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The way Australians can build their homes will change from October this year with changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) introducing a range of new design requirements.
The aim of the changes are to help increase the number of homes that are adaptable and better able to meet the needs of the ageing population and people with mobility limitations.
New home builders, or those undertaking major renovations will have to include things like a 7-star energy rating, accessibility and adaptability for people with disability, natural light, ventilation, and views, fire protection, resistance to natural hazards, use of sustainable materials and construction methods, energy efficiency, and resilience to climate change.
Hotspotting’s Tim Graham was joined by Hermitage Homes General Manager Josh Cunningham on a recent webinar to discuss just how the changes will affect the industry and homeowners.
- Energy efficiency is key
- Reveals the design changes to improve accessibility
- He suggests home builders should sign up before the changes take effect
- It’s going to cost considerably more to build in the future
SIGN YOUR CONTRACT BEFORE THE CHANGES COME INTO EFFECT
Cunningham says not all states are adopting these changes immediately and the full extent of which initiatives will be rolled out in October will not be finalised before May 2023.
“Any contracts that are essentially signed past that October point will have to adhere to whatever the new NCC changes are,” he says.
“So, If anyone’s looking to be building, they should really be getting into it now. Anything that’s signed beforehand (before October 31, 2023), we’re under the understanding that they’ll be grandfathered. After October, then obviously the new requirements have to come into play.”
DESIGN CHANGES TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY
“Some of the major changes that are going to be coming in for the accessibility standards, include designs like wider doors and wider hallways,” Cunningham says.
He says at least one bathroom has to meet accessibility standards, homes need step free entry and reinforced walls to allow for future grab rails.
The widening is to ensure wheelchair access in the house.
“The step-free entry is something that’s going to be very difficult for people or builders in particular to comply with, if you are building on a block with a lot of fall, it’s going to be very difficult to make that a step-free entry,” Cunningham says.
WHAT WON’T CHANGE
While homes will need to be more wheelchair accessible, Cunningham says there are not requirements to make everything in the house wheelchair friendly, such as kitchen bench heights.
“It’s more geared towards the aging demographic,” he says.
He predicts design changes in standard size homes won’t take too much away from living spaces, but says smaller designs will lose space to accommodate the new regulations.
“There’ll be definitely design changes and some potential designs that won’t be able to come into the market anymore based on these changes that are coming through from the NCC.”
It will affect all builders as plans will have to factor in inclusions which were not previously mandatory.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS KEY
“The -7-star energy ratings are something that are giving us the biggest nightmares,” Cunningham says.
Essentially builders have to reduce carbon emissions with new homes under the scheme. The whole home will need to offset the standard carbon emissions to be expected from a standard home by ensuring all of the appliances, lightings and things like swimming pool pumps are energy efficient.
Builders will need to take into account the heat transfer from the frame of the home to inside of the home and this could affect whether timber or steel frames are used.
Cunninghams says picking the right housing lot will also become important.
“We’re going to have to make sure that it complies for each particular lot as to where the shading is going to be, where the sunlight is going to come in and a number of different things. So, selecting your housing lot is going to be one of the most important things for anyone.”
IT WILL COST MORE
“These changes will have a fairly dramatic effect on the cost to build,” Cunningham says.
“If you currently have a two-star rated home, you could put $5000 into the home and you could probably get to a five-star rating. But the further we go along the rating system, the more cost you have to put into the home to increase the star rating.”
This is because moving further up the star ratings means total redesigns of the house may be required.