Energy efficiency is compulsory for refits and new buildings

In May 2006, the Australian Building Code 2006 (BCA 2006) set compulsory standards for energy efficiency for refits and new commercial buildings, such as artificial lighting and how well the building is sealed.

If you're refitting a commercial office building, shop or other retail building, or a wholesale building, your building permit will need to comply.

Improving your building's efficiency

According to a 2006 Green Building Council study, building an energy efficient building could help you save, and make money.

Green buildings:

  • use 60% less water and energy
  • produce higher rents (5 to 10% increase)
  • increase productivity, wellbeing and decrease staff turnover

There are many ways to improve your building's efficiency:

  • Buy energy efficient equipment such as water-efficient commercial dishwashers.
  • Install the water heater near your hot water tap, as well as add flow-control valves to all your taps.
  • Add better insulation to the roof, walls, windows, and if possible, the floor.
  • Find other ways to improve how the building handles extremes of heat or cold (thermal efficiency);
    • a professional thermal assessment of the planned refit could create significant long-term savings, especially for buildings with high-energy use for heating or cooling, such as an industrial kitchen that cooks, then freezes large amounts of food.
  • Install energy efficient lighting, heating or cooling, make use of natural light and where practical, use motion detectors to control lights.
  • Install water tanks.
  • Collect solar energy.
  • Recycle water and organic waste.
  • Choose your materials carefully by using salvaged material if possible, and avoid some timbers.

Finding professional help

Your task for a new building is to find an architect or a master builder who understands how to design a practical and energy-efficient building.

This is a specialist skill and they'll need up-to-date knowledge of materials (and perhaps equipment and appliances), as well as the BCA 2006 building code for energy efficient commercial refits and new buildings.

Contact an industry association for architects or builders, or visit Green Finder. While Green Finder lists a multitude of eco-friendly tradespeople and materials, new specialist green industry associations are forming. Some (not all) require members stay up-to-date with new products and techniques as a condition of membership.

Many local councils now support sustainable building design, and the building department's section of their websites are also worth checking out for support.

Green building associations include:

Sourcing the right building materials

Ecospecifier is the Australian industry standard for products and services to help architects, designers and builders source eco-friendly and healthy materials.

It's also a reference guide for new technologies, such as a new ceramic paint additive that cuts heat by up to 40% when mixed with exterior paint.

Checking your equipment

Visit the following websites to check if your equipment is energy efficient: