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Sustainable renovations part 2: Getting the whole building involved

By Andrew Bell

Earlier this month, we talked about how you can improve your apartment's sustainability using minor renovations or appliance upgrades. It's helpful to know how you can make changes independently, as many of us don't have the time to involve owners' corporation bureaucracy.

That said, in order to make an especially meaningful difference to the carbon footprint of your Surfers Paradise apartment building, you will have to reach out to your owners' corporation for permission.This is because to have the biggest impact, you typically need to go green in common areas. 

How does my apartment building impact the environment?

Research by Energy Australia and the New South Wales (NSW) government found that average annual energy consumption and carbon emissions per unit across different swelling types are as follows:

Building type Energy use per unit (electricity + gas) (MJ/dwelling/year) Greenhouse gas emissions per unit (tonnes CO2/year) Greenhouse gas emissions per person (tonnes CO2/year)
High-rise 49,063 10.4 5.4
Mid-rise 30,954 7.3 3.8
Low-rise 27,158 6.5 3.4
Townhouse/villa 25,547 5.1 2.1
Detached 39,974 9.0 2.9
Average 36,309 8.0 4.1

From this table, it's clear that the majority of strata title homes are more energy efficient than detached dwellings already. However, high-rise buildings, which are plentiful on the Gold Coast, consume considerably more energy and emit more greenhouse gases per unit and per person.

However, there is great potential for strata buildings of all sizes to reduce energy use significantly. The Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) is used to assess environmental impact of new developments in NSW. High-rise apartments built under BASIX assessments have been proven to produce approximately 50 per cent lower greenhouse emissions.

So, it's certainly possible to develop high-rise apartment buildings that respect our environment – but what about existing buildings?

How can my apartment building improve its sustainability?

There are a number of ways you can instigate change for the better in your strata building. Investigating your options is the right place to start – but you'll also need to understand the process of bringing major common area renovations to your owners' corporation.

Seek access to your building's power and water bills to determine which areas need improvement, then consider some of the following strategies:

Install auxiliary natural power sources

High-rise buildings likely have too many inhabitants to be powered by rooftop solar panels. That said, natural power sources like solar panels can be used to supplement traditional power supply and support common area energy usage.

Arrange for energy-saving lights

In high-rise buildings, it's common for unnecessary lights to be on at any given time. This is because lights are generally required for hallways and other common areas that may lack natural light. Having these lights is necessary to the safety of tenants, however you can install motion sensors to ensure lights are only on when peoples are in the hallways.

Change energy provider

Though your energy provider doesn't determine how much power you use, they do decide where your power comes from. In a high-rise, you're most likely part of an Embedded Electricity Network (EEN). This means everyone in your building uses the same provider, as chosen by the owners' corporation. You can make an easy change to a green energy provider by bringing the issue to your owners' corporation meetings.

Employ rainwater tanks

With a rainwater tank, your building can collect natural rainfall to provide an alternative water supply. This helps to reduce water usage and is especially useful during Australian drought conditions. Depending on the harvesting system, rainwater can be used for all domestic purposes – at the very least, for irrigating common property gardens and lawns.

Improve your waste management systems

Though not directly linked to energy usage, proper sorting of refuse helps to improve environmental impact. Talk to your owners' corporation about improving waste management – this could mean installing rubbish chutes or refuse rooms, acquiring more bins or a compost bin, or even connecting with a soft plastics recycler.

The Gold Coast is a vibrant, clean and healthy place to live and sustainability practices ensure it stays that way. If you're looking to live in an eco-friendly high-end apartment on the Gold Coast, talk to the Ray White Surfers Paradise team today.

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