In 2010, the Building Code of Australia (BCA) introduced significant changes to what was allowed in terms of energy consumption from lighting per square metre of floor space in your home.
In particular, the Code looks at the amount of insulation in a ceiling and the influence it has on the installation of downlights; the maximum power capacity of lights, fans, pumps and other air-conditioning equipment; energy monitoring and metering facilities; and restrictions on use of electric heaters. Essentially all new homes and apartments need to have the equivalent of a six-star energy efficiency rating.
How many watts per square metre (W/sqm) under BCA guidelines?
The main thing you need to be aware of is that as of May 2011, you are only allowed:
- 5 watts per square metre (5W/sqm) of lighting indoors
- 4 watts per square metre (4W/sqm) of lighting in outdoor areas (including verandahs)
- 3 watts per square metre (3W/sqm) of lighting in garages
This is a pretty stark contrast to the 25W per square metre of floorspace yesteryear. Concessions to this rule exist if certain lighting controls are used, and vary depending on the particular setup and hardware.
This new regulation doesn't necessarily mean you have to walk around in complete darkness - it's designed to ensure that more efficient types of lighting are used, in order to reduce unnecessary energy use. An LED globe, for example, may use a tenth of the power that a halogen globe uses to create an equivalent amount and style of light. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) also offer significant energy savings.
Concessions to the regulations
Obviously there's a lot of sense to building your home with an energy efficient lighting scheme - and while it's a big change, in most cases meeting the rules shouldn't be a problem.
There are ways to get around the basic watts-per-metre limitations, including various concessions (calculated as 'adjustment factors') if you use lighting controls like dimmers and motion detectors. For what it's worth, the new lighting regulations don't account for lamps and other non-permanent lighting fittings either, provided that they're not directly wired in.
Lighting designers and electricians
If you are planning or building a home you should ensure that your lighting designer and electrician are well aware of these changes, otherwise you could be in for long delays and increased cost to fix it. Houses that don't meet these stringent new requirements may well fail their final inspections, so check with your local council if you're unsure whether or not these rules are in effect in your area.
ACBC lighting calculator
To help people to adhere to the new National Construction Code (NCC) residential lighting regulations, the Australian Building Codes Board has released a Lighting Calculator. The Lighting Calculator is designed to help building designers and lighting designers to adhere to the code, but it contains detailed information about adjustment factors for different lighting controls in different parts of your home.
Visit the ABCB site to download the NCC Lighting Calculator.