Autumn maintenance matters

Moisture

One of the main problems with any home is the amount of moisture that collects and staysaround indoors. Damp homes are unhealthy and harder to heat. You can combat persistentdamp in your home by:• insulating (under the floor, in the ceiling and walls)• ventilating (including extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens, open windows, using a dehumidifier or forced ventilation system, keeping vents clear)• heating (aim to keep the indoor temperature at a minimum of 16 degrees)• replacing unflued gas heaters with electric or flued gas heaters.You should treat the cause of excessive internal moisture at the same time as addressing its effects. Excessive moisture can be caused by leaking pipes, condensation or flooding around shower or baths. It might also indicate that your home is a leaky building, whichcould involve extensive repairs. Mould, water stains and musty smells in houses that have been built or renovated since the early 1990s can be the first signs of a leaky or non weather tight house – they need to be thoroughly investigated. Owners who think their homes could have weather tightness problems because of their design and construction methods should seek early expertadvice. It is important that leaky homes are repaired promptly and properly to stopfurther damage. Good quality early repairs or replacements mean home owners avoid additional costs and inconvenience from further damage.Owners of tenanted houses likely to have weather tightness problems should regularlycheck their properties and ask their tenants to report early signs of leaking or waterdamage.

Walls

Fibre-cement claddings

Modern homes with monolithic fibre-cement claddings are often sold as ‘low maintenance’homes, but most of these speciality claddings need more maintenance than aweatherboard house. Check with the cladding manufacturer, as you will be required towash the cladding at specific intervals to keep the warranty valid. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. It is particularly important to wash the cladding if your house is near the sea and wherewall areas are sheltered from regular rain washing. It is important to use a soft brush andlow pressure hose to wash the cladding – do not use a water blaster as it can damage claddings and force water through gaps and joints. If your home was built after the early 1990s and has any risk of being a leaky building, you need to be especially vigilant in your maintenance checks. Carry out a careful inspection ofthe cladding at least once a year.

The main things to look for are:

• places where water can get into the framing

• signs that water has already got in. Water might get in through holes, cracks, loose cladding, insufficient or incorrect flashings, fixings (like aerials), joints that have separated, around doors and windows,anywhere where the sealing has failed, and any area where water can pond against the cladding. Look for signs that moisture might be soaking up into the cladding, often indicated by darker colouration along the bottom edges of the cladding.

Vulnerable areas to pay attention to:

• weather seal coatings that need repair or renewal

• checking around the house to make sure the cladding is at least 175 mm above the lawnor garden, or 100 mm above paved surfaces

• checking pergolas, cantilevered decks, poorly formed flashings (waterproofingstrips)that do not protect doors and windows, and meter boxes which are not sealed or flashed

• checking any areas where bolts, screws, handrails, or TV aerials penetrate the cladding.

Brick houses

Most brick houses are brick veneer, with a cavity between the timber framing and thebrickwork.You need to keep the drainage cavities at the base of the walls clear – check regularly that soil and plants are not blocking them. Never let insulation material fill the cavity behindthe brick veneer as this will seriously alter the weatherproofing performance of the cladding.

Concrete block houses

Most solid concrete block homes are constructed of reinforced masonry. They rely on the externally applied waterproof coating for weather tightness and this must be maintainedto keep water out. Such coatings may be a paint system or a painted plaster system.

Balconies and decks

Common on apartments and many modern homes, enclosed or sealed decks and balconiesrequire good design and regular maintenance to ensure adequate drainage. They should bebuilt with a slope to allow water to run off to a collection point such as a downpipe. Drainage outlets must be kept clear of leaves and other items that might block them. Balconies enclosed with solid walls often suffer weather tightness problems and need tobe frequently checked for signs of rotting, swelling, cracks, and rust around bolts andflashings.

Roof

Once a year you should check your roof cladding, chimneys and flashings (waterproofingstrips that protect vulnerable areas) to ensure problems are not developing. Things to lookfor include flashings that have corroded or lifted, and crumbling chimney mortar. Overhanging branches can damage roofing materials, so it’s important to keep trees nextto your house well trimmed. Check with the manufacturer of your roofing material to findout about any special maintenance requirements. Paint-on membranes, for example, mustbe regularly re-coated every 6-8 years.

Drains and gutters

Blocked and damaged drains can cause serious flooding so it’s important to contact aprofessional drain cleaner as soon as you become aware of any problems. Tree roots cancause clay (earthenware) drainage pipes to crack, so take care where you plant trees withextensive root systems. Guttering and spouting need to be cleaned out at least once a yearas leaves can easily collect and block them, particularly in autumn.

Remember to:

· plan for regular preventive maintenance budget for major maintenance tasks like repainting

· carry out repairs promptly to avoid larger problems developing

· know how to turn your water, gas and power supplies off, and how to safely turn them on again

· know your limitations – get qualified help when necessary

· know what jobs the law requires a professional to do· get involved in your body corporate’s maintenance planning

· combat dampness by insulating, ventilating and heating your home· check mould and water stains for possible weather tightness problems

· understand and follow the maintenance requirements of your home’s cladding

· check cladding regularly for signs of water getting in

· keep drainage outlets clear on enclosed decks and balconies

· check your roof annually

· clean guttering and spouting regularly, especially in autumn

· take adequate safety precautions when doing maintenance work.

Wayne’s best tips for winter-

1.Use the sun when you can

If it’s a warm sunny day, open the curtains and let the sun heat your home for free and then close them at dusk so they help insulate your home and keep the warm air in.

2. Put on a Sweater, Jumper, Jersey, Windcheater, Pullover

Gone are the days (for most of us at least) when we can afford to lounge around in our underwear while it's frosty outside. Roughly speaking, a light long-sleeved sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth, while a heavy sweater (even the ugliest of ugly sweaters) adds about 4 degrees. So cozy up and start saving.

3. Dodge the Draughts or (Draft(s)

Draughts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use. Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture -- the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or make a more attractive DIY draft snake with googly eyes, felt tongues and the like. You can use any scraps of fabric -- even neckties -- and fill with sand or kitty litter. Make sure drafts aren't giving your thermostat a false reading too, and read on for more advanced solutions.

4. Use Caulking and Weather-stripping

Simple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weather stripping. Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit and along the foundation. Use the incense test: carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammables) move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in. And heating or cooling sneaking out. In another method, have someone on the outside blow a hair dryer around each window while you hold a lighted candle inside. If the candle flickers or goes out, you need to caulk or weather strip around the frame.

5. Lock off fireplace flues.

Traditional fireplaces can be energy losers because they pull heated air out of the house and up the chimney. When not in use, make sure the lid to the flue is closed.

6. Eliminate wasted energy.

Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and unplug other appliances at the switch when you don't need them. Turn off kitchen and bath fans once they’ve done their job as they can blow out a houseful of heated air.

7. Use appliances efficiently.

Do only full loads when using your dishwasher and washing machine. Use cold water settings for clothes, clean your dryer's lint trap regularly and if you have one, use the moisture-sensing automatic dryer setting.

These might seem like insignificant changes, but when used in combination, these energy saving tips can keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket.

8. Insulate Your Pipes

Pay less for hot water by insulating pipes. That can also help decrease the chance of pipes freezing, which can be disastrous. Check to see if your pipes are warm to the touch. If so, they are good candidates for insulation. (Use the same method to determine if your hot water heater would benefit from some insulation.)

You can get pre-slit pipe foam at most hardware stores. Cut it to size and fasten in place with duct tape. Ideally, choose the insulation with the highest R-value practical, which is a measure of its heat-blocking power.

8. Boost Insulation

It may not seem sexy, but insulation is one of the best ways to save energy and money at home. It can make a big difference to add more insulation between walls, and make sure your attic floor and basement ceiling are well covered.

9. Shorten showers.

Reducing shower time by a few minutes can save you money considerably over a month, particularly if the whole family abides by this change. Showers account for a decent portion of your water heating costs so cut down the time your shower takes to reduce your bill.

Energy efficiency grants opening 13 February

10 February 2012 –

The Federal Government opened its package of energy efficiency programs designed to improve energy efficiency in households communities and businesses.

The programs opened include:

- The Community Energy Efficiency Program – $200 million to assist local government, not-for-profit and community organisations to undertake energy efficiency upgrades to community infrastructure.

- The Low Income Energy Efficiency Program – $100 million to support groups of service providers to demonstrate smarter energy use in low income households across Australia.

- The Energy Efficiency Information Grants program – $40 million to support small and medium sized businesses and community groups by providing information and advice to make smarter energy choices.

Applications open on 13 February.

ACT leaps ahead on strata laws for sustainability

18 January 2012 – ACT has radically overhauled its strata legislation, especially in relation to sustainability retrofits. Now the NSW Government is undertaking its own review.

NSW Minister for Fair Trading, Anthony Roberts stated that environmental sustainability of buildings and ways to reduce energy costs are important issues for strata and community schemes.

Mr Roberts was commenting on a review underway of the state’s strata and community title laws because he says they no longer address issues associated with ageing buildings and changing demographics.

The review followed complaints that the 50-year-old legal framework does not cater to the growing size and complexity of today’s apartment precincts.

The government has called for public comment on the proposed changes by 29 February.

More than 100 comments had been received in the month since the forum opened on 15 December. “The numbers of people reading the forum and adding their comments is expected to step up in the coming weeks as everyone starts coming back from their holidays,” he said.

Mr Roberts said no starting date has been set for the new rules.

In an earlier statement, Mr Roberts said: “There are now 10 separate pieces of legislation directly regulating strata and community title in NSW, totalling more than 1000 provisions. “

“There is general consensus that the laws have become outdated and do not adequately meet the current or future needs.”

Present laws also made it hard to enforce building-specific rules for pets, parking and parties, right up to the demolition and renewal of outdated buildings.

“Since the first strata scheme was registered, strata has developed into the fastest growing form of residential property ownership, “ he said.

“More than two million people now live in over 70,000 strata and 1500 community schemes in NSW.

“Within 20 years, half the state’s population are expected to be living in strata and community schemes.”

Mr Roberts said the current laws were designed primarily for small, self-managed blocks of flats.

“Strata and community schemes now include city high rises, townhouses, dual occupancies, offices, retirement villages and mixed-use, recreational and tourism-focused developments,” he said.

Mr Roberts said as far as was known the ACT and NSW are so far the only territory and state to undertake changes in these strata laws.

Strata laws, which vary slightly from state to state, not only make it very difficult to make changes, but in some instances they also cut apartment owners out of incentive schemes altogether.

In NSW strata law requires at least 75 per cent consensus of owners to make changes in common areas of apartment blocks, such as installing more efficient hot water systems, rainwater tanks or a green roof. To vote for such changes the strata committee (made up of residents) must call either an extraordinary general meeting of the owners corporation or wait for the annual general meeting.

Founder of Green Strata Inc Christine Byrne said she believed sustainability definitely needed to be considered in the review.

See:

· link to the NSW forum for changes to the strata law http://openforum.com.au/strata

Changes to ACT law expected in May

Changes to the ACT’s strata and community title laws are expected to be in place on or before 3 May, 2012.

Section 23 of the Act is designed to make it easier for owners’ corporations to install sustainability infrastructure such as photo-voltaic cells and water tanks) on the common property.

A key breakthrough is that an owner’s corporation will be able to approve installation of sustainability infrastructure on the common property by an ordinary resolution of 51 per cent. NSW law currently requires a special resolution of 75 per cent.

The ACT legislation follows NSW, Victoria and Queensland by splitting its strata legislation into two separate Acts covering the development/subtitling//registration of schemes and the management of schemes.

The legislation is remaining substantially the same, with the exception of the following new provisions:

· -removing unnecessary barriers to the adoption of sustainability measures and utility infrastructure

· -introducing a code of conduct for executive committee members

· -changing the resolution for annual administrative and special purpose fund budget approval from special to ordinary, which removes an excessive restriction on managing owners corporation funds

· -clarification of financial provisions to clearly link budgets, contributions and

expenditure for each type of fund

· -providing guidance for ACAT approval of developer control period contracts

· -clarification of insurance requirements

The ACT bill imposes rules on the owners’ corporation, including consideration of site and maintenance plans and details of financing arrangements. The owners’ corporation also has to be satisfied that the long-term benefit is greater than the cost of installing and maintaining the infrastructure. NSW does not have these requirements.

By Lyn Drummond

Why did a Scottish wind turbine explode in high winds?

Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent(Image: Stuart McMahon)This striking image of a wind turbine in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland as it exploded in high winds has made headline news. The turbine was destroyed yesterday as the region was battered by winds of up to 260km/h when a ferocious Atlantic storm powered into northern parts of the UK. But what caused the explosion?

An amateur video shows the turbine head spinning on its axis and one turbine blade apparently losing its carbon composite skin before the fire starts.

It's not yet clear what happened, but attention is likely to focus on the turbine's ability to shut itself down in high wind. A wind turbine normally shuts down when winds reach 55 mph - but something clearly went awry in Ardrossan, perhaps causing excess current in the generator windings, which may have led to the fire.

The shutdown is normally performed by 'feathering' the turbine blades so they do not turn. "In general the turbine blades will pitch out in high winds, keeping the turbines in idle mode," confirms a spokesman for the turbine's manufacturer, Vestas of Aarhus, Denmark. Another source of the problem may be a fault in the turbine's gearbox, which ensures the rotor speed is adjusted so that the generator provides electricity that matches what is required by the grid it is feeding.

The accident is now under investigation by Vestas and the wind farm's operator, Infinis of Edinburgh, UK. Infinis says that the site has been disconnected from the grid as a "precautionary measure" while it investigates the cause of the blaze.

That the turbine shed large pieces of flaming material will also be of some concern to people living close to such installations - and will almost certainly fuel future planning permission objections from vocal anti-wind farm groups like Country Guardian - not to mention the sheep who were grazing happily below

Mandatory disclosure for Commercial buildings comes into force on Tuesday 1 November 2011-

25 October 2011 – Jones Lang LaSalle has released a Mandatory Disclosure Update Paper to help prepare building owners and tenants for the Commercial Building Disclosure Program, also known as Mandatory Disclosure, which comes into effect from 1 November 2011.

The paper outlines four steps to follow to comply with the new disclosure obligations. These include:

  1. Determine the eligibility of the area under the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act (2010).

  2. Review the expiry dates of your NABERS Energy rating and Tenancy Lighting Assessment. If you do not have a current NABERS Energy rating and a current Tenancy Lighting Assessment for the space, appoint an accredited assessor to undertake these ratings. Allow 4-8 weeks for NABERS Energy ratings and Tenancy Lighting Assessments.
  3. Submit an application to Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency for a BEEC. The application must be submitted by a CBD Accredited Assessor and must include the NABERS Energy rating assessment number and the Tenancy Lighting Assessment number(s). Allow up to four weeks to process.
  4. When you have a registered BEEC, commence transaction on the disclosure affected area.

The Mandatory Disclosure program requires that during the sale, lease or sub-lease of commercial office space that is 2000 square metres and larger, the energy efficiency be disclosed through a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate.

The BEEC consists of three elements – a NABERS Energy rating, energy efficiency guidance and a tenancy lighting assessment. Only the NABERS Energy rating was required to be disclosed during the 12-month transition period from 1 November 2010 to 1 November 2011.

Building owners must obtain and register a BEEC including tenancy lighting assessments for all disclosure affected areas and include the NABERS Energy rating in any advertisement for the sale, lease or sub-lease of the building or area.

Tenants must obtain and register a BEEC including Tenancy Lighting Assessment for all relevant tenancies and BEEC energy efficiency star rating (NABERS Energy rating) for the building in any advertisement for the sub-lease of the building or area.

The paper advises that failure to comply with the scheme may result in severe fines up to $110, 000 for the first day of non-compliance and up to $11,000 for each additional day of non-compliance. .

Director of sustainability at Jones Lang LaSalle, Joel Quintal, said the new disclosure obligations would provide benefits for landlords, tenants and investors alike.

“Landlords can use this opportunity to market the energy efficiency features of their properties. More efficient assets will attract the growing number of tenants that have sustainability on their corporate agenda,” said Quintal.

“Tenants can use the BEEC to make informed decisions on the space they are planning to occupy. The BEEC will tell you how efficient the building is, which will have an impact on operating budgets.

“Investors can use this information to assess the liquidity of their assets as sustainability considerations become part of investment due diligence.”