Who do you ask about the new lighting requirements?
Back in October we were contacted by a reader from regional New South Wales, frustrated with trying to find information on the new energy efficient requirements featured in the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
The changes, as seen in Section J of the BCA, limit lighting in domestic dwellings to 5W/m². Further, they extend beyond simple luminaires and can provide additional energy offset opportunities for informed electrical contractors, such as allowing for extra general power outlets for reading lamps or feature lighting, the use of dimmers, motion controllers and other energy management solutions.
However, since their release and adoption there hasn’t been a lot of information available on how to apply these changes in a practical setting.
The reader, who has 50+ years of experience as an electrician and is a prominent member of industry associations, says he has tried many times to contact manufacturers and lighting designers throughout the state for more information about the changes, but none of them know anything, or aren’t willing to discuss the issue.
“I have the distinct impression that lighting agents (designers and manufacturers’ representatives) have never heard of the BCA, and many in NSW possibly think it will simply go away,” he says.
“I’ve also been mentioning the changes to other local contractors, who say they will just make a provision for more lighting after the building has passed inspection.
“One house just built in Singleton has about a dozen QI downlights on the front of the house under the eaves, with two just for lighting the roof of a portico.
“On the other hand, just before Christmas last year I installed an exhaust fan in a bathroom for a family that was prevented from installing it when the house was being constructed due to the need to meet BASIX requirements.”
In light of this letter, we contacted the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure to get to the bottom of the confusion.
A representative of the Department said: “In NSW, BASIX requirements apply to residential development (Class 1, 2 and 4 only) instead of most of the energy efficiency provisions of the BCA (Part J of Volume One and Part 3.12 of Volume Two). The efficiency measures of Part J and Part 3.12 have been varied in NSW to support and complement BASIX requirements.”
However, according to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure’s website, in the section ‘How do I use lighting to increase my energy score?’, “Installing fluorescent lamps in high-use rooms, such as bedrooms, living areas and hallways will achieve a higher score than rooms with lower use, such as the laundry.”
That’s hardly what you’d call practical or detailed. Or useful. Further, the information provided to us by the Department would appear to be wrong.
Gary Busbridge is standardisation manager for Clipsal by Schneider Electric. He says the BCA is mandatory in each state and that means everyone must abide by the national code in all aspects of building.
“BASIX is a tool to provide the NSW State Government with a predetermination that the residence is a sustainable dwelling in terms of water usage, insulation and the use of fluorescent lighting predominantly throughout the residence. “The BCA requirements for lighting are still required to be complied with above the BASIX certification.”
Gary explains that this is also the case in Queensland where there is a similar sustainability requirement for certification.
So where can you turn for information? While the lack of information isn’t a problem exclusive to NSW, it appears to be one of the worst offenders. In other states, particularly Victoria, the local chapter of NECA has stepped up to offer training and advice to local contractors, designers and consumers. (visit http://neca.vic.asn.au for more details)
In the meantime, we will continue to bring you practical information on how to use these changes to your benefit.