Victorian Chapter Advocacy Update

As we race towards the end of year, we continue to drive the key advocacy initiatives on behalf of our members in particular clarification on COVID-19 restrictions.

Clarification on COVID-19 restrictions from 28 October and beyond

Many of our members who undertake architectural work for residential upgrades are keen to hear when they can recommence visits to new clients at the client’s premises.

Under current Step 3 arrangements, Cleaners and Tradespeople can enter a person’s house and up to two people per day from one other household can visit another household socially. However, the permission to visit occupied residential premises by an architect prior to the commencement of a construction project is not detailed anywhere.

The Institute has written to Business Victoria and is engaging in dialogue with relevant government bodies to attempt to gain clarification on this important issue. We will update members on significant changes to permitted activities in Victoria as information becomes available.

In the move to Step 3, there are no longer limits to worker numbers or restrictions on the number of construction sites specialist consultants may visit. This should allow Architects to return to more normal site visit and inspection activity subject to the CovidSafe plan in place for the construction site.

CONSULTATION ON AN INDUSTRY-LED ROADMAP FOR QUALITY CONTROL AND SAFETY IN THE INSTALLATION OF INSULATION IN BUILDINGS

The appropriate installation of insulation into buildings is considered one of the most cost-effective means to reduce greenhouse emissions and reduce health and social impacts in our built environment. The Energy Efficiency Council consultation interim report states: ‘It is estimated that around 3,000 Australians die during periods of hot and cold weather each year, and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have cold-associated mortality rates that are far higher than Stockholm in Sweden.”

A study in New Zealand suggested that ‘each dollar that had been spent on their insultation retrofit program delivered a benefit-cost ratio of 3.6 to 1 for retrofits to the homes of the general population, and a ratio of 7 to 1 for the retrofit to the homes of low-income households.”

The Government of New South Wales, Government of Victoria, Insulation Australasia (IA) and the Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand (ICANZ) have engaged a project team to develop an industry-led roadmap to ensure that insulation is installed in Australia in a manner that is safe and delivers quality outcomes. The project team consists of the Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC). A current consultation outlines a range of proposed solutions. The scope of the paper includes new building works, major building renovations and retrofitting to existing residential dwellings. Victorian Chapter representatives participated in a consultation on 20 October.

Overall, quality control and safety in the installation of insulation is an important concern. The correct installation of the optimum insulation product serves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve health risks in relation to extreme weather conditions, reduce moisture which can degrade building elements and create mould hazards, and improve comfort and perceived wellbeing experienced in various forms of housing.

In the consultation discussion insulation product approval /certification, the training and accrediting of installers at different levels installation inspection and quality controls were all discussed. One particular issue considered at length is how to increase the number of accredited and trained assessors and installers via regulatory and or incentivisation mechanisms. Examples of government approaches taken in Germany, USA, New Zealand and Ireland were considered.

The installation of insulation is not currently part of a formal building inspection and consideration should be given for this to be included as a formal inspection If we wish to benefit from its use. Poorly installed or omitted insulation has a dramatic impact on reduced thermal performance of a building and is difficult to detect errors or omissions in installation once walls are sheeted.

The Institute also suggested that the environmental benefits of insulation needed to adopt a full lifecycle approach. This includes addressing the current removal and disposal of older insulation products that may have been installed 40 years ago as owners undertake insulation retrofitting and upgrades.

The consultation was greatly assisted by the representation of the Chapter’s Sustainable Architecture Forum (SAF), and the Victorian Chapter extends its appreciation to the SAF Chair, Nadine Samaha for her time and expertise provided to the consultation.

FEDERAL BUDGET 2020 FOLLOW-UP

The Institute’s Victorian Chapter has identified an opportunity in the 2020 Federal Budget initiative that has extended a scheme to subsidise the wages of apprentices and trainees by up to 50% or $7000 per quarter until September 2021. This scheme is currently primarily targeted to apprentices and trainees who concurrently undertake a Vocation Education and Training (VET) qualification. The Institute is now pursuing this as a matter of national interest to broaden the scope of the initiative to include architecture graduates and students who are working towards their registration. The Institute has written to and already received a reply from the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment. A meeting has been scheduled to consider the opportunity further.