Sustainability Measuring Technique For Boarding Houses: BASIX certificate Vs. Section J

The sustainability measuring technique for the boarding houses has been unclear and puzzling for many developers, project owners, and building consultants. Why?

Let’s find out by starting with BASIX and Section J basics.

What Is a BASIX Certificate?

Conceptualised and implemented in 2004, the Building Sustainability Index or, in common terms, BASIX standards have defined the ground rules for water usage, energy efficiency, and thermal comfort performance of the residential dwellings.

BASIX certificate constitutes a vital part of the development application (DA) process in NSW. The fundamental objective for introducing BASIX was to promote and support more sustainable and eco-friendly, green living while maintaining comfort and cost-efficiency for the occupants.

What Is Section J?

Section J represents the energy efficiency provisions of the building code. Section J provisions apply for Class 2 to 9 Buildings.

You’ll need to access and present specific documentation demonstrating the adherence to the Section J requirements when obtaining a construction certificate (after a DA has been issued).

BASIX certificate NSW, on the other hand, encompasses a broader sustainability index (water, energy, and thermal comfort) required at the DA stage for Class 1, 2, and 4 buildings.

So, where did the problem begin?

The Tug Of War Between Section J And BASIX Certificate

The NCC/BCA building code (2016 and 2019) in the NSW Appendix specifies the types of buildings requiring BASIX report and certificate and which need to adhere to Section J.

  • According to this code, Class 2 building ( includes Multi-unit developments) and Class 4 (includes dwelling attached to another Class of building) require adhering to the BASIX standards to qualify as sustainable developments.
  • Class 3 buildings (Boarding Houses), on the other hand, don’t require a BASIX certificate but Section J as a measure of sustainability.

However, over the duration of time, some Councils insisted on requiring BASIX certificates for boarding houses at the DA stage. Though this requirement was initially not a part of the building code protocol, the BASIX requirement for Boarding Houses became a common demand from various Councils.

Various Land and Environment Court appeals followed this confusion and additional requirements mandated by the Councils. However, the court ruled that BASIX was also necessary for boarding houses.


This interpretation leveraged the term “Dwelling”, as mentioned in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act Regulations. With reference to A BASIX building, “dwelling” can be defined as a room or suite of rooms constructed, modified, occupied or used, for functioning and utilisation as a separate domicile.

The Challenge With The BASIX Standards

So now that it was ruled BASIX report and certificate is necessary for Boarding houses, two challenges emerged:

  1. The BASIX software was not designed for assessing the sustainability standards for Class 3 buildings or Boarding houses (specifically). Therefore the assessors had to use the Class 2 buildings model in the software, which returned skewed results.
  2. Section J was still mandatory at the later stage for procuring a Construction Certificate. This resulted in two different sets of requirements applicable to one building, which was challenging and sometimes impractical to comply with. Additionally, the project owners needed to pay both BASIX certificate cost and Section J report fees.

The Proposed Solution

The NSW Department of Planning introduced the concept and guidelines for the “alternative assessment” procedure which amalgamates BASIX standards and Section J requirements; as such, they complement each other.

What Are The Criteria For Alternative Assessment For Large Boarding Houses?

If you’re developing a boarding house ( including student accommodation) and fulfil all the requirements below:

  • Designed for accommodating 13 people or more, or the total floor area measurement exceeds 300 m2
  • Minimum 80% of the dwellings measures less than 35 m2, and
  • It only includes residential flat buildings.

You can apply the guidelines for Large boarding house alternative assessment (thermal comfort method) to attain sustainability certification for your development.

If your boarding house project plan fulfils the first criteria but is unable to fulfil the second or third criteria, you can process your project under alternative assessment as a large boarding house. This may include cases where the project:

  • Encompasses a mix of class 3 buildings (boarding house dwellings) and larger class 2 developments (apartments) or
  • Involves a large boarding house and a single dwelling residence within the same site.

Projects comprising only apartments (involving serviced apartments) don’t qualify for an alternative assessment under the large boarding house provisions.

If your project includes a small boarding house ( accommodation capacity of 12 people or less, and the entire floor area measures 300m2 or less), you need to complete a BASIX assessment and obtain the BASIX certificate using the single dwelling tool and assess the thermal comfort of your construction as a whole.

Final Word

Sustainable construction is the future of the building and real estate industry. Get your building compliance documents prepared accurately by experienced building consultants to accelerate the workflow for construction and streamline all the documentation processes.

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