City of Sydney cuts apartment levies by up to $60,000 in global warming battle
Domain
Jimmy Thomson
24 August 2016

Apartment owners in Sydney are being offered the chance to save as much as $60,000 on their annual levies – and tackle global warming at the same time.

City of Sydney claims its Smart Green Apartments pilot program has already produced average savings of $25,000 per year and cut carbon emissions by 3000 tonnes.

One building, the 15-storey Aria Apartments in Waterloo, is saving $61,000 in annual levies through measures such as lighting upgrades and adjusting timers on car park exhaust fans to match peak traffic flows, while introducing new recycling stations and an e-waste bin.

Aria apartments in Waterloo

Meanwhile, Cleveland Mews, a 66-unit apartment building in Redfern is saving 82 per cent in power use through lighting upgrades and installing heat pumps for the swimming pool and spa.

Now another 20 buildings will get the chance to sign up for phase two of the program, to be launched on Wednesday.

Experts agree apartment buildings are notoriously inefficient when it comes to energy. Lifts, common area lighting, air conditioning, swimming pools, ventilation and other shared facilities are just part of a complex equation.

The Smart Green Apartments program doesn’t install the energy saving infrastructure. Instead, free of charge, its consultants identify where energy can be saved and present a case for investing in more efficient technologies as a cost-benefit analysis.

Participating buildings get a customised assessment plus access to an online monitoring system. But it’s up to owners’ corporations to then decide if they want to spend money for potential long-term savings, not to mention benefits to the environment.

Tackling water wastage is a key component of the fix. Water has to be pumped up to the higher levels of unit blocks and, with a high percentage of apartments tenanted, water waste can be hard to monitor and control.

“There are always difficulties with tenants not reporting water leaks and faults with air conditioners,” says building manager Alan Hoy, owner of management company Strategic Strata Solutions. “They can be left for a long time and end up costing buildings a lot of money, particularly with excess water rates.

“Sometimes, particularly in buildings without managers or security – and there are a lot of those in Sydney – those issues can go completely unnoticed. Tenants don’t report them and landlords can be reluctant to spend money to fix them. We really need to educate people about their responsibilities.”

The program’s tailored assessments commonly lead to more efficient lighting, improved equipment servicing and upgraded water efficiency, all of which reduce waste and save money, claims the council.

It may seem like a no-brainer but one former strata chairwoman, who preferred not to be named, said there was still a lot of resistance from older owners as well as short-term investors.

“Retirees on fixed incomes, many of whom run strata committees, often aren’t interested in long-term savings if it means they have to spend money now,” she told Domain. “Investors out to make a quick buck by ‘flipping’ units are also averse to spending any more than they have to.”

But with more than 70 per cent of the City of Sydney’s residents living in apartment buildings – a figure set to increase to 80 per cent by 2030 – this is an area where Sydney council believes significant change can be made in a win-win for residents.

“Residential apartments are responsible for around 10 per cent of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so this program gives us the opportunity to make some serious cuts,” says City of Sydney chief executive, Monica Barone. “By offering apartment owners the means of reducing emissions we can make apartment living far more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.”

Participants in the pilot program agree. “It provided a huge amount of knowledge about the building and how our resources were being used,” says Gordon Streight, executive committee chairman of Bauhaus Apartments in Pyrmont.

“I would encourage other buildings to embrace the Smart Green Apartments program and leverage the experience of others across the city.”

“Thirty buildings participated in the Smart Green Apartments program trial,” a City of Sydney spokesman told Domain.

“All of them implemented recommended short-term changes, with most continuing to push through medium-to-long term recommended changes over the coming years.”

Applications for the Smart Green Apartment Program are open for one month from August 24 to strata or company title residential buildings with a minimum of six storeys or 50 apartments in the City of Sydney’s local area.


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