BASIX rule revisions hit homes, claimed that home builders will in fact pay up to $8,000 more in complying with the proposed new BASIX targets. A more detailed analysis claims that the average regional four-bedroom, single-storey home will incur an increased cost from $724 to $8,950, with a more typical five-bedroom, double-storey home incurring a cost of $8,930 from the current $2,645.
Ultimately, the article claims that the increase in costs in complying with the new proposed BASIX targets detrimentally impacts on housing affordability, outweighing the benefits claimed by the NSW government.

Support for efficient use of energy and water

There appears to be a significant number of those in support of the NSW government's proposed new BASIX targets and in fact, some of those supporters have even submitted that the proposed new targets need to go further. 

Proper consideration needs to be given to the benefits sought to be achieved and whether the proposed new BASIX targets can achieve those benefits practically.
It is not uncommon for those who can afford it and have the available space to go beyond the current BASIX requirements to achieve energy efficiency in their homes. However, imposing targets that may impact negatively by restraining housing affordability due to cost or limiting the ability to comply due to land area requires further assessment and the availability of alternatives to achieve those targets.

Efficient water and energy use: financial and practical considerations

By way of example, the upfront cost and physical requirements of a 2,000 litre rainwater tank as opposed to a 10,000 litre underground rainwater tank can raise the following issues:
  • where to locate a 10,000 litre rainwater tank which can be up to 3m in height and diameter
  • the cost of excavation and removal of soil/clay/shale when installing a 10,000 litre rainwater tank underground
  • cost of a 10,000 litre rainwater tank compared to a 2,000 litre tank
  • cost of associated pumps and equipment to achieve the BASIX requirements of the 10,000 litre rainwater tank
  • the overall benefit that would be achieved by the installation of a 10,000 litre rainwater tank compared to a 2,000 litre rainwater tank
Ultimately, the ideal outcome is to achieve a balance between increased water and energy efficiency of residential buildings and overall benefit to the community and environment whilst maintaining housing affordability. What is the perfect balance? 

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2022.

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