What you do at Sustainability Now?
Sustainability Now specialises in energy efficiency and solar power for the common property of residential strata complexes. We also work on water efficiency to a lesser degree and have recently been undertaking electric vehicle (EV) charging feasibility assessments. Our general approach is to benchmark the building’s common property resource consumption using the NABERS for Apartment Buildings energy & water rating system to rate the building on a 0 to 6 star scale that allows it to be compared to other residential apartment buildings throughout Australia on a level playing field. From there we identify a range of opportunities for improvement and present them in an action plan ranking the recommendations based on:
- Simple payback period & return-on-investment (ROI);
- Capital cost;
- Energy cost savings;
- Carbon abatement;
- Practicality of implementation; and
- Impact on NABERS rating in subsequent years.
How SUMS assists in this
The SUMS online portal allows us to track energy & water use in real time without having to expend unnecessary time and energy engaging directly with the retailers. It is particularly handy for measurement & verification (M&V) of projects once implemented to make sure they are tracking as we hope.
What is happening in strata now to address sustainability concerns, specifically in energy and power usage of older buildings?
The fact that carbon emissions are directly proportional to energy costs means that the projects we identify and help implement will save the Owners Corporation money and reduce their environmental impact at the same time. When we started in this space over 10 years ago, interest was higher in terms of dollar savings but now reduction of carbon emissions is also a key driver. Most buildings have already implemented the key ‘low-hanging-fruit’ projects like upgrading fluorescent lights to LED and are now moving on to things like installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to reduce reliance on daytime electricity imports from the grid. Others are taking further steps by purchasing accredited GreenPower projects to ensure that the electricity they import also comes from renewable sources. Recently we have been able to move several clients to 100% GreenPower product AND save them in the order of 15% over current electricity retail contracts.
Where you see the future of sustainability in strata heading in the future?
I feel strata will continue to follow the lead of other industry sectors and divest from fossil-fuel derived energy sources into the future. Future mandating of NABERS similarly to the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) program for the office sector will continue to drive improvement in energy efficiency and uptake of renewable energy. The recent amendment to the NSW Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 that creates a subset of the Special Resolution called a ‘Sustainability Infrastructure Resolution’ with lower voting threshold will help streamline the implementation of these projects in New South Wales and hopefully serve as a model for other states to follow.James Perry