When you begin the building approval process you will come across a lot of building jargon in relation to certificates, approvals and processes that you may have never heard about before.
BASIX is one of those words that for many can seem like a financially daunting and confusing process. But it shouldn’t be. BASIX was designed to work for you by lowering the cost of your water and electricity bills by providing a minimum level of thermal comfort.
What is BASIX?
BASIX is the Building Sustainability Index created by the NSW Government in 2004 as a planning measure to reduce household electricity and water usage. It aims to implement environmentally friendly solutions to sustainable living.
BASIX sets minimum targets that every new home must meet. When you begin the building application process your architectural plans will be submitted to a BASIX consultant who will complete an assessment in order to receive a BASIX Certificate.
What is involved with the assessment?
When your plans are assessed the consultant will analyse the details of your new home and score them against energy and water targets. As BASIX has been around since 2004 many draftsmen will take the initiative and design your home around basic BASIX compliant parameters such as orientation, window placement, the use of water tanks, eaves and window shadings, etc.
The aim here is to let winter sun in, to reduce heating requirements, and to keep the summer sun out, to reduce cooling requirements. In Australia where our summers are becoming increasingly warmer, the ability for a house to stay cooler for longer, without the need of active cooling units, is incredibly important.
During the assessment the BASIX consultant may come back to your builder with a list of adjustments that will need to be made to comply with the minimum targets. Many of these are minor adjustments such as choosing a lighter roof colour or choosing water-saving showerheads, taps and dual-flush toilets.
A professional builder will have BASIX friendly items such as water saving showerheads and tapware as part of their standard inclusions.
How to achieve BASIX targets without the exorbitant price tag?
While having a green, sustainable home would be wonderful, many of us cannot afford the high price tag associated with building one.
Here are some suggestions that can help you achieve BASIX targets without breaking the bank.
- Talk to your draftsman or architect about design features such as orientation, size and placement of windows, building materials and eaves
- Choose energy efficient heating and cooling options if required
- Install whirlybirds to expel the hot air collected in roof cavities
- Insulate ceilings and walls. If your budget allows look at upgrading insulation especially to exterior walls that may be westerly facing
- Choose light coloured external building materials e.g. roofs, bricks and cladding
- Choose native plants when landscaping to reduce water requirements
- Ensure rainwater can be collected and stored to be used in toilets, watering gardens, and attached to laundry taps.
- Water saving shower-heads, taps and dual-flush toilets
- If you have a pool make sure a pool cover is installed and top the water levels up with the collected rainwater from your water tank.
What can good BASIX targets do?
It is important to think about the environmental conditions in which you live. In most parts of Australia having a dark roof colour, which absorbs heat, is not ideal on a 40 degree summer day.
Unfortunately many Developers see a dark roof as aesthetically appealing so will stipulate in their design requirements that for a home to obtain approval they must have a dark roof; irrespective of the negative implications this can have on cooling costs in the summer months.
With the current attention on climate change, some Developers are bucking the dark roof trend and are enforcing light coloured roofs in their estates. Most recently, in the local Macarthur area of Sydney, the new Wilton Development Control Plan has introduced improved standards for backyard sizes to facilitate trees, front gardens and lighter colour palettes to help reduce the urban heat island effect.
The urban heat island effect is a term you may hear about during the summer months where new housing developments have higher thermal temperatures than older, more established suburbs. This is because new housing developments often have lots of hard, dark surfaces such as roofs, concreted areas, roads, AstroTurf, etc. which hold high levels of heat for longer periods of time.
When Developers, builders and home owners follow minimum BASIX targets they can greatly improve not only the thermal comfort and sustainability of their own home but also the areas in which they live.