Sustainability in Strata: What Does it Mean and What Changes Can You Make?

Sustainability in strata is a hot topic at the moment but what does it mean and how can you as a resident of a strata scheme do anything about it. This article will highlight for you some of the simple changes you and your strata community can make to save money and the environment. Win win!

Sustainability has many definitions, however, at its core, it is concerned with reducing our consumption of finite natural resources including water and fossil fuels, reducing waste and land fill and making changes to ensure the preservation of the environment for future generations.

Recently I represented Grace Lawyers at the Strata Community Association Forum on Sustainability. The forum provided an opportunity for industry leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities for strata communities to become more sustainable and save some money while they are at it.

As part of the SCA Forum on Sustainability, we heard from a representative for the developer of the award winning Sustainable City in Dubai which has been recognised as ‘The Happiest Community’ in the GCC for three years running. The Sustainable City is a verdant oasis in the desert and the first operational net zero energy city in Dubai. The success of The Sustainable City stems from three pillars of sustainability:

› Social Sustainability through community engagement, social events, seminars and free public amenities such as swimming pool, parks and gym; 

› Environmental Sustainability through the use of solar power, water recycling, highly efficient building materials and design, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, electric golf buggies, driverless taxies and waste reduction, recycling and management; and 

› Economic Sustainability through the use of generating revenue to fund the maintenance and running costs of the community.

The community has 500 residential villas, some apartments, a mixed use retail and commercial centre to promote jobs and community engagement, an international school and a state of the art education and therapy centre to assist people living with disabilities. The profits generated from the commercial properties is used to pay for the maintenance of the Sustainable City so the residential owners do not need to pay maintenance levies.

The Sustainable City is an excellent case study of the social, environmental and economic benefits of adopting a more sustainable way of building and living in strata communities.

The seminar and forum got me thinking about ways we as owners and residents of strata buildings can implement sustainable infrastructure in existing strata buildings in Australia. Below are some ideas of easy cost-effective ways we can be more sustainable: 

› Sustainability Champion

Appoint a member of the owners corporation to be the Sustainability Champion for the owners corporation. The role of the Sustainability Champion is to investigate, advocate and facilitate improvements that can be made in your building to improve the sustainability of your building.

Many local governments and government departments such as Sydney Water and NABERS have programs to promote and assist you to become more sustainable. Investigate to see if you are entitled to any rebates or freebies.

› Energy Consumption

  • Install solar panels on the roof: either just for common property energy consumption (lights, swimming pool and lifts) to reduce the building’s operational costs and strata levies. Alternatively, you can install panels and inverters for all lots.

Not only are solar panels important in the battle against climate change, with the cost of electricity skyrocketing in recent years and the cost of solar falling, there is a strong economic case to be made for free solar electricity. 

  • Install an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station in your parking garage to encourage the use of EVs. 
  • Install secure bike storage to encourage bike riding and reduce the number of trips we take in our cars.
  • Transition to LED lights which are highly energy efficient. 
  • Install timers and sensors on common property lights. 
  • When at home with the heater or air-conditioner on, close your windows, blinds and curtains to prevent heat entering or escaping through the windows. This will allow you to heat or cool your apartment more efficiently. 

› Water Consumption 

  • Install rain water tanks for landscaping.
  • Fix leaking taps.
  • Install water efficient taps and shower heads. 

› In the Garden 

  • Consider organising a community gardening group to maintain the common property gardens and grow flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Studies have shown gardening to lower stress and anxiety, assist in the treatment of depression and facilitate positive mental health outcomes through developing friendships and community engagement. 

  • Have a compost bin to reduce waste sent to landfill and improve soil health. 
  • Plant native trees, shrubs and grasses in your garden. Not only are they beautiful and low maintenance, they are also very well suited to our climate, tolerate the hot sun and dry conditions and require less water. 

› Waste and Recycling

The key here is the three R’s, in order of importance: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

1. Reduce. Reduce your consumption.

We all have too much of everything and not enough storage. The solution – buy less stuff – you will be richer and happier.

Reduce the number of gifts you buy for children. Consider giving them an experience rather than a toy; take them to the zoo or aquarium or their favourite restaurant.

Reduce the amount of packaging you buy. Buy fruits and vegetables that do not come wrapped in plastic; nature has given fruits and vegetable all the packaging and protection they require.

Reduce your plastic consumption.

Do not buy single use plastics. Carry a reusable water bottle with you.

Buy take away food that comes in paper: pizza and bahn mi.

Reduce your energy and water consumption.

Reduce your reliance on your car. Walk or ride your bike. Like gardening, studies have shown exercise to be an excellent way to lower stress and anxiety, assist in the treatment of depression and facilitate positive mental health outcomes.

2. Reuse. Reuse jars to store food.

Reuse shopping bags. Reuse cardboard boxes as craft projects for kids. Reuse the water from washing your fruit and vegetables to water your garden. Look on Gumtree and ebay and at Vinnies for high quality, second hand clothes, toys, books, homewares and furniture.

3. Recycle. These days just about everything can be recycled. Recycle paper, glass, tin and some plastics in your yellow recycling bin. Do not place plastic bags or garbage bags in the yellow bin – the bag and all of its contents will be diverted to land fill. Recycle clothes – give them to family, friends or charity.

Recycle soft plastics at Coles and Woolworths. Recycle e-waste at your local government drop off centre. Recycle old mattresses with

To support your transition to a more sustainable way of living, New South Wales Parliament has introduced a bill which, once enacted, will facilitate the installation of sustainability infrastructure in strata schemes by the passing of a “sustainability infrastructure resolution” which can be approved by a simple majority (i.e. 50%).

Sustainability infrastructure means changes to part of the common property (which includes the installation, removal, modification or replacement of anything on or forming part of that property) for any one or more of the following purposes: 

› to reduce the consumption of energy or water or to increase the efficiency of its consumption 

to reduce or prevent pollution 

› to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill

 › to increase the recovery or recycling of materials

to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

 › to facilitate the use of sustainable forms of transport, Note. For example, installing electric vehicle charging stations

If you are considering how to make your building more sustainable and use these new powers, there are a few things you can do to get started: 

› appoint a sustainability champion in your building to investigate the options and report back 

› speak to your local council, NABERS and Sydney Water about programs, initiatives and incentives available to you 

› obtain expert advice from reputable businesses in the sustainability field 

› consider a budget to engage experts and consultants 

› take findings back to the owners for consultation 

› if agreed, move towards implementation of strategies and works to improve sustainability

Transitioning to a more sustainable way of living has been shown to increase people’s emotional wellbeing, be good for the environment and save you money. I encourage you all to start a conversation with your family, friends and neighbours to discuss ways you can make changes to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Sally Heimanis


This information is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.

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