The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Master Builders Victoria (MBV) is funding research to better understand the risk of mould growth in new energy-efficient buildings.

The 18-month research project is led by the University of Tasmania and will look at whether energy-efficient housing has a higher risk of mould growth due to the airtight nature of modern designs.

Led by researcher Dr Mark Dewsbury, it aims to see how building materials and the arrangement of external walls can be made such that moisture does not accumulate and mould should not grow.

The VBA’s CEO Sue Eddy said this research will provide valuable insights for the industry to address the issue of mould.

“We’re supporting this important research, in partnership with several organisations from across Australia and the world to ensure this important issue is explored, and possible solutions found,” Ms Eddy said.

“The VBA has invited the best and brightest minds from Australian educational institutions to partner with us to explore ways to make buildings safer, improve the competency of practitioners, and support a technologically advanced building industry.”

“Learnings from this research will help Australia build sustainable cities that keep consumers safe.”

This research is a national and international collaboration between the University of Tasmania, research organisations and industry in Victoria and Tasmania including the VBA, CSIRO, Master Builders Victoria (MBV), the University of Tasmania, Forest and Wood Products Australia and the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany.

Dr Dewsbury said it was important to find the balance between living sustainably and maintaining a high standard of safety.

“Increased energy efficiency requirements have led to the construction of ‘air tight’ buildings. This, combined with a lack of appropriate ventilation, and the use of materials that do not promote water vapour diffusion, can trap water vapour in building envelopes – this is a particular problem in cooler climates,” he said.

“Through this study I hope to find ways in which we can build housing that not only protects our planet in the long term, but keeps consumers safe in the short term through improvements to building design.”

Senior Principal Research Scientist Dr Zhengdong Chen is leading CSIRO’s involvement in the initiative.

“CSIRO is pleased to support this important work. Energy-efficient homes should provide better occupant thermal comfort and healthier indoor environments without mould growth risks. This study will also help CSIRO in its role developing better software tools for the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS),” he said.

MBV CEO Rebecca Casson said the reason her organisation was investing in this research was to better understand the impacts on the home environment, particularly condensation, as energy efficiency increases in homes.

“MBV has partnered in this innovative research so that our members have access to the best advice enabling them to provide high-quality houses for their clients,” she said.

“This research will help MBV members, and the broader building and construction industry, better understand the impact of condensation as we increase the energy efficiency of our homes.

“As the leading voice in the building and construction industry, it’s vital for MBV to be at the forefront of this research and that is why we have partnered in this innovative project.”

The VBA is supporting the University of Tasmania’s study through a research grant. Our grant program aims to boost the VBA’s research capabilities by backing universities and TAFEs to find new and innovative solutions to challenges in the Victorian building and plumbing sector.

Due for completion in 2023, this research complements work the VBA is already doing, including investigating the nature and extent of moisture damage in Victorian residential buildings.

This is the third successful research grant application funded by the VBA, with grant funding recently announced for projects run in collaboration with RMIT University and Deakin University.

The grant program aims to boost the VBA’s research capabilities by backing universities and TAFEs to find new and innovative solutions to challenges in the Victorian building and plumbing sector.

The VBA’s research program helps the authority better understand emerging regulatory issues and consumer needs, and how regulations can be shaped to improve public safety.

Successful grant proposals aligned strongly with the VBA’s research priorities to support the regulation of the building and plumbing industries in Victoria.