Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Why is it so hard to get some help for better sustainability in apartments? Here are some of the hurdles from a Victorian point of view and why it’s time for change.

According to the Victorian Strata Community Association president Gregor Evans, compared with the help offered to commercial and other classes of residential property, there’s little government assistance for sustainability upgrades in strata buildings.

And yet 25 per cent of the state’s population lives in this type of dwelling.

With the state government unveiling its plans to get to net zero this week, this makes the strata sector a good starting point for the transition, he says.

Victorian Strata Community Association president Gregor Evans

“And that number is only going to increase with more apartment buildings and complexes to fall under the owner’s corporation structure.”

Evans suspects multi-dwelling buildings fall into the “too hard basket” when it comes to government support for sustainability upgrades.

In the lead up to the Victorian budget, due to be handed down later this month, the owners’ corporations body has lodged a submission calling for government support to improve the sustainability of these buildings.

Many apartment dwellers have long missed out on the cost-saving benefits of sustainability upgrades, including rooftop solar, because of the way owners’ corporations operate.

Key is that any alterations to common property must be signed off by 75 per cent of all owners (or those present at a meeting), which can be a challenging ratio to meet.

It can be hard to make the case for capital intensive upgrades that leave a lot owners out of-pocket, especially when there’s a lack of education around pay back periods and long term operational savings.

As such, the SCA is calling for a feasibility report for retrofitting support for electric vehicles, solar panels and battery microgrids.

Evans says demand for EV chargers in strata buildings is only likely to increase with the state government announcing incentives for electric vehicles this weekend and targeting 50 per cent EVs by 2030.

When there’s only a few EV owners in a building, a few charging stations are manageable but as numbers increase space and the configuration of electrical wiring can become barriers.

“When EVs overtake petrol vehicles and they draw on the power of the building, it becomes difficult to manage.”

He says now is the perfect time to invest into a strata-led future for EV and solar

power given the incoming incentives for EV ownership.

“Our proposal would go hand in glove with any future state government initiative on electric vehicles.”

When there is no control over the building it’s even harder to make inroads

A lack of funds isn’t the only barrier to sustainability retrofits: the base building information is not always handed over by to the owners corporation so it’s difficult to make assessments on the building’s ability to handle electric vehicles, batteries and rooftop solar.

He says the organisation is crying out for the mandatory transfer of this technical building information so that engaging experts and consultants to do sustainability upgrades is easier and more affordable for owners.

While not a focus in the submission, Evans believes NABERS for Apartments ratings can influence owner’s corporation to reduce their carbon footprint. He’s personally an advocate for mandatory NABERS certifications and would like to see this implemented sometime in the future.

The submission also calls for funding of research and development programs for multi-unit dwellings aimed at finding sustainable recycling solutions. Evans says multi-unit dwellings have unique needs for managing waste, such as limited space for storing extra bins under a four-bin system and container deposit scheme.

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