7 Star Homes Program: Guidelines

Last updated: 17 June 2021

1. Program overview

1.1 Sustainability Victoria (SV) is delivering the $2.19 million 7 Star Homes program (Program). The Program will increase the capability and capacity of businesses and individuals within the building and construction industry to deliver more energy-efficient homes in the residential building market. The Program forms part of the 2020-21 State Budget measure ‘Clean Energy Transition Initiatives’.

1.2 Under this Program, SV will support businesses in the construction industry to deliver homes that meet above standard energy-efficiency requirements. This is in preparedness for forthcoming updates to the National Construction Code (NCC) and Victorian building regulations anticipated for 2022.

Updates to the NCC are yet to be finalised. These Guidelines should not be interpreted as confirmation of the changes. For more detail on the proposed changes and the public comment process, visit the Australian Building Codes Board website.

1.3 The Program supports the industry through two streams:

Stream A:

Available to registered builders and land developers, who successfully register via SmartyGrants, to construct up to four new 7-star homes.

Participating businesses will receive:

  • a rebate of $4,000 per home built, to assist with upgrade costs. A participating business can build up to four 7-star homes
  • training in how to design and build an energy-efficient home, including insulation, air tightness and verification, which must be completed (mandatory training)
  • access to support in the design and delivery of 7-star homes
  • exclusive sales and marketing training designed especially for selling energy-efficient homes
  • support with marketing collateral to promote your participation in this Program.

Stream B:

In-person and online training and resources, for designers, tradespersons and assessors, to address common barriers to building and selling energy-efficient homes. For more information on how to sign up for this training, see 7 Star Homes Program.

These Guidelines are relevant for persons interested in Stream A.

2. Program requirements – Stream A

2.1 Rebates (80 in total) will be provided to eligible participants to build up to four new homes that:

  • achieve a minimum 7-star NatHERS rating
  • undergo a whole-of-home (WoH) assessment using Sustainability Victoria’s new pilot assessment tool*
  • comply with a whole-of-home (WoH) assessment as outlined in Technical Criteria (docx, 141kB) (pdf, 433kB)
  • pass SV’s as-built verification (ABV) assessment, including blower door testing, thermography testing and a visual inspection.

*Please note: the WoH tool needs a FirstRate5 project file to operate. Builders who do not have a FirstRate5 NatHERS assessment will need to contact SV to discuss how their current assessment can be converted by SV to provide a FirstRate5 project file on their behalf.

2.2 Participants who apply for the rebate under Stream A must send representatives to attend mandatory training included as part of this Program. This training will upskill individuals and businesses to deliver more energy-efficient homes and is free of charge.

The training includes:

  • 6-to-7-star design and construction training (further details to be provided)
  • WoH assessment training (approximately 2 hours online)
  • insulation training for insulation installers
  • ABV training (one workshop on-site and 3 x 20-minute online modules for each relevant trade)
  • selling sustainable homes training (optional).

3. FirstRate5 and Whole-of-Home tool

3.1 The WoH assessment training will provide free access, via FirstRate5, to SV’s pilot WoH tool.

3.2 This tool enables NatHERS assessors (and interested builders) to include fixed appliances when undertaking the energy-efficiency assessment of a home.

3.3 This tool will work in conjunction with FirstRate5 as an additional means of measuring energy efficiency beyond the current NatHERS star rating.

4. As-built verification assessment

4.1 Participants will receive one free on-site ABV assessment. This assessment is preceded by on-site ABV training, as outlined in Section 2.2.

4.2 The purpose of the ABV assessment is to ensure each home is built to achieve the same efficiency rating it has been designed to meet.

4.3 SV will provide one free ABV assessment per home (up to four homes). If a home fails the ABV assessment, the participant will (at SV’s discretion) be responsible for the cost of any subsequent assessments. Please note: the ABV assessment training is only required to be completed once, and not per home built.

4.4 The ABV assessment will be conducted by an independent evaluator once the home is completed. The evaluator visits the home to check the home’s air tightness, appliances and insulation.

The ABV assessment consists of three types of tests:

  • A blower door test, to simulate wind blowing against the building’s exterior to identify air leakages in the building’s envelope.
  • Thermal imaging - this is completed in conjunction with blower door testing to locate missing or poorly installed insulation that may result in the movement of heat/cool into and out of the building.
  • A visual inspection of windows, ceiling insulation and appliances to ensure these align with the design.

4.5 Once the home has passed the ABV assessment, you will receive an ABV report. You will need this report to claim the rebate.

5. Eligibility for rebate

5.1 To be eligible to apply for the rebate, the participating business must:

  • be a registered builder or a land developer who engages registered builders to build homes
  • be able to complete a minimum of one home and a maximum of four homes by 30 September 2022 that:
    • achieves a minimum 7-star NatHERS rating
    • completes a WoH assessment* rating of energy-efficient appliances, as outlined in Technical Criteria (docx, 141kB) (pdf, 433kB)
    • passes an ABV assessment achieving:
      • maximum air permeability of 10 air changes per hour at 50 Pa
      • 95% insulation coverage in both walls and ceiling
      • appliances that meet or exceed the WoH assessed criteria, as indicated in Technical Criteria (docx, 141kB) (pdf, 433kB)
      • compliance with all other requirements of the NCC.

*Please note: the WoH tool needs a FirstRate5 project file to operate. Builders who do not have a FirstRate5 NatHERS assessment will need to contact SV to discuss how their current assessment can be converted by SV to provide a FirstRate5 project file on their behalf.

5.2 There are 80 rebates available under this Program. These will be available on a first-in, first-served basis provided your application meets the requirements for registration.

5.3 Homes that are delivered under other government programs such as the Big Housing Build will not be eligible for a rebate.

6. Home criteria

Each home must be designed to meet the minimum criteria as set out in the Technical Criteria (docx, 141kB) (pdf, 433kB). Note that these criteria should not be interpreted as a prediction, or confirmation, of the upcoming changes in the NCC.

7. Claiming the rebate

7.1 Once you have created an account with SmartyGrants and submitted your registration form, you will receive an automated email to advise that this has been received.

7.2 Within 2 weeks following your registration, SV will notify you to confirm whether you have been accepted into the Program.

7.3 Within 3 months of registration, you must provide the design details for the homes you will deliver under the Program. The following documentation should be uploaded to your SmartyGrants account:

  • the home plans (in pdf)
  • the FirstRate5 project file*
  • the WoH assessment (SV can provide assistance with this).

*Please note: where the builder does not usually use FirstRate5, a FirstRate5 project file can be created by SV based on the existing NatHERS assessment.

Upon receipt of these documents, SV will confirm if they meet the design criteria (i.e., meet the 7-star standard). If they do not meet the design criteria, a representative from SV will contact you to assist in improving the design.

7.4 Once the first home is at lock-up stage (with insulation installed but prior to fitting internal wall cladding) you will be required to complete an ABV workshop with relevant personnel on site. SV will provide the trainer and session at your site at no cost to you. The participating business’s relevant employees and contractors must attend this training, and, at a minimum, the site supervisor or foreman. SV will confirm with the trainer that the mandatory training has been completed.

7.5 When each home reaches completion, you will be required to notify SV, so we can arrange for the ABV assessment to be completed. Once you have passed the ABV assessment, you will need to submit the ABV report.

7.6 Within 3 months of home build completion, you must submit an invoice for payment of the rebate.

The invoice must include the following information:

  • business name, ABN and bank account details
  • address of the completed new home
  • amount claimed ($4,000 per home)
  • Purchase Order number (provided by SV on confirmation of registration).

7.7 SV will pay the rebate to you on receipt of all the Required Evidence.

Evidence uploaded to your SmartyGrants account includes:

  • the home plans
  • FirstRate5 project file
  • WoH assessment
  • ABV report
  • invoice.

SV will confirm your completion of mandatory training.

8. Collection of energy-use data

8.1 As with all government programs, SV wants to measure the ongoing impact of this Program and assess whether it is achieving its objectives. For this reason, we ask that the builder endeavour to obtain the 7-star home purchaser’s consent to the collection of energy use data. SV will provide you with the consent form.

9. Promotion and engagement

9.1 Participation in this Program does not result in any form of certification or endorsement by SV and SV does not endorse any business or product under this Program.

9.2 SV will coordinate the publicity and communication needed to promote engagement with the Program. SV will provide participating businesses with relevant promotional material to reflect this collaboration, noting that this is not a certification program and must not be represented as such.

9.2 For any promotion of the Program or the business’s participation in the Program that is outside or inconsistent with the approved materials, you must obtain SV’s prior written approval.

9.3 SV will promote your participation on the SV website and through various SV media channels.

10. Key dates

You can book a time to have a discussion about your participation in the Program via the bookings page.

Registrations open via SmartyGrants: 19 May 2021.

Registrations close: 30 September 2021.

Access to training activities will start from these dates:

  • 6-to-7-star design and construction training: October 2021.
  • WoH assessment training: July 2021.
  • Insulation training for insulation installers: available online now.
  • ABV training on-site workshop: September 2021.
  • ABV training 3 x 20-minute online modules for each relevant trade: July 2021.
  • Selling sustainable homes training: September 2021 online.

Training completed: 1 July 2022.

7-star homes completed and verified: 30 September 2022.

11. Further information

For further information about the Program:

12. Program definitions

The following terms are used in these Guidelines and the Terms and Conditions of Participation:

6-star or 6-star NatHERS means the current mandatory minimum energy-efficiency standard for constructing a new home under the NCC.

7-star home means a new residential dwelling that is constructed and verified under this Program to meet minimum 7-star NatHERS rating with a WoH assessment.

7-star NatHERS means the NatHERS 7-star energy-efficiency rating for constructing a new home under the NCC.

ABV means as-built verification.

ABV assessment means a quality assurance test that involves an independent evaluator visiting a newly constructed home and testing the home’s air tightness, insulation integrity and appliances to ensure it meets the energy-efficiency parameters specified in the design.

ABV report means a report issued by an independent evaluator that confirms that the home has been built to meet the energy-efficiency parameters specified in the design.

Australian Building Codes Board means the body responsible for the National Construction Code.

Australian Consumer Law means the law set out in Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).

FirstRate5 project file means a FirstRate5 project file.

FirstRate5 means the NatHERS accredited home energy rating software, known as FirstRate5®.

Land developer means a business that can demonstrate home construction activity of at least 50 site starts per year.

Mandatory training means on-site ABV training, 3 x 20 min online ABV training, Whole-of-Home Assessment Training and 4 x insulation installation modules online, 6-to-7-star design and construction training (further details to be provided).

NatHERS means the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme which is a star rating system (out of 10) that rates the energy efficiency of a home, based on its design.

National Construction Code means the mandatory code that sets out the minimum requirements for design and construction of new and existing building work.

NCC means the National Construction Code.

Program means the 7 Star Homes program described in these Guidelines.

Rebate means the rebate of $4,000 paid by SV to participating business that build a 7-star home.

Registered builder means a builder registered with the Victorian Building Authority in the class of ‘Domestic Builder Unlimited’.

Registration form means the online form that must be completed via SmartyGrants to participate in this Program and receive the rebate.

Required Evidence means the documentation that must be submitted to SV as a precondition for payment of the rebate. The Required Evidence is set out in Section 7 Claiming the rebate.

SV means Sustainability Victoria, established under the Sustainability Victoria Act 2005 (Vic), responsible for administering the Program.

Terms and Conditions of Participation means the terms and conditions of participation that participating businesses are required to agree to when registering to participate in the Program to receive the rebate.

Victorian Building Authority refers to the body that regulates building and plumbing practitioners in Victoria.

WoH means whole of home.

WoH assessment means an assessment of the overall energy performance of the home including a NatHERS star rating of a home’s thermal energy performance including information about the energy performance of the following appliances:

  • heating and cooling appliances
  • hot water systems
  • lighting
  • pool/spa pumps
  • on-site energy generation (optional)
  • cooking and plug-in appliances (optional)

WoH tool means the tool provided by SV to participating businesses and FirstRate5 users to conduct the WoH assessment.