Doctors are calling for double-glazing to be made mandatory as residents reach for blankets and Australia enters the coldest months of the year.
Overseas, glass standards for insulation were mandatory in most European countries with the strongest rules found in Poland, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.
New or replacement windows in Europe have to have a u-value or thermal transmittance—the lower the rating, the better the insulation—generally between 1 to 3W/m²K. The standard glass aluminium framed window in Australia at 12.7 unless otherwise specified.
The current minimum thermal standard, a six-star NatHERS energy rating (out of a possible 10), was “not sufficient” enough for buildings to maintain heat and more is needed to be done by developers to lower energy costs in the long run.
According to the National Construction Code: “A six-star rating was the minimum standard in most states and territories. It indicated good, but not outstanding, thermal performance” .
The cold feeling at home for most Australians was compounded by almost-half of office employees working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Science commentator Karl Kruszelnicki said the trouble for developers and owners was that they were fighting with economies of scale.
“We need to change the law like they did in California, where they made double glazing compulsory and as a result, because of the massive production of double glazing, after a year double glazing was cheaper than single glazing,” Kruszelnicki said on Triple J science hour.
“It was a bit rocky for one year but after that everyone benefited for the life of the house.
“People in Australia say you don’t need double glazing because we live in a temperate climate and Europeans come here and say, ‘I’ve never been as cold in my home country of Iceland as I am here in your country in winter’ that’s because our houses are built to incredibly poor standards.”
University of South Australia research fellow Stephen Berry said the standards set for Australia’s residential buildings were simply not sufficient for the climate in which they were built—whatever the season.
“With so many people spending such large amounts of time in their homes right now, I think many of them are realising the high cost and low comfort of inefficient housing,” Berry said.
“If your home hasn’t been built to sufficiently keep out the cold, this winter, perhaps more than any other in most people’s lives, you’re going to feel it, either in your hip pocket or in your bones.”
Positioning windows to allow the sun to warm a house in winter while blocking it out in the summertime, as well as allowing adequate cross ventilation for passive cooling were among the research fellow’s recommendations to developers.
Berry said the problem was Australia’s currently lax building regulations mean most new dwellings did not go far enough in following those basic guidelines, while many older dwellings were even worse.
“The current minimum of six-star energy rating for new homes is well below most other developed nations, and does nothing to encourage owners, builders and developers to embrace really efficient housing design,” Berry said.