Water efficiency has its rewards

City of Sydney Councillor Philip Thalis presents the 2017 winners with their awards.

Andrew Whittaker is chair of the strata committee of a mixed residential and commercial property located in the Haymarket area of Sydney’s CBD and a joint winner of the 2017 CHU Strata Community Environmental and Engagement Award, which is only open to strata owners to enter.

The building has 154 residential lots and five commercial lots on the ground floor as well as parking for each lot and visitors/contractors. There are 18 floors (14 residential), including two levels of basement parking.

Andrew says the strata committee was encouraged to enter the awards by the City of Sydney (CoS). “I had been working closely with CoS and Sydney Water on water and energy efficiency initiatives for the building, which were starting to show real improvements, particularly in driving down water use. We decided entering the awards would be a good way to see how we were going against other properties,” Andrew explained.

A key driver for the strata committee and owners adopting the measures was cost savings and the financial incentives being offered. Council sponsored an energy and water audit of the building and Sydney Water offered a $0 up-front project.

“The audit showed some serious problems with the building’s energy and water use, most startling being that 28% of our water consumption was coming from minor internal leaks, namely leaking toilet cisterns and dripping/running taps.

“Owners were encouraged to support the water and energy efficiencies based on a number of factors including reducing environmental impacts, zero cost upfront for the water project, attractive payback periods and future savings (estimated at $44,000 per year on water bills).”

Andrew says the water efficiencies put in place also created efficiencies with the hot water systems meaning savings on energy costs.

Winning the award was exciting for those involved and added to the positive feedback the strata committee received for the water system improvements.

The award also reflected the very strong engagement with owners and tenants that the strata committee has worked hard on over the last couple of years.

“We run a quarterly newsletter, bulletin boards and auto-notification through our building management system.

“For major projects we engage project managers who are required to conduct early and comprehensive consultation with residents. This is particularly important in a building which has many residents whose primary language is not English. Making a submission and driving change requires someone to “champion” the cause,” Andrew explained.

Next for the building is implementing the agreed program of energy efficiencies.

“Our building, like many others, was built in the era of cheap power and plentiful water. Times have changed and we need to ensure that our properties don’t become environmental dinosaurs which are expensive to operate and maintain.

“Our strata committee is firmly focussed on investing in the future, Andrew concluded.

To find out more about entering the 2018 CHU Strata Community Awards click here.