Apartment buildings have long missed out on sustainability upgrades for a range of reasons but council programs such as the City of Sydney’s Smart Green Apartments and now Waverley Council’s Building Futures program are giving strata buildings the chance to go green.

Ten strata buildings in Waverley will shave an average of 20 per cent off their common area energy usage – which typically makes up to 60 per cent of total energy used in an apartment block – through the Waverley Council’s second round of its Building Futures program.

Through the program, each of the selected buildings are run through a program with energy auditor, Gareth Huxham from Energy Smart Strata, who offers some costed recommendations for short and medium term upgrades, and outlines the potential for solar. 

The council also provides matched funding of up to $5000 per building for retrofit projects recommended in the energy assessment that are above business-as-usual, such as lighting upgrades or CO2 monitoring equipment. The works must be completed in a single financial year.

The building owners also receive help from the council through the approval process and in the implementation phase (up to 10 hours per building) to help them get started, as well as training, recognition and promotion.

On average, buildings are expected to save more than $10,000 each year on their electricity bills with a payback period of around 2.5 years, and deliver an estimated carbon emission reduction of 535 tonnes per year.

Other organisations that have been involved in the design and delivery of the program including Green Strata, Sydney Water, City of Sydney and SCA NSW.

The first crop of 10 buildings were in the Bondi Junction area, which is where huge energy wastage was first identified. In the program’s second year it has been rolled out to the entire Waverley municipality. 

Mayor of Waverley, John Wakefield, said this was an expansion of previous programs.

“This is first time we have included buildings from other parts of Waverley, and I congratulate our new participating buildings who will work towards a shared energy goal of reduced common property energy by 20 per cent.” 

He also told The Fifth Estate that these types of programs are the future of climate change action and that all councils have a responsibility to improve the operational efficiency of the building stock in their municipalities. 

“We’re sitting on this stock of valuable infrastructure called buildings, they have the capacity to deliver huge efficiency outcomes,” he said.

“The built infrastructure is the place we can deliver these savings immediately.”

Buildings in the program include 151° East (Bondi), The Eclipse (Bondi Junction), Oceanview Apartments (Bronte), The Forum (Bondi Junction), Aqua (Bondi Junction), Crestview (Bondi), 212 Bondi Road (Bondi), 29 Newland Street (Bondi Junction), Penkivil Gardens (Bondi) and The Duke (Bondi). 

Projects could include efficiency lighting retrofits, carpark carbon monoxide monitoring and ventilation solutions.

Why target apartment buildings?

Strata buildings have long missed out on the cost-saving benefits of sustainability upgrades. 

Although conditions are changing to make it easier for these upgrades, including the introduction of NABERS for Apartments last year, the lack of information, time and trust remain some of the biggest barriers stopping energy efficiency upgrades in apartment buildings. 

“They don’t know what to do, they don’t know how they work, they don’t know how much it costs, or who they can trust,” Green Strata director Christine Byrne told The Fifth Estate after the launch event last week.

“The information thing is absolutely the biggest barrier… Once they have it it’s a no brainer.”

The council has targeted medium-large strata because almost half of the council’s carbon footprint comes from the residential sector and 83 per cent of the population lives in multi-unit dwellings.

A spokesperson said that strata owners are often left out of policy and incentive support programs at other government levels, as well as “complex governance relating to sustainability retrofits”. 

“The program aims to cut through the complexities and make it an easier process.”

The event on Thursday was also an awards night for last year’s participants and according to Ms Byrne, there were some proud winners.

“They may not have saved a heap of money but they take pride in their property… it’s their home.”

The program originated from the council’s Green Infrastructure Master Plan which maps a sustainable future for Bondi Junction by identifying low carbon, energy efficient, sustainable water and waste management solutions for new and existing buildings as well as the streetscape. It has now been expanded to other areas in Waverley.