Sustainable Strata Practices for an Owners Corporation

An Owners Corporation is a group of people who all own their apartment and a share of the common property.
They also own a share of the responsibility of the management of that common property.
Climate Change, from managing the impact of extreme events to reducing our carbon footprint is here to stay and the challenge is increasing.

Extreme Events Affecting a Strata Property

Extreme events, wind, rain, fire and heat have affected the very land and people around us. Whole buildings have been destroyed with insurance claims going through the roof and either high premiums to re-insure or no insurance offered because of the risk.

  • There is talk of relocating towns.
  • Insurance premiums to these areas will increase.
  • Is your infrastructure ready?
  • When did you last have the stormwater pipes CCTV scanned?
  • Are the stormwater pipes of sufficient size to remove the volume of water for extreme rain events?
  • Does your street flood? If so you will have problems.

Drought Affects the Water Supply to a Strata Property

The rise in temperature is a by-product of Climate Change and this will not reverse in the foreseeable future. We need to start being self sufficient and not to rely on rain alone.

  • Is your infrastructure ready?
  • Do you have rainwater tanks installed?
  • Do you have or are you investigating grey water recycling?

Emerging Technologies

  • Embedded NetworksEmerging Technology for a Strata Property
  • Co/Tri-Generation
  • Feed in Tariffs
  • Solar PV
  • Solar Hot Water/heat pumps
  • Water Tank Farms
  • Stormwater harvesting
  • Grey Water Recycle

Electric Hot Water Unit Phasing Out

It is proposed to phase out of electric resistance water heating by 2012. This means that if your unit is 5 years or older, you should start that planning process now to switch to solar. Then when your unit fails, pick a supplier who will provide a temporary hot water unit until your solar hot water unit or heat pump unit can be fitted.

Solar Heat Pumps are simply one of the most efficient and economical water heaters available, and the cheapest solar hot water system to install.

What does it mean to Owners Corporations?

The Owners Corporation and its members have a responsibility to manage the asset.

In managing the asset, the Owners Corporation should, before it agrees to a lease or licence of the common property to a lot owner, consider the relative value of the common property including:

  • Land
  • North facing roofs
  • Water catchment of roofs
  • Who owns the catchment area –rain and wind and sun?
  • Can the owner distribute the asset
  • Can the owner charge for the asset
  • Who owns the equipment and is responsible for maintenance
  • Can the OC enter into an agreement or create a by-law to use private property to secure the asset
  • Outward appearance and permission to install
The Owners Corporation should consider making Rules or By-laws that set the parameters and consider:

  • Under what circumstances approval will be given
  • How the common property will be allocated
  • How all members will benefit from the lease or licence
  • Taxation obligations
  • Ongoing maintenance

Smarter Buildings

Smarter technology, building products and building design as well as new technology is leading the way in the building industry. Apartment blocks are being built now with
  • Green Roofs
  • Advantages – reduced power consumption, good insulation
  • Issues – who is happy with their garden service now? What sort of expertise will be required to maintain? Is your roof waterproof?
  • Painting is replaced by mowing or trimming, what happens with stage 4 and above water restrictions? Would a green roof obtain a watering exemption?
  • Wind & solar powered rotating buildings, advantage - wake up to a different view each day.
  • Maintenance – specialised technicians, high replacement costs

Changing Attitudes

In the Commercial market we are seeing tenants sourcing the most efficient building to rent office space in as they are paying the outgoings. We are also seeing the tenant pushing the landlord to Green the building by retro fitting.

It is only a matter of time before we see market forces control the residential resale and lease market.

Changes to Rules or By-Laws

In order for the Owners Corporation to assist in the reduction of green house gases a number of existing by laws should be reviewed:

  • Air drying of laundry on balconies – rather than outlawing- investigate movable screens, so as to keep the aesthetic appearance but reduce the dependence on clothes dryers.
  • Outward Appearance
  • Tolerance for solar panels and other roof mounted equipment.
  • Rain water tanks, above and below ground.
  • Shade structures for windows

Duty of Care

Along with the new infrastructure will come an increased duty of care.

Before you do anything, you need to know what you own. This can be determined by looking at your Plan of Subdivision that you received when you purchased the property.
The Title defines the boundary of your lot. If you are in an apartment block, the outside wall and the roof is most likely the common property. If you are in a townhouse it is likely that you own the outside wall and roof. But boundaries of the lot vary from plan to plan. If you don’t know how to interpret the plan, you should seek expert advice.

Common Property

If the area you need to use is common property at the next meeting called by the Owners Corporation you will need to seek exclusive use of part of the common property and to lease or licence the area you desire placed on the Agenda. This will require a special resolution (75% of lot owners to vote yes). At the meeting you will need to “put” your case and convince the other lot owners to give up their right to use that part of the common property.
You should come to the meeting prepared with drawings and photographs of your proposal. The cost of drawing up a lease or licence for the use of the common property will be your responsibility and you should seek legal advice. If you gain a financial benefit from the lease or licence the Owners Corporation may decide that a fee per annum is applicable for the use of the common property.

Private Property

If the area you need to use is private property at the next meeting called by the Owners Corporation you will need to seek permission to install the equipment if it can be seen from the public area, for example the driveway or the front nature strip or if the Rules require you to do so. This will require an ordinary resolution (a simple majority voting yes). At the meeting you will need to “put” your case and convince the other lot owners that your proposal will not change the outward appearance in a negative way or devalue the other properties. You should come to meeting prepared with drawings and photographs of your proposal.

Once you have your permission, you can proceed with the installation. You should notify the insurer of the addition and make sure there is safe access for maintenance of the equipment. Once installed, you will become responsible for the repair, maintenance and replacement of the equipment.

Sustainable Strata

For further information about sustainability technology and grants see:

City Futures  - ‘how to’ guide for sustainable retrofits