Earth Hour – Our actions today can change our tomorrow

Earth Hour was started by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Sydney in 2007 when it presented the idea to City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore who agreed to support the event. The idea is to mobilise the community for just one hour on one night to turn off their non-essential electric lights.

Earth Hour soon spread around the world and now engages 7,000 cities and towns across 187 countries and territories.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of Earth Hour which is still a great way of getting people to think and act on reducing their energy consumption and their impact on the environment.

This year Earth Hour is scheduled for Saturday 30 March from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. It’s a great way of getting friends and family together, switching off the electricity and doing something that can make a difference at the very least to our behaviour.

There are also community events organised so check out the WWF website and see if there is something you can get involved in. You can also register your event for your building, school, workplace or community organisation with Earth Hour through the website.

Additional resources such as Connect2Earth stories, photos and videos, information packs and posters are available.

If you want to post your activities on social media before or during Earth Hour please use the hashtag The Earth Hour 2019 #Connect2Earth.

Guide to Sustainable Living

Renters rejoice – now there is something for you on how to live sustainably. Not just limited to renters though, the (Renters) Guide to Sustainable Living contains tips for a more comfortable and energy efficient home.

The tips include how to seal gaps and draught proof your home, shading windows, replacing lighting that’s more energy efficient and using energy smart appliances. The guide notes which of these tips require renters to get their landlords permission to enact.

The guide goes through room by room to offer suggestions on how to make more sustainable choices in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, living and sleeping areas.

It even provides advice on working with your landlord and agent and advises on how landlords can seek a tax deduction from the Australian Tax Office for energy efficiency improvements made to rental properties.

Even if you’re not a renter the tips in this guide will no doubt be invaluable in finding ways to live more sustainably.

Energy Savings Scheme

If you’ve suffered bill shock this Summer from using the air conditioning or other cooling appliances you’re not alone.

Fortunately, the NSW Government’s Energy Savings Scheme can help. Home owners may be able to benefit from a range of energy efficiency upgrades, such as replacing downlights with LEDs.

This is called the Home Energy Efficiency Retrofits method (or HEER method) and residential upgrades are performed by businesses that are accredited under the HEER method. They may also be able to provide discounted energy savings services or products to residential customers.

Energy efficient lighting upgrades are also part of the NSW Government energy affordability package. The purpose of the package is to help households and small businesses save energy and money.

Another way to reduce electricity consumption is by purchasing energy efficient appliances from washing machines and dryers to dishwashers, fridges and TVs. The Sale of New Appliances method provides appliance retailers an incentive to sell higher efficiency appliances to consumers who benefit from the ongoing electricity savings.

If you are interested in an energy efficiency upgrade for your home or purchasing an energy efficient appliance, you should contact the businesses that provide these services. Businesses accredited under the ESS are referred to as Accredited Certificate Providers, or ACPs. A list of all ACPs under the ESS is available on the List of ACPs page.

Act now and don’t suffer from any more bill shock.

 

NABERS

Most people by now are conscious of the need to reduce their energy and water consumption. At the very least it can reduce our electricity bills and conserve water as we continue to suffer through a terrible drought.

NABERS, which stands for the National Australian Built Environment Rating System offers tools that can be used to measure a building’s energy efficiency, carbon emissions, as well as the water consumed, the waste produced and compares it to similar buildings.

According to the NABERS website, the philosophy is that once we can understand our impact, we can begin the journey to reducing it and contributing to a healthier environment.

Simply put NABERS is a six star rating system that helps Australia’s building owners understand how their asset impacts the environment.

If you want to rate your building you can either use the online tool or find an Accredited Assessor who can undertake a thorough rating for you.

Over the past 20 years, $400 million in energy bills have been saved with over 826,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions also saved – enough to power over 75,000 homes for a year.

Start your journey with NABERS and see what you can save.

 

Media update: lift liability

SCA (NSW) President Chris Duggan recently provided some media comment to the Domain section of the Sydney Morning Herald about people getting trapped in lifts, and the reasons that this may be happening on a more frequent basis.

Chris points out that a lot of lifts may be reaching their use by date and that owners corporations may have not been as diligent as they need to be in maintaining them.

The huge increase in apartment buildings coming on line throughout the Sydney metropolitan area also means there are going to be more lift incidents.

Read the story and find out what else Chris has to say.

To access other stories where SCA (NSW) is in the media go to our Media Centre.

 

CHU Strata Community Awards 2018: Generation W winner of the Strata Community Environmental & Engagement Award

Sponsored by the City of Sydney, the award was presented by Lord Mayor, Clover Moore

Each year outstanding contributors to the NSW strata sector are recognised at the SCA (NSW) Strata Community Awards across several award categories. One of the award categories recognises a strata scheme that is working to reduce their impact on the environment. The winner of the 2018 Strata Community Environmental & Engagement award went to strata scheme ‘Generation W’, which was once a commercial store house that has been retrofitted and now embraces the principles of re-use, sustainability and community.

Generation W is located in Woolloomooloo and consists of 35 units with three residential floors and 140 square metres of roof space.

The active strata committee rallies the owners as it pursues innovative solutions aimed at the efficient and responsible use of resources including energy, waste and food. To achieve this the owners corporation initiated a sustainability plan and has acted enthusiastically on the recommendations.

Activities undertaken to increase energy efficiency include an upgrade to the common hot water system for the apartments to a heat pump system. Solar thermal hot water solutions were also investigated.

For this property heat pump technology demonstrated the greatest savings potential. The central location of the existing water boilers in the basement car park was ideally suited to a heat pump implementation and advantage was taken of existing piping infrastructure. The existing location of the boilers was sound proof and well ventilated for efficient operation. Heat pump technology is often overlooked, so this project serves as a useful demonstration for other strata schemes.

The strata committee also followed through with an LED lighting upgrade in common areas including basement carpark, fire escapes, stairwells, corridors, and external lights. Dimmable enlighten Chamaeleon lights were used where appropriate to maximize the savings impact.

Solar PV, smart meters and batteries have also been investigated with various solutions explored. The current Solar PV proposal involves development of unused roof space for 12kW of Solar PV panels while allowing for a proposed communal BBQ in another area of the roof.

In addition to energy efficiency, water and renewable energy projects, the strata committee has also established an extensive community vegetable and herb garden. This includes implementation of a new food waste composting system and a worm farm.

The main ground floor common area now hosts a thriving open air communal garden which is used for growing food including: strawberries, paw paw, olives, asparagus, lemons, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, limes, kaffir limes, passionfruit, beetroot, eggplant, pumpkin, tomatoes, rocket and chillies. The herb garden includes parsley, thyme, oregano, sage, chives, basil, rosemary and bay leaves.

The use of the common area for a vegetable and herb garden has been a tremendous boost to community engagement and services as a food source, waste recycling as well as learning and social outlet. This has broken down barriers and raised enthusiasm in the discussion of other projects including energy efficiency, water, waste, transport, and renewable energy projects. Strata committee meetings are enlivened by discussion around these various projects and are now better informed about the attitudes and feelings of owners and residents in the community.

With all these projects the strata committee has been able to overcome barriers and holds regular committee meetings, documents progress, engages professionals, and distributes findings to the community via email. The strata committee has found that because of the sense of community that has evolved residents make the extra effort to read reports and findings and be involved in both informal and formal discussions.

The strata scheme has also committed to obtain a NABERS for Apartment Buildings rating to formally show other strata schemes what is possible and how to achieve sustainability goals.

If you believe your scheme has that special something why not consider entering the 2019 Awards. Details on how to enter will be on the SCA (NSW) website https://nsw.strata.community/ soon.

 

 

President’s statement on proposed Strata Commissioner

In the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 March 2019, it was reported that the NSW Opposition had proposed the appointment of a strata commissioner to oversee matters related to building defects and strata issues generally.

Coincidentally SCA (NSW) also met on Monday with Yasmine Catley, the Shadow Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, and briefed the Shadow Minister on SCA (NSW)’s policy positions.

SCA (NSW) supports the proposal of furthering strata consumer rights, however we believe that it needs to be part of a broader systemic review in accordance with our priority policy objectives.

Those priorities being:

SCA (NSW) wants a 5 year plan from the next State Government to progress strata property and consumer rights in NSW

  • Recent rapid growth has hamstrung quality control processes
  • Needs a specific focus on ensuring development doesn’t come at a cost for those involved, with a key focus on reducing the cost of defects on consumers
  • Root and stem review of the development life cycle, with a focus on consumer and lot owner rights involving a total review of the legislative regime of building construction, compliance and ongoing rights

SCA (NSW) wants an Urban Regeneration & Building Services Minister role to be created

  • New portfolio specific to issues of Sydney’s urban renewal
  • Portfolio tasked with enforcing major design, liveability and quality mandates
  • Key responsibility from development through to post completion consumer rights

Subsidised loan scheme- cladding rectification

  • A $100 million loan package. Government backed loan scheme to ensure affected buildings can cover rectification costs

Supply chain audit, imported products

  • SCA (NSW) wants State Government to push Federal counterparts to introduce stronger import controls
  • Too many unsafe products slipping through the cracks- cladding, wiring, building materials

The view that NSW Fair Trading is not handling strata issues well is not shared by SCA (NSW) and any changes to governance and regulation would need detailed analysis prior to making such significant structural changes.

SCA (NSW) supports NSW Fair Trading in its administration of strata issues. We have a functional and collaborative relationship and acknowledge those we liaise with in government have a good in depth knowledge of strata and are sympathetic to the issues in the sector.

Any review of the systems and legislation surrounding strata – from building defects, statutory warranties, construction standards, to consumer rights – would be supported by SCA (NSW). Our first key policy objective is in fact to seek from Government (which ever Party should win the 2019 Election) a five-year plan to progress strata property and consumer rights in NSW.

As always, we will continue to work with government, and opposition, and the Minister appointed to represent Fair Trading to ensure the strata industry in NSW is well-represented.

Chris Duggan
SCA (NSW) President

Creating mentally healthy workplaces

Everyone’s mental health is important and ensuring the workplace is mentally healthy should be a top priority given we spend so much time at work.

SafeWork NSW is currently offering a free WHS expert advice program to help NSW businesses create mentally healthy workplaces.

The WHS expert advice program is being delivered by Assure Programs via an online tool. This tool evaluates a business’s current workplace mental health capabilities, identifies areas for improvement and provides them with tailored expert advice and resources, including a personalised plan. This plan will include how to assess and manage workplace factors in the workplace, how to create a positive workplace culture and support services and tools.

How to register

To register your interest for this program, please complete the form on the mental health at work website: http://mentalhealthatwork.nsw.gov.au/what-you-can-do/i-am-a-manager/program-sign-up. Once your application is submitted, SafeWork NSW will be in contact to let you know if you are eligible.

Why participate?

This initiative is part of the NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy 2018-2022 (strategy), which was launched by the NSW Government in June 2018. By participating in the program, you are on track to join the 22% of workplaces that are taking effective action and enjoying the benefits of being a mentally healthy workplace, such as:

  • a positive and inclusive work culture
  • workers feeling valued, engaged and committed to the organisation and doing their best work – an employer of choice
  • increased productivity – with a return of up to $4 for every $1 invested in workplace mental health.

For tips and resources on how to create a mentally healthy workplace, please visit www.mentalhealthatwork.nsw.gov.au. You can also subscribe to an enewsletter for more information, resources and news on future initiatives to help workers and businesses be mentally healthy.

Strata Building Bond Scheme assistance for members

SCA (NSW) is pleased to advise that NSW Fair Trading has now provided a specialist resource to assist with the implementation of the Strata Building Bond and Inspections Scheme (SBBIS).

If you are one of the first managers to take a client through this new scheme, contact can be made directly with Melanie Schwerdt, Manager Strata Building Bond & Inspections Scheme on (02) 9895 9094 or melanie.schwerdt@finance.nsw.gov.au

Alternatively, you can call 13 32 20 (8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) or email stratabond@finance.nsw.gov.au

Just to remind you, the strata building bond and inspections scheme began on 1 January 2018. It applies to building contracts executed from this date – or where there is no written contract – building work that commences from this date, to construct residential or partially-residential strata properties that are four or more storeys.

The strata building bond and inspections scheme is administered by an online portal. Developers can register to use the portal at any time before the occupation certificate is issued. Project details can be entered and documents uploaded at any time, as they become available. These documents should reflect the completed building just before any occupation certificate is issued (not the start of the build).

Eligible owners corporations should acquaint themselves with this portal in the event they need to access information.

Prior to the scheme starting we provided our members with information specifically for owners corporations and strata managers. You can also access more details online about the Strata Building Bond Scheme.

 

Updated: investigation into the Opal Tower defects

An interim investigation has been undertaken into the Opal Tower defects by independent professional experts at the request of the NSW Government.

A report was provided and has been made public so those interested in it can find the full document here.

To recap, the Opal Tower is a 36 storey apartment tower located in Sydney’s Olympic Park precinct. It was completed in 2018 with residents moving in not long after.

On Christmas Eve 2018, residents heard loud noises, including a ‘bang’. Investigations found large cracks in a load-bearing panel on level 10. Further investigations found cracked structural concrete on level 4. Over four days, residents were evacuated, allowed back to their apartments and then evacuated again.

The report’s Executive Summary provides answers to some of the common questions that have been asked.

The report indicates that overall the building is structurally sound and not in danger of collapsing. However, the report says that significant rectification works are needed.

In addition to the rectification works, a number of design and construction issues have been identified that together have probably caused the damage to some structural parts of the building. This will require further investigation.

Recommendations include that independent qualified structural engineers be engaged to check the final proposal in detail before major rectification works commence. As well, further analysis should be undertaken of the structural design with some construction elements strengthened as they occur throughout the building.

Of course the unseen damage is to residents and owners who have had to move out of their relatively new homes and to the reputation of the property developers and the building itself. For example, apartments are now worth 50 percent less according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 January.

A building company with a similar name to the Opal’s developers has had to post a message on its website that it is not associated with the building. Meanwhile the company that did develop the building has distanced itself from the project.

Clearly there is more to come especially with the NSW Government also now involved. We’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE:

On 22 February 2019, days after publishing this story, the NSW Government released its final report into the issues surrounding the Opal Tower building failure.

A copy of the Minister for Planning’s media release is here, however we have provided the main points below to save you some time. The final report found:

  • a number of structural design and construction issues, including non-compliance with national codes and standards were responsible for the observed damage at Opal Tower.
  • some of the as-constructed hob beams and panel assemblies were under designed according to the National Construction Code and Australian Standards, leaving the beams prone to failure.
  • construction and material deficiencies likely contributed to the damage to the hob beams on levels 4 and 10.
  • the building is overall structurally sound and the localised damage to the building can be rectified to ensure the building is compliant with the National Construction Code.

A number of recommendations were made including the creation of a new Building Structure Review Board to establish and publish the facts relating to major structural damage of buildings arising from structural design and construction, to investigate their causes and to recommend regulatory changes as needed.

A full copy of the final report is available at: https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/finalopalreport.

The NSW Government’s full response to the Shergold Weir Report is available on the Fair Trading website.