1. Introduction

The key time to improve energy performance of existing homes is when renovating — by adding in upgrades for improved energy performance, safer indoor temperatures, and lowered energy bills.

This project aims to improve the energy performance standards of existing buildings, which make up the majority of Australia’s building stock.  Improving the quality and performance of most of Australia’s nearly 11 million homes is equally as important as increasing the performance of newly built homes.

Most homes making up Australia’s existing building stock were built before any energy performance standards existed. In Victoria, for example, existing homes are rated well-below current building standards, rated at or below 2 NatHERS stars on average. For existing residential building stock to become zero carbon aligned, renovation and retrofit initiatives will be essential.

Why renovate? Renovation is more sustainable than demolishing and rebuilding homes, due to the embodied emissions from materials, construction and demolition. It also helps retain the architectural and heritage value of our cities and suburbs.

New homes and major changes to existing homes must be constructed to the minimum standards required by the National Construction Code (NCC). The energy performance standards in the NCC were increased in 2022 from 6 to 7 stars, using the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) and using a whole-of-home energy budget (kWh).

However, even a 7 star rating is a long way off year-round energy efficiency, and lower energy bills. Much more can be done for homes to reach low or zero carbon emissions, produce no emissions on site, and deliver higher levels of comfort during hot summers and cold winters. Well planned renovations, however, can deliver financial and health benefits, as well as mitigate climate change.

To achieve  low carbon building stocks we need a better understanding of  existing buildings, across all climate zones and for different kinds of homes – single detached dwellings, townhouses and apartments. Currently, this understanding is a key missing piece of knowledge that prevents better support for different communities – for busy homeowners, landlords and renters, social housing providers and vulnerable households alike. A recent research study by Sustainability Victoria demonstrated savings in healthcare bills ($887) and energy bills ($85) over 3-month winter period – for a modest average investment of under $3000 to improve efficiency in homes.

To support large scale energy performance renovations across Australia, for everyone, we need effective supportive government policy in place, as well as finance support and a skilled workforce in industry to renovate homes. We also need consumer understanding.

What we’re doing

The Renovation Pathways project will provide critical analysis and advice enabling the kick start and scaling up of Australia’s building stock through renovation and information about zero carbon and resilient building standards. 

Renovation Pathways has two stages:

  1. Developing data to inform renovation strategies and policy advice in each climate zone, to achieve zero carbon and resilient buildings in a cost-effective manner.
  2. Informing action across different stakeholder groups (policy makers, banks, construction industry, consumer groups) and supporting the development of the enabling environment necessary to scale up zero carbon homes and resilient renovations across Australia.

2. How we'll get there



Propose a definition of zero carbon and resilient buildings for each state and climate zone, with the goal of informing renovation pathways and National Construction Code regulations.

See the definition of zero carbon homes in the resources below.



Producing urban scale modelling and determining renovation strategies for main building archetypes in different climate zones consistent with achieving zero carbon buildings.



Progressing the findings from the previous pieces of work, to identify renovation priorities, the impact of scaling these up, and the key levers necessary to scale up.


Inform action

Informing action across different stakeholder groups (policy makers, banks, construction industry, consumer groups) and supporting the development of the enabling environment necessary to scale up zero carbon and resilient renovations in Australia.

4. Partners

The program is led by Climateworks Centre. Renovation Pathways is being conducted in collaboration with CSIRO and Strategy Policy Research.

Renovation Pathway is funded by philanthropic organisations, and we thank all our ongoing supporters, including Energy Consumers Australia and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.