If you live in a strata environment, you may have wondered whether you can take your lifestyle off-grid. That means being more self-sufficient, such as installing solar panels or even growing your own produce. It’s a way of life that many Australians are embracing, but is it possible in a strata community?
What does it mean to live off-grid?
When people hear the word ‘off-grid’, there is often a lot of confusion. The term usually conjures images of people living in log cabins out in the bush, being fully self-sufficient with very little connection to society. Of course, that’s one way you can do it, but it isn’t necessary to be quite that extreme.
Living off-grid, for many people, means being more self-sufficient and relying less on the modern conveniences we all enjoy. For example, people might want to start with just accessing off-grid energy. Typically this would occur through the installation of solar panels and perhaps solar battery storage.
Basically, you need to determine which modern constructs you want to break away from and start planning ways to do that. Some people choose to grow their own vegetables or raise livestock. Living ‘off-grid’ is really whatever you want it to be, but at a minimum, we’d be talking about accessing energy through renewable sources.
Can you live off-grid in a strata community?
Again, this depends on how far ‘off-grid’ you want to go. Using solar power, for example, is reasonably achievable, but we’ll go into specifics later. However, raising livestock and being completely self-sufficient isn’t usually something you associate with strata living.
The whole idea of living in a strata building is that sense of community. Everybody shares common spaces, and the Owners Corporation drives many of the sustainability efforts you make as a community.
With that being said, there are numerous ways that individual lot owners and strata communities as a whole can become more self-sufficient and implement sustainability measures.
Accessing solar energy
Perhaps the easiest and most common sustainability measure is to switch to renewable energy sources such as solar. Right off the bat, we can say that if you live in an individual property such as a villa or unit, installing solar panels should be a simple process because it really only affects you. In fact, many townhouse schemes already have by-laws in place to allow this.
But what about other environments, such as an apartment building? There is usually a shared energy source in apartment buildings, and although each unit is billed separately according to usage, sourcing other energy sources is problematic.
Ideally, you need to convince the Owners Corporation to invest in solar panels that benefit the entire building. This raises a few issues that we’ll address individually.
How will the strata scheme pay for solar installation?
Standard strata levies won’t cover the cost of a solar installation. This means you would need to access the capital works fund or ‘sinking fund’ instead, which, in many cases, might fall short. In this case, you would need special levies.
Special levies can be implemented for out-of-the-ordinary expenses, however, you’ll need to table the motion at an AGM or Special General Meeting and win a favourable vote.
Voting on sustainability infrastructure
Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to win the votes you need for a sustainability upgrade in your strata building. Upgrades such as this fall under the category of a Special Resolution. In most strata schemes, this requires a 75% vote in favour of the motion.
However, new laws regarding sustainability infrastructure upgrades in strata properties mean that such a vote now only requires a 50% majority vote. While this sounds easy, remember that solar installations aren’t cheap. It will likely mean a special levy needs to be paid by all lot owners to contribute to the cost, so a 50% majority vote may not be as easy as you think.
Planning for the motion
If you want people to vote on a special resolution, you need to tick a few boxes first. The Owners Corporation needs to consider these factors when voting:
- Cost of the works, including ongoing running costs
- Who will own, install and maintain the infrastructure
- How will the works benefit everybody in the scheme
- Any other matters relevant to the scheme’s by-laws
If you provide all of this information prior to the vote, everybody can make an informed decision on the proposal.
Other sustainability ideas
If you’re keen to make your strata property more sustainable, there are additional ways to make an impact. The new laws affecting sustainability infrastructure stretch far beyond the installation of solar panels. You might consider ideas for the following:
- Water efficiency infrastructure
- Recycling schemes
- Waste management (reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill)
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Energy-efficient lighting
There are many more options out there; these are just a few ways to implement sustainability measures in your strata scheme.
Not all sustainability practices need to be expensive or require a Special Resolution. Other ideas, such as community gardens where people can grow their own vegetables, can work well. Of course, there is a degree of management required to ensure everybody has access and can benefit, but that’s easy enough to achieve.
Need help managing your strata scheme?
More Than Strata provides independent advice and management of strata schemes. Not all Owners Corporations have a desire to be involved in the day-to-day running of a property, and that’s where we come in. We can take care of all the administrative aspects of your strata scheme for the benefit of all owners and residents. If you’d like to find out more about what we do and how we can help transform your strata scheme’s operations, contact us today.