Energy efficiency crucial
Our new home is almost complete, but the builder wants us to select awnings or screens for some of our windows that were not part of the original plans. The cost of the screen is quite high, but the builder insists he must install them as they are required for energy efficiency. Are they necessary?
When six-star energy efficiency was adopted in WA in 2012, it was a big step from the previous five-star compliance requirements, often requiring additional insulation of walls, ceilings, and floors, high performance glazing, and additional shading of windows.
Our love of open-plan designs and lots of light in our home means that calculating compliance with the minimum six-star requirements is more difficult with smaller homes with smaller windows, and zoned living with walls and doors creating controlled spaces.
Six-star has increased the cost of construction, but welcomed the end-user benefit of a more energy efficient home — when used effectively. By not installing the required screens, your home will not be compliant with the approved plans and minimum six-star requirements.
The builder cannot lodge the required notice of completion to the council without installing the screens or awnings, as he has not complied with the approved plans issued with the building permit.
The option for your builder is to lodge a notice of cessation, which advises the council the building is incomplete and at what stage the construction ceased, meaning you will need to obtain a separate building permit to complete your home compliant with all applicable building standards.
The two options moving forward are:
■ You have the screens installed, as per your approval.
■ You have the energy-efficient compliance of the design reviewed to see what other design inclusions may provide the same size-star outcome without the screens.
Because most homes are assessed using thermal calculation software, the building works holistically to achieve the required efficiency rating.
This may be overcome with additional ceiling insulation or higher-performing glazing (which might be more expensive option than installing awnings at the stage).
The approved plans for your home would have been adjusted to meet the required building standards (thus including the awnings, not part of the original design) and will include the details of the person that completed the energy efficiency report.
Discussing your home with them in the first instance will give you an idea of why these screens were required, and what other options might be available.
If you choose to proceed with making the changes, a new assessment is required, and your builder will need to update the documentation originally approved by the permit authority (council).
It is important to note that any changes to the fabric of the building such as installing a patio, removing attachments, or modifying the openings (windows and doors being removed or made larger) of a building constructed after May 1, 2004, may impact its compliance with energy efficiency and will likely require assessment and approval.