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How to Encourage Australia's Bodies Corporate to Adopt Green Practices and Save Money and Energy
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How to Encourage Australia’s Bodies Corporate to Adopt Green Practices and Save Money and Energy

If you are living in an apartment either as an owner or a renter, dealing with the body corporate can feel like a risky journey filled with conflicting views and competing priorities.

How can one effectively discuss making environmentally-friendly changes to their building, when even agreeing on rules for hanging laundry can be challenging?

Individual circumstances will dictate the most effective approach, as it heavily relies on the specific characteristics of your building and the composition of your strata committee. Nonetheless, here are some recommendations to assist you in initiating the process.

‘A good audit’

Megan Chatterton, the chief resilience officer for the Owners Corporation Network, recommends taking an energy efficiency assessment as the initial step. The body corporate will be responsible for covering the costs, but there are potential grants available in certain states that could potentially result in overall financial savings.

Assessments are carried out through the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (Nabers), and will measure and compare your building’s energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environmental quality. It will provide a roadmap for improvements that can often save both energy and money for all tenants.

Megan Chatterton, chief resilience officer for the Owners Corporation NetworkView image in fullscreen

According to Chatterton, when the strata committee realizes the potential for saving money and energy, you will be in a stronger position to communicate with them.

“A good audit will also show if you are on the correct energy tariff. We’ve seen savings worth thousands of dollars a year simply by switching to the correct tariff.”

Chatterton proposes involving the body corporate’s treasurer by highlighting the potential to decrease regular expenses.

To begin, focus on making affordable changes, such as improving lighting, heating, and ventilation, to showcase how they can lead to savings. Once these have been implemented, you can address more expensive upgrades, like installing solar panels on the roof.

Chatterton advises thorough preparation ahead of time for upgrades to significant plants and equipment, such as gas hot water systems. Neglecting this preparation could result in simply replacing old equipment with more of the same, and missing out on the chance to enhance value and save money.

EV charging stations

Determining whether to install an electric vehicle charging station in your building largely relies on the number of people with EVs and the presence of nearby public stations. The primary benefit of doing so is that these stations can charge your vehicle at a much faster rate, typically three to 10 times faster than a traditional power outlet.

EV charging station

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Toby Hagon, a motoring journalist, suggests that with the persistent increase in electric vehicle purchases, it is opportune to have a conversation with your body corporate about being proactive.

In the coming years, there will be an increase in the use of electric vehicles, according to the speaker. However, he also acknowledges that certain older buildings may face difficulties in installing wiring for designated parking areas, which must be taken into consideration.

In the past year, the Australian Building Codes Board released these guidelines for property owners. Additionally, as of October, the National Construction Code has implemented regulations for newly constructed apartments.

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According to him, the initial action is to include the proposal in your building’s AGM schedule, clarifying that electric vehicles will not impact the building’s power and can be individually metered for apartment owners. This is particularly beneficial as most charging takes place during off-peak hours, when the building’s energy demand is minimal.

A suggestion from Hagon is to contact companies, such as Jetcharge or RevCharge, to receive price estimates for installing appropriate infrastructure in your building. It is also recommended to inquire about any government subsidies that may be accessible across Australia.

Vegie gardens and composting

Although it may seem easy to create a vegetable garden and install a compost bin in the backyard of an apartment complex, these tasks can become challenging to maintain over time.

Vegie garden

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Xuan Wang, the founder of City Compost Network podcast in Melbourne, has discovered that there are limitations with space and efficiency when it comes to onsite apartment composting. Many of these efforts also struggle to properly educate residents on how to separate organics from general landfill. As a result, she created her podcast.

She states that her goal is to increase the durability of our soil and community by creating one batch of compost at a time.

At present, 132 out of 563 city councils in Australia collect organic waste for composting. To determine if your council is among these, please visit our website. If not, you may want to advocate for them to start doing so.

Instead, groups like ACT’s Capital Scraps collect compost from apartment complexes, reducing the hassle for tenants.

The founder of Brook Clinton suggests implementing a roster system for a communal compost in order to prevent one person from becoming overwhelmed and burning out.

Strata rules

Renters obviously have far less ability to bring about environmental building improvements than owners do. But for pesky things like being ordered not to use verandas to dry your clothes, Joel Dignam, director of Better Homes for Renters, recommends renters use their own discretion.

According to the speaker, as a tenant, you are responsible for adhering to strata regulations, but you have no influence in the creation of these regulations.

“If there is a regulation prohibiting the use of a clothing rack on a balcony, you cannot contest the regulation. However, you have the option to not follow it, recognizing that it is morally acceptable to refuse to comply with unjust laws.”

Your landlord may be contacted by your body corporate if you are asked to cease certain actions, but this could potentially lead to further examination of the legitimacy of the regulations. It is important to note that your lease typically obligates you to abide by the rules of the strata, so continued disregard may potentially violate your tenancy contract.

According to Dignam, owners have greater authority in decision making. While bylaws may seem fixed and typical, owners have the ability to modify them. In cases where the bylaws are unreasonable or irrelevant and lead to unfavorable consequences, such as prohibiting laundry drying, it is worth making an effort to amend them.

Source: theguardian.com