Energy efficiency in commercial buildings is incredibly important. Green buildings can reduce power costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions and help to project an eco-friendly image for owners and tenants. But it’s not just customer demand driving the construction of sustainable and energy efficient buildings.
Certain regulatory requirements help to ensure that commercial buildings in Australia are designed and built to the appropriate environmental standards. A Section J Report is one such regulatory requirement.
What is a Section J Report?
As part of the National Construction Code (NCC), the Australian Government has outlined a set of requirements to ensure that commercial buildings meet a base level of sustainability and energy efficiency.
Section J of the NCC requires construction companies to provide evidence that they have met the energy efficiency standards for Class 3-9 buildings (and in some cases common areas of Class 2 buildings). These include apartment buildings, commercial residential buildings, office buildings, retail buildings, industrial buildings, schools, hospitals and other public buildings, carparks, and so on.
The main point of a Section J Report is to ensure that the material, design and construction of these buildings meets the energy efficiency requirements as laid out in Section J of the NCC. The report is aimed at ensuring all Class 3-9 buildings are contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through reduced energy consumption, as well as the promotion of energy efficient systems and passive heating/cooling techniques.
When is a Section J Report required?
A Section J Report is required prior to the construction of all non-residential (commercial) buildings that fall between Classes 3-9. The Report is also required for building extensions and refurbishments.
The report is required on construction projects in all states in Australia and is generally required when applying for a development application or construction certificate application.
Ideally, the report will be completed during the design phase of the project. This will allow for time to rectify any non-compliant design elements without the cost and hassle of having to reorder materials to make changes to a build that is already underway.
Who performs a Section J Report?
Section J Reports are conducted by qualified and experienced energy efficiency consultants. Consultants carrying out the reports must have an in-depth knowledge of the relevant energy efficiency measures for a building’s major mechanical and electrical systems, as well as understanding the thermal properties of building fabrics and insulating materials.
What does the report look for?
The Report looks at a range of factors that affect a building’s energy efficiency, power consumption and thermal performance. These factors include insulation, building fabric, external glazing performance, building sealing, air-conditioning and ventilation performance, artificial lighting and power performance, heated water supply and maintenance access to systems.
Section J compliance is assessed against the following categories as laid out in the NCC:
- J1: Building Fabric – Roof and ceiling construction, roof lights, walls and floors
The area between the interior and exterior of the building must meet the minimum R-Value requirements for insulation.
- J2: Glazing – includes shading
All glazing and shading must meet the Building Code of Australia (BCA) glazing allowances to minimise unwanted heat loss and gain and allow for natural flow of light and appropriate ventilation.
- J3: Building Sealing – Chimneys and flues, roof lights, external windows and doors, exhaust fans, roof construction, walls and floor
Appropriate sealing is required to limit unwanted air leakage in and out of buildings, improve the control of air flow and reduce the reliance on heating and cooling systems.
- J4: Air Movement – Generally not applicable to a Section J Report, but may be included in the Report
Natural air movement through a building can provide passive cooling benefits and reduce reliance on cooling systems.
- J5: Air-conditioning and Ventilation Systems – Mechanical ventilation, ductwork, time switches, heating and cooling systems.
Full details of air conditioning and ventilation systems are required to determine the effectiveness and energy efficiency of the systems.
- J6: Artificial Lighting and Power – Interior artificial lighting and power control, decorative lighting, external lighting, boiling and chilled water storage units.
Full details of artificial lighting systems and water heating and chilling systems are required to determine the effectiveness and energy efficiency of the systems.
- J7: Hot Water Supply, Swimming Pool and Spa Pool Plant
Heated water systems must be assessed for energy efficiency as well as sanitation. Pool and spa plants must also meet the relevant energy efficiency standards.
- J8: Access for Maintenance and Monitoring Facilities
All plant, equipment and components must be accessible for maintenance and monitoring.
Once a qualified energy efficiency consultant has assessed all aspects of the design, the building can be issued with an approved Section J Report.