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Sustainable Buildings SEPP

A new policy called State Environmental Planning Policy (Sustainable Buildings) 2022 came into effect on 1 October 2023. This policy, repeals and replaces the former State Environmental Planning Policy (BASIX) 2004.

BASIX provisions have been retained as part of the new policy, meaning that as part of the planning approval process, all new homes and renovations over $50,000 must provide a BASIX Certificate, demonstrating that the design meets the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) requirements for energy, water use and thermal performance.

The NSW Government has increased the standards for energy use and thermal performance in homes, which is consistent with proposed increases to the National Construction Code. A new BASIX Materials Index has been incorporated into the BASIX certification process to assess the embodied emissions of construction materials used to build each home. Applicants will be asked to enter some additional information about the development so that the BASIX online tool can calculate and report on embodied emissions in key building materials. The BASIX online tool has been upgraded and integrated with the Planning Portal.

The old BASIX SEPP did not apply to non-residential buildings. As part of the new SEPP:

- non-residential standards for energy and water have been introduced

- applicants must consider, early in the design process, how the project will avoid dependence on fossil fuels and be capable of operating at net zero emissions.

- disclosure of the embodied emissions of key materials will be required

The non-residential provisions have different applications depending on the building type. All new non-residential development with a capital investment value over $5 million and any renovation with a capital investment value over $10 million must consider general and embodied emissions provisions.

In addition, state significant development under Schedules 13-15 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Planning Systems) 2022 - health, education and cultural institutions - must demonstrate that they are capable of operating without fossil fuels by 2035. There are also energy and water standards that only apply to large commercial development, defined as follows:

- Offices with a net lettable area greater than 1,000 square metres

- Hotels and motels with more than 100 rooms

- Serviced apartments with more than 100 apartments

Large commercial developments also need to demonstrate net zero capacity and offset any onsite fossil fuel use and any performance gap in operational energy. There are specific exclusions, including land zoned rural, industrial, environmental conservation and waterways. The policy does not apply to non-residential development that is for the purposes of infrastructure or is considered exempt and complying development.

In NSW there are currently no consistent sustainability provisions for that consent authorities can refer to when assessing non-residential buildings. To address this, the new Sustainable Buildings SEPP asks consent authorities to consider how the building will:

- minimise waste from associated demolition and construction, including choice and reuse of building materials

- reduce in peak demand for electricity, including through the use of energy efficient technology

- generate and store renewable energy

- reduce reliance on artificial lighting and mechanical heating and cooling through passive design

- meter and monitor energy consumption

- minimise consumption of potable water

Development consent must not be granted to non-residential development unless the consent authority is satisfied the embodied emissions attributable to the development have been quantified.

As can be seen above, there are relatively few changes to residential development requirements, as a BASIX Certificate will still be required (albeit with some changes to the standards and process), although there are now additional layers of regulation with regard to energy and water use in many non-residential buildings.

The NSW Government has produced a factsheet on the new policy, which can be found at this link.

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