Let’s talk about BASIX- the Building Sustainability Index.
Implemented by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, BASIX applies to all residential dwellings and is an important consideration in the development application process in NSW. The index is a kind of benchmark measure for water, energy and thermal comfort levels in homes. By creating an index, the government can also set targets for new homes meet. We can call this target a minimum performance level. The idea is that we can all reduce the amount of water and energy we use.
The targets are expressed as a percentage of the NSW’s current average consumption.
At the moment, the average NSW house uses 90,340 litres of drinking water per person per year. That’s enough water to fill your stylish Caroma Newbury bath about 368 times. If that doesn’t seem like much, remember you have to multiply it by the amount of people living in your house. Oh, and that’s just the water you’re using at home.
For energy, NSW houses are using about 3,292 kg of CO2 per person per year. If you think that number seems tiny, remember that it’s only the part of your CO2 impact that you make at home. Driving your car, energy you consume while at work or anywhere else isn’t counted. Overall, the average Australian creates about 30 t of CO2 per year. The average world citizen only creates about 7 t, so we still have some way to go.
The percentage reduction you have to make to meet your target depends on where you live. For water, anyone building in Sydney will be asked to meet a target reduction of 40%. So, my dwelling would need to be designed in such a way that each person that lives there will be able to reduce their water consumption to 54,204 litres per year (90,340 less 40%).
For energy in Sydney the target is also 40%. The thermal comfort has no reduction target but can greatly influence your score for energy. For example, you could easily solve the problem of how to keep your house cool in summer by installing an air conditioner, but that would raise your energy consumption.
For us, at Bunya, the developer has insisted that we should do more. All the new homes at Bunya are to meet BASIX 50 for water, BASIX 65 for energy and BASIX 40 compliance for thermal comfort.
So how on earth are we going to do that?
Well, like this:
For water we can think about:
- how much landscaping we have and what kind of plants we use
- choosing fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen with higher water efficiencies
- using an alternative water source such as a rainwater tank, stormwater tank, greywater system or private dam
For energy we can:
- choose a more energy efficient hot water system
- install ceiling fans instead of air conditioning
- choose an energy efficient heating system
- improve the way hot air and steam leaves the house by installing exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
- use windows or skylights to provide natural light
- choose energy efficient lights
- install an alternate energy source such as photovoltaic systems
- install a clothes drying line
- ensure the fridge is well ventilated
For thermal comfort we can:
- use materials with good thermal efficiency
- install insulation
- use performance glazing
- provide cross ventilation
- shade windows that receive hot summer sun
Some of these options are more plausible than others, depending on your house design. For example, using brick instead of cladding will work favourably for thermal comfort but having a flat brick wall is not considered aesthetically pleasing by the design review panel. So, we have to make a lot of compromises. You can find out more about BASIX here.
I’ll let you know which things we end up going with.
In the meantime, this cartoon nicely sums up the idea.