How building sustainability can be a communal activity

building sustainability

These days ‘sustainability’ isn’t a household word anymore. We use it—and a raft of other new terms—at work, on holidays, at the shops, in the car... We’re more conscious now of our impact on the world around us than ever before.

But how much impact can you make when you’re living in a strata titled building or community that’s managed by a body corporate? How do can you manage things like solar harvesting, water recycling or composting? And what about access to an extra patch of dirt for growing herbs, fruit and veggies?

The good news is you don’t have to miss out just because your home is strata titled, instead of freehold. By working with your neighbours and other residents in your community, and your body corporate manager and committee, you can start making some real changes for the better.

Energy sustainability

This is a big one. Rising electricity prices have put this at the front of everyone’s minds and many people are looking for ways to reduce their consumption, which will in turn reduce their overall footprint, as well as their building’s.

Many people are turning to solar power as a tool to significantly reduce their costs, and their environmental impact. However, in strata titled buildings, there can be added complexities that may put residents and investors off exploring this as an option. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Your body corporate manager will be able to help you and your fellow owners figure out if and how you can make solar work in the immediate and longer term.

Solar panels don’t just help reduce energy bills for individual households. They can also reduce the costs of running communal lighting and equipment like pool filters. For investors, solar can improve the appeal of your property to prospective tenants, improving your occupancy rate as well as the property’s value.

Of course, solar isn’t the only way to improve your sustainability efforts when it comes to energy use. Before you implement any changes, take a closer look at how common areas are using energy right now. If your complex is large, consider submitting a motion to the body corporate to engage a third-party organisation to carry out an energy audit. An audit will help identify where energy usage could be reduced or eliminated altogether. It will also give you a benchmark to compare against as you make changes.

Be sure your committee or building manager monitors your building’s electricity bills and keeps all informed of costs before and after the audit, and as you implement new practices, so you can identify how much you’re saving, and and where there’s scope for further reductions.

Water sustainability

Similar to energy consumption, the trick to reducing wastage is in understanding how and where residents and common areas use water in the first place.

Many people assume the greatest wastage comes from common area facilities like irrigation, pools, and even retail tenants. In most cases though, it’s from the residences themselves—from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries.

Buildings constructed before 2008 will only have a single water meter for the whole complex. Without individual meters, residents can’t effectively monitor and manage their water use.

However it is possible to have individual water meters fitted – see  our article Individual Water Meters for Apartments.

You can also bring up water consumption with your body corporate committee.   By looking at water consumption for the whole building, not just the common areas, your Building Manager, or Body Corporate Manager can help you and other residents build a clear picture of where you can make the most savings. They can also work with your local water authority to identify any programs or products that would help your building, not just with saving water, but also exploring ways you could capture and re-use water around your complex.

Plus, there’s an added bonus when you save water: You also save on electricity. Pumps use electricity to get the water where it needs to go, and it follows that using less water will also use less electricity. That has to count as a win-win!

Recycling sustainability

Sure, you’ve got your recycling bin working hard, but what about those trickier items like batteries, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, printer cartridges and chemical nasties like paint and oil?

Most Councils have recovery programs for these types of items, which can’t go in with your general household recycling. Talk to your body corporate manager (and your local Council) about what opportunities there may be to create recovery points in your building or complex.

If you’re interested in creating a community garden in your building, you might also like to consider creating a compost heap for organic waste; perhaps even add a worm farm. Either option is a great way to reduce waste and enrich the soil for gardens around the building—whether they’re edible or ornamental.

Remember, the order is “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” for a reason: The best way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill is to reduce the amount you create in the first place.  You might want to consider joining with some of your neighbours for bulk fruit, veggie and meat deliveries from local producers to save money, and emissions (one or two delivery trucks versus multiple individual cars).

Sustainable sustainability

We’ve just covered the big three in this article, but there are plenty of other ways you can Go Green in your building. Talk with your body corporate manager about your ideas and how together you may be able to make them work, while you build a stronger residents’ community. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

  • Install bike racks and lockers.
  • Participate in local car-share schemes or install charge points for electric cars.
  • Check the eco-friendliness of cleaning products, building materials, and other supplies used in communal areas.
  • Establish communal and/or vertical gardens.

Every building is different, as is the community of people who live in it. It’s important to design something that suits your unique needs and concerns, and create a space you all love, so you can make a sustainable difference together.

Kelly Borell

Kelly Borell

I have a Diploma in Business Management, Cert IV Property Services (Operations) and thoroughly enjoy working in the Strata Management industry. I particularly enjoy building a good rapport with people and providing reliable help.

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