Five practical ways to improve your strata property’s sustainability

Five practical ways to improve your strata property's sustainability Main image header

Five practical ways to improve your strata property’s sustainability

These steps taken by the award-winning Century Tower property may help your strata community reach its sustainability goals

We hear a lot about sustainability in the media, so it’s likely on the minds of many strata committee members and owners who are conscious of their environmental impact. However, have you or your strata committee mapped out how sustainability can be introduced in a strata context?

The strata community at Century Tower in Sydney, NSW, went through this process over the last few years. Managed by BCS Sydney, this 25-year-old property was the tallest residential tower in Sydney when it was built in 1997. A quarter of a century later, a lot of its equipment was becoming antiquated, and its energy and water efficiency were far from ideal.

Over the last few years, however, this building has undergone a complete sustainability overhaul. This has led to a better community living experience for the complex’s owners and residents and increased the building’s sustainability exponentially. It has also resulted in the building, and its strata manager and building manager, being awarded the Strata Community Environmental and Engagement Award in 2022.

Introduction Award Main image header

Much of this work began as a collaborative effort between the building’s strata manager Robert Quillfeldt, a long-term BCS Sydney employee, and Andrew Croucher, the complex’s building manager. Keith Hallet, also a strata manager at BCS Sydney, took over the management of the building recently and continues the sustainability work in collaboration with Andrew Croucher.

Keep reading to learn how this property’s strata community increased their overall sustainability – there’s a good chance you’ll be able to integrate a few of their ideas into your own property.

Here are five practical ways the strata committee and owners at Century Tower increased their strata property’s overall sustainability, which your strata community may be able to try:

  1. Taking part in a water reduction program and completing a plumbing audit
  2. Upgrading carpark and common area lighting
  3. Organising recycling initiatives
  4. Installing bike racks to the parking lot
  5. Investing in smart technology to facilitate greater sustainability in the future
Taking part in a water reduction program and completing a plumbing audit

1. Taking part in a water reduction program and completing a plumbing audit

Living in a country that is no stranger to droughts, it is always wise to keep an eye on your water usage and find ways to reduce water waste or inefficiencies whenever possible. While this will likely increase your strata property’s sustainability factor, it may also lead to an added benefit – savings on your water bills.

This is what the strata community at Century Tower experienced when they took part in WaterFix, a water reduction program run by Sydney Water. It involved Sydney Water plumbers inspecting both common areas and individual apartments, assessing each area or unit’s water efficiency, fixing leaks and upgrading old, inefficient taps and showers with water-efficient replacements.

Taking part in this program helped this strata community turn their low rater water around into a high one, with a water saving of approximately 1110kl a month – roughly 35% of the complex’s previous water usage. While this program cost the strata community a little over $225,000, it has saved them roughly $65,000 a year.

Century Tower’s strata committee also worked very closely with their building manager to complete a separate plumbing audit to reduce the flooding occurring in the building, as it often led to water wastage and costly collateral damage. As part of this process, all apartments were audited and property owners were encouraged to replace old and malfunctioning equipment such as hot water tanks and flexi-hoses. Following this audit, many owners in the building engaged plumbers to replace their 22-year-old hot water tanks, directly contributing to their strata property’s increase in sustainability.

Upgrading carpark and common area lighting

2. Upgrading car park and common area lighting

Increasing your energy efficiency is an easy and effective way to reduce your impact on the planet and save some money simultaneously. That’s why many homeowners prioritise energy efficiency when purchasing appliances, choosing their lighting and installing heating and cooling devices in their homes.

Energy efficiency should be front of mind for strata committees. Why? Because an apartment block’s common areas, such as hallways and parking lots, would go through high energy usage levels on top of energy used within individual units. And if these areas aren’t energy efficient, it would affect a strata community’s sustainability factor.

Century Tower’s building manager Andrew Crutcher had noticed that the building’s common property lighting was not of the best quality. The owners constantly had to pay for electricians to fix individual lights, particularly in eight or so basement parking levels. He and Keith Hallet, the property’s strata manager, spoke to the committee about replacing the lighting with LED lights. “We explained to the owners corporation that while this will be a costly upgrade, this project will increase the building’s sustainability via energy efficiency while resulting in long-term savings when it comes to energy bills and contractor call-outs. The owners realised it was a no-brainer, so approved the works,” shared Keith.

Ultimately, 671 fluorescent lights, emergency lights and exit signs were replaced in the multi-level car park. This led to a savings forecast of almost $33,000 per year and a 76% reduction in energy usage. “After the success of this project, the building’s owners approved the changing of the common area lights in the corridors, plant rooms and some fire stairwells, which resulted in further savings,” said Keith.

Organising recycling initiatives

3. Organising recycling initiatives

Did you know that Australians buy almost 15kg of clothing per person on average, and most of it ends up in landfill? Reducing your clothing purchases is an excellent way to reduce your impact on the planet, but what about the clothes you already own that you need to dispose of?

Well, the good news is that plenty of clothing recycling services across the country accept pre-loved clothes. Getting your entire strata community involved in a clothing recycling drive is a great way to improve your strata community’s sustainability factor and reduce its overall impact on the planet.

Century Tower’s owners decided to give this a go and have a 660L clothing bin from Clothing Away placed in their recycling room, which is now collected weekly. This is a free service, and Clothing Away reuses up to 95% of collections, preventing them from ending up in landfill unnecessarily.

The Century Tower strata committee also got involved in a recycling can and bottle refund initiative through bottle and cans collections, which generates $338.24 for the property every two months, and diverts 2920.8 cubic litres of recyclable rubbish from landfill.

The strata committee also collaborated with their strata manager and building manager to roll out a resident recycling education program. This involved:

  • An updated residents’ handbook, which details recycling best practices
  • New and improved signage in the garbage chute rooms and lift notice boards regarding recycling best practices
  • Signing up for the City of Sydney’s Food Scraps recycling trial, which allowed owners to order a free kitchen caddy for their food scraps. The scraps were collected and transported to EarthPower – Australia’s first food waste-to-energy processing facility
Installing bike racks to their parking lot Bike racks added – encourage using bikes over cars

4. Installing bike racks in the parking lot 

It’s no secret that passenger vehicles are a key driver of greenhouse gas emissions. While it isn’t feasible for many of us to stop using our cars, utes and motorbikes completely, those of us living in urban areas may be able to reduce our use of vehicles with access to the right infrastructure.

With that in mind, Century Tower’s strata manager Keith and building manager Andrew collaborated with the committee to have bike racks installed in the building’s car park to give owners and residents a place to store their bicycles safely. This positively impacted the physical and mental wellbeing of the property’s occupants during the COVID lockdowns and restrictions of the past years. It also increased the strata community’s overall sustainability by making it easier for them to choose a greener way of travelling if they wish.

As these bike racks were costly, the committee initially agreed to install a small amount. The building manager is currently monitoring their use, so they can have more installed if necessary.

Investing in smart technology to facilitate greater sustainability in the future

5. Investing in smart technology to facilitate more sustainability in the future

Technology is very much at the forefront of sustainability in residential spaces like strata properties. That’s why planning for smart technology solutions is important when rolling out upgrades to existing infrastructure and technology.

When Century Tower went through its emergency lighting upgrade, the strata manager and building manager collaborated with the committee to have SmartIOT infrastructure installed as well. This created a mesh network that helps monitor which lights are functional and where power wastage is occurring, thereby adding to the property’s sustainability. It will also help enable ad-hoc upgrades in the future, such as wireless cameras, door sensors and motor and pump sensors, providing further scope for sustainability measures in the future.

This level of sustainability-led transformation required a great deal of innovative thinking and a collaboration between the strata committee, strata manager and building manager. In the words of Andrew Croucher, the building manager, “This could not be done without the cooperation and support from the Century Tower Executive Committee and our responsive strata manager, Keith from BCS. I’m happy with the results achieved in my time here over the last 4.5 years and proud to be captain of this ship, plugging up the holes, keeping the residents happy and steering it safely towards a sustainable future while doing our part for the environment.”

If you think it’s time for your strata property to up its sustainability factor, get in touch with your strata manager and building manager to see what’s possible. They’ll likely be able to work with you to evaluate what is feasible and get the ball rolling on a more sustainable future for your strata community.

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