01.07.2012

What Does a Thermal Performance Assessor Do?

Michael Plunkett comments on the services provided by Thermal Performance Assessors

Since the introduction of BCA 2012, I have received a number of enquiries from assessors, building designers and certifiers located around Australia asking for my views on what services an assessor should provide their clients.

What services should thermal performance assessors provide? It is an interesting question, and is the subject of this month’s article.

There are misconceptions within the building industry about what tasks and services assessors provide to their clients.

I have recently been asked by a certifier why assessors do not always provide calculations for lighting in accordance with Part J6.2 (a) of BCA Volume 1 or Part 3.12.5.5 of BCA Volume 2 as they believed it is part of the 6 star requirements and that it should be a part of their certificate. It is not mandatory for assessors to provide calculations on lighting, but assessors can do so if they wish.

Do assessors just provide a certificate for a building that demonstrates compliance with the energy efficiency provisions of the BCA i.e. compliance with the minimum star rating, or do they have to provide statements on the lighting provisions, or loss of insulation due to ceiling penetrations, or water efficient appliances as well? Can they inspect and certify the installation of insulation in a home as it is built? Can they inspect and assess existing buildings?

The answer is that assessors can provide their clients with any advice and any services that they choose and that their clients require. But assessors must be careful not to provide advice or services in which they are not trained or qualified.

If assessors do provide additional services over and above the rating of the building envelope required under the BCA, as this is all the current qualification covers, they must have the required skills, hold the necessary qualifications and licences as required by the State or Territory regulator to do the work. If assessors market themselves as experts and professionals in all things energy efficient, they must have the required skills and expertise to provide them.
So what can a thermal performance assessor do?

Thermal Performance Assessment

In most States and Territories, the assessment of a residential building in accordance with Part J0.2 of BCA Volume 1 or Part 3.12.0 of BCA Volume 2 (star rating) requires an assessor to be accredited and hold a basic qualification – the Certificate IV in NatHERS Assessment.

This enables assessors to provide their clients with a rating of a proposed building using an accredited software tool in accordance with a set of assessor procedures.

Lighting

Part J6.2 (a) of BCA Volume 1 or Part 3.12.5.5 of BCA Volume 2 requires new residential buildings, subject to State and Territory regulations, to meet minimum targets for energy consumption. This is an extra requirement over and above a thermal performance assessment, and compliance may be demonstrated and completed by the building designer, architect or the assessor.

It is optional and not necessarily part of an assessor’s scope of work, and is not part of compliance with a 6 star rating.

Ceiling Penetrations

Similarly, Part J1.3 (c) of BCA Volume 1 or Part 3.12.1.2 (e) of BCA Volume 2 requires the R-Value of ceiling insulation, where provided, to be increased to allow for losses due to penetrations for downlights, exhaust fans etc. This is another extra requirement over and above a thermal performance assessment, and compliance may be demonstrated and completed by the building designer, architect or the assessor.

Again, it is optional and not necessarily part of an assessor’s scope of work, and is not part of compliance with a 6 star rating.

Water Efficient Fixtures

The requirements for installing water efficient fixtures such as tapware and hot water systems, water tanks etc. vary around Australia. Demonstrating compliance with the State and Territory regulations that apply on an individual project are also not necessarily the responsibility of the assessor, and are not part of the thermal performance assessment.

Onsite Inspections

Assessors are not trained to carry out onsite inspections such as verifying that insulation is installed correctly or that the glazing is correct as specified. Onsite inspections are the domain of the certifier in most States and Territories, and require the inspector to have appropriate qualifications and licences to carry out this work. Assessors should not carry out onsite inspections nor provide certification of these inspections unless they possess and meet the requirements of their State or Territory for carrying out onsite inspection of building work.

Assessing Existing Buildings

There is currently no mandatory requirement, except in ACT, for assessors to carry out assessments of existing buildings. There is nothing that prevents assessors in all other States and Territories from carrying out assessments of existing buildings providing they have the required knowledge and skills.

Care must be taken to ensure that all State and Territory requirements are met, ie hold the correct licence as in ACT, and make sure that assessors have appropriate PI insurance in place, and that OH & S and personal safety concerns are addressed.

In conclusion, many potential clients consider assessors “experts” and assessors should be aiming to deliver a high level of service to their clients that includes advice on all compliance issues addressed in Section J of BCA Volume 1 and part 3.12 of BCA Volume 2 as noted above.

Assessors do not necessarily have to provide anything other than a rating, but clients today are looking for advice and assistance with all things energy efficient as required by the BCA. If assessors choose to only provide just a rating, please make sure that the client understands this.

I believe that assessors can no longer just provide a rating, and today’s clients are expecting a high level of service that includes advice and certification on everything to do with meeting the energy efficiency requirements of the BCA.

Michael Plunkett is Principal of SmartRate and a Corporate Member of BDAV.