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This piece has been written by Sandra Howlin

The Northern Territory is different and unique in many ways, but its latest claim to fame is not one to brag about.

That is, it consumes more energy per square metre for cooling than anywhere else on the planet, according to research by the University of NSW.

It would be logical to assume that its high temperatures and high humidity lead to a greater dependence on air-conditioning for comfort. By that same logic, though, we would assume that the buildings are designed to contain air-conditioning in an efficient manner, to keep the cost for cooling lower.

But, they are not. Right now, the Northern Territory government is calling for expert advice and practical steps on how to make government buildings and assets more energy efficient by way of a tender proposal.

The catch is, many of these buildings have been built, some recently, without application of basic National Construction Code building codes for energy efficiency.

Surprisingly, the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia that is yet to adopt basic minimum standards for insulation levels, sealability and glazing, and this is the major cause of energy hungry buildings.

The technical knowhow exists, it is simply not applied.

Ironically, the NT is also a signatory to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Trajectory for low energy buildings that aims to implement stepped increases to the energy efficiency provisions in the National Construction Code for residential and commercial buildings every three years from 2022.

But, without firstly implementing the previous standards this will be an onerous challenge.

Through superior building design alone, a Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council report indicates that an energy demand reduction of up to 40 per cent is possible.

This initiative reduces energy consumption, stabilises the electricity grid, creates local jobs in construction and takes an enormous chunk out of the aspirational 50 per cent emissions reduction by 2050 target.

Addressing the government's own power bill alone simply does not go far enough when the real reason for such high energy demand is the lack of current mandatory regulations for energy efficiency across all new and existing buildings, both commercial and residential.

Raising the standards across all buildings and stopping energy waste is long overdue.

The NT must reconnect with the rest of the developed world, adopt contemporary building design standards and move quickly to bridge the current and substantial gap that has been allowed to develop.

Sandra Howlin is a sustainable building consultant based in Darwin.