Busted: six myths about the Modern Homes standards
It is important to clarify myths about the Modern Homes standards so builders, designers and homeowners understand the livable housing design and residential energy efficiency requirements in Queensland.
The phase in of the livable housing design requirements commenced on 1 October 2023, and the residential energy efficiency requirements will begin on 1 May 2024.
Here are six common misconceptions about the new standards:
- The implementation of the Modern Homes standards in Queensland was agreed to without consultation.
- All new existing homes and homes currently under development will need to comply with the Modern Homes standards.
- The Livable Housing Design Standard’s step-free access path requirements will mean the end of the iconic Queenslander-style home.
- The Modern homes standards residential energy efficiency and livable housing design requirements will significantly increase the price of building a new home.
- The Modern homes standards residential energy efficiency requirements will not have much impact.
- No information or guidance is available to assist with the implementation of the Modern Homes standards.
1. The implementation of the Modern Homes standards in Queensland was agreed to without consultation
Consultation with industry and community organisations on the Modern Homes standards was undertaken through the Australian Building Codes Board’s (ABCB) Consultation Regulatory Impact Statements and Public Comment Draft provisions for the National Construction Code (NCC) 2022.
Queensland’s peak building industry stakeholders met regularly with the Minister for Public Works Mick de Brenni about the Modern Homes standards either directly and/or through the Ministerial Construction Council. There was also regular engagement with the Department of Energy and Public Works. This engagement informed:
- the content of the Modern Homes standards contained in NCC 2022
- Queensland’s adoption of the Modern Homes standards through:
- QDC 4.1 – Sustainable buildings
- QDC 4.5 – Livable dwellings and grading to floor wastes
- Queensland’s phased adoption of the Modern Homes standards with the phase in of the accessibility standards commencing on 1 October 2023 and the energy efficiency changes from 1 May 2024.
2. All new homes and existing homes currently under development will need to comply with the Modern Homes standards
Section 37 of the Building Act 1975 addresses transitional arrangements that apply when building codes change. These arrangements empower building certifiers to assess building work against the version of the code in place before the change, where:
- a building development approval has been given
- a building development application has been made but not decided
- planning for carrying out work has commenced, and the building certifier certifies in writing that all the following conditions have been met:
- substantial progress has been made on the design of the building, or the design was completed beforehand
- the design would need to change to comply
- the changes required are not minor in relation to the building work.
This approach ensures that work in progress is not affected by a change to the building code, including the Modern Homes standards. New homes that are already significantly designed or where construction commenced prior to 1 October 2023 are not impacted by these changes.
Recognising the significance of the Modern Homes standards transition, other support measures have been put in place to assist industry. Targeted exemptions will ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the standards. These supportive measures will be adopted through a new Queensland Development Code (QDC) Mandatory Part 4.5 – Livable dwellings and grading to floor wastes, and include:
- an 18-month exemption period for new dwellings on narrow lots (frontage of 12.5 metres or less) and existing pre-built class 1 dwellings (55 square metres or less in size)
- an ongoing exemption where it is not practical or reasonable to apply the new standards to toilet and bathroom renovations
- an exemption for general repairs and maintenance
- greater flexibility in meeting the step-down shower and grading to floor wastes performance requirements
- an exemption from installing an accessible toilet on entry level if that level does not have a habitable room (instead an accessible toilet would need to be installed on the first level with a habitable room).
Exemptions will also apply for houses where it is not practicable to provide step-free access via an associated garage, carport or parking space. This exemption considers the size and slope of a lot to ensure step-free access is available where it is both reasonable and practical to meet the requirement. This exemption is within the NCC 2022 itself.
3. The Livable Housing Design Standard’s step-free access path requirements will mean the end of the iconic Queenslander-style home
Houses on small, steep or sloping lots are exempt from complying with the step-free access path requirements in the Livable Housing Design Standard. This exemption also applies to the Queenslander-style homes where it is not practical to install an accessible ramp to provide level entry access into a house.
All other requirements of the Livable Housing Design Standard will still apply to homes that are exempt from providing step free entry.
4.The Modern Homes standards residential energy efficiency and livable housing design requirements will significantly increase the price of building a new home
Recent media reports that the total cost to incorporate the residential energy efficiency and livable housing design requirements is between $18,000 to $70,000 are incorrect.
Analysis commissioned by the ABCB determined the total cost to incorporate the energy efficiency and livable housing standards in Queensland is approximately 1 to 2 per cent of the total build cost of an average new house. This is significantly less than recent media reports have suggested.
It is expected that these costs will reduce over time as industry adapts to the Modern Homes standards.
5. The Modern Homes standards residential energy efficiency requirements will not have much impact
Analysis commissioned by the ABCB and also by the Department of Energy and Public Works on the impacts of the residential energy efficiency requirements shows a net benefit of at least $506 million to the Queensland community and a household-level net benefit of $2,696.20 for new houses. There is a small net cost of $64.80 for new units. The changes will generate a saving of 4.63 million tonnes of carbon emissions for Queensland.
6. No information or guidance is available to assist with the implementation of the Modern Homes standards
The ABCB has prepared extensive information and guidance materials to support implementation of the Modern Homes standards including:
- NCC 2022 Webinar Series
- ABCB Handbook for Livable Housing Design
- ABCB Voluntary Standard for Livable Housing Design: Beyond Minimum
- Housing energy efficiency handbook.
In addition, the Department of Energy and Public Works has prepared:
- ABCB Livable Housing Design Standard: Implementation of step-free entry provisions (PDF, 2534.69 KB)
- Case Studies (PDF, 5878.66 KB) demonstrating practical implementation of the National Construction Code 2022 provisions and exemptions
- QDC 4.1 (PDF, 371.03 KB) and QDC 4.5 (PDF, 1135.29 KB) to tailor adoption of the Modern Homes standards for Queensland
- building and plumbing newsflashes addressing:
- a new guideline (PDF, 278 KB) to assist building certifiers in applying transitional provisions under section 37 of the Building Act 1975
- a new Form 77 Variation to building assessment provisions (PDF, 114.92 KB) to assist building certifiers to document decisions made under section 37 of the Building Act 1975.
Industry stakeholders have held a range of events and forums across Queensland at which Department of Energy and Public Works’ officers delivered presentations and/or answered questions on the Modern Homes changes.
- Last updated:
- 1 October 2023