The requirement to accurately rate our homes for energy efficiency has meant rapid changes in the way structures are designed and built. It’s also become a societal expectation – that the environment, energy efficiency, sustainability and cost-effectiveness be not just a consideration when building, but a central concern.
In 2016, CSIRO developed software to allow designers and architects to model, measure and compare the energy efficiency of house designs. Software products such as AccuRate – a package that uses CSIRO’s complex Chenath ‘calculation engine’ – are behind the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), which is used to give a star rating out of 10 based on an estimate of a home’s potential energy use. NatHERS is administered by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy on behalf of the states and territories, and aims ‘to make Australian homes more comfortable for their inhabitants and help residents to save on energy bills through smarter design choices’.
The AccuRate program is used to rate the compliance of residential dwellings with the minimum building fabric energy efficiency required by the National Construction Code of Australia. The code applies to all new homes, and major renovations and extensions. A new user manual for the AccuRate software was released in 2018, designed to help both first-time and experienced assessors using the program to assess compliance with the code.
Beyond compliance, software such as AccuRate is used to optimise sustainable design throughout Australia. The program is the result of decades of Australian experience and research in house energy modelling, and was found by the International Energy Agency BESTEST to compare well with eight reference programs from the United States and Europe.