Tim Renouf (comments printed) June 12, 2020 at 11:29 am
As a consequence of COVID-19, natural ventilation is being presented as being vital for dispersal and dissipation of the viral load in air of enclosed spaces, for human health and safety.
In relation to housing, it appears to me that the Residential Building Energy Provisions in the NCC are going to have to be reconstructed. It will surely be necessary to swiftly halt and independently review the foundational principle of House Energy Ratings, which are anchored on sealed non-ventilated energy tight building fabrics, and which are artificially heated and refrigeratively cooled.
It seems very strange that the ABCB and states who produce the NCC have made no media release or instigated open public discussion about this pivotal issue, that COVID-19 has forced greater occupation of residential properties, and accordingly indoor air quality must be radically reconsidered.
Since 2003 when energy efficiency provisions were introduced into the Building Code of Australia, NatHERS (owned by CSIRO) has never provided a alternate free-running natural ventilation mode, a mode highly appropriate for extensive winter less climates across Australia. Its about time that the BCA-NCC re calibrates energy ratings in order to finally recognize the obvious energy savings and obvious health benefits from natural ventilation. The human body is remarkably adaptable to climatic variation if given the chance and opportunity.
As revealed by Dr Terry Williamson way back in 2000, many case studies were presented showing naturally ventilated houses with low energy use, recording very low or zero house star ratings. NatHERS was flawed then and remains so today. This specific subject is explained within a 2019 documented TIMELINE history of the insulation industry 1952-2019 http://www.afica.org.au – go to REPORTS, search time period 2000.
Regarding indoor air quality, COVID-19 risk reduction dovetails with reducing condensation and consequent mould formation.
It is worth recalling that a September 2016 Condensation Scoping Study (Drewsbury, Law) for the ABCB, revealed that increasing insulation levels from rising HERS star ratings from 2004, coupled with increasing air sealing and energy tightness of housing, paralleled with increasing incidence of condensation, which then can lead to life threatening mould.
The 2016 report recommended increased breathing and ventilation of housing structures, and to commence a national research program into condensation. The program never started. The ABCB remained silent.
The severe dangers of COVID-19 requires the ABCB to rapidly engage with the public, and to discuss the need for natural ventilation in housing wherever feasible. Additionally the ABCB must suspend the NCC 2022 intention to go to 7 Star HERS level. At no stage since 2003 have the BCA-NCC building energy efficiency regulations been correctly validated by real house energy use, across the broad sweep of Australian climatic variation.
As a member of AIRAH and active in the aluminium foil insulation industry since 1985, these regulations require a thorough independent review.