April 30, 2018

Setting New Industry Standards

The Owners Corporation industry is big business in Australia – estimated to be worth in excess of $500 billion. Unfortunately a small piece of that pie is taken up by unscrupulous Owners Corporation organisations that cost residents financially and emotionally, and place their well-being at risk.

Kim Hemshaw, CEO of Strata Community Australia (SCA) says that “99% of strata managers are high end professionals who take their job and responsibilities very seriously, but like every sector we have a few bad apples to take care of”.

In response to a number of recent incidents where strata managers have placed the funds and even lives of strata property owners at risk, SCA is calling for a tough approach in all states to these ‘bad apples’.


April 30, 2018
green rooftop

Addressing the demand towards a greener, eco-friendly society

Australians are increasingly looking for green and sustainable products and systems in their residences. From double-glazed windows, rooftop gardens, energy efficient lighting, good insulation and solar panels to water saving products, environmentally friendly infrastructure is in demand and is a powerful selling feature.

Last year Psaros, the Conservation Council and the Property Council commissioned Ipsos to conduct research into inner-city residents’ attitudes to sustainable living. The survey and focus group analysis of 524 respondents residing within 10km of the Perth CBD revealed that 89% of the group supported the development of more eco-friendly buildings that generate their own power, collect rainwater and use less energy.

Property developers are recognising this demand and are consciously integrating sustainable concepts into new developments and they are seeing rewards for doing so, with eco-friendly buildings selling for a premium price. Chief Executive Office Loris Rigon of Mandala Developments says of today’s property purchaser, “They are willing to pay a bit extra because they can see the value in it….Everyone’s conscious about the environment and the cost of energy going up”.

For new developments there is a strong economic and environmental argument for sustainable initiatives. But what about existing apartment blocks? Traditionally, integrating sustainable concepts into existing apartment buildings has been shelved to the too hard basket. With the tangled interests of owners, investors and tenants all under the same roof, individual residents have felt powerless to make meaningful and cost-effective sustainable changes within a strata arrangement.

Smart Moves That’s where the City of Melbourne’s award-winning Smart Blocks program comes in. Designed to empower individuals to initiate energy-saving and green projects in existing apartment buildings, Smart Blocks provides an easy to-follow step-by-step toolkit to help navigate through the strata system.

More than 3 million Australians live in apartment buildings, yet high and medium density blocks are energy guzzlers, using an average of 25% more energy than individual dwellings. Up to half of that energy usage is derived from common areas like hallways, car parks and swimming pools.

Implementing energy-saving systems into these common areas has been shown to reduce energy consumption by up to 20-30%. Replacing existing light bulbs with energy efficient lighting, and introducing energy-saving devices such as sensor lighting, can reduce energy bills by thousands of dollars.

Similarly, introducing retro-fitted insulation, water tanks, energy efficient hot water services, solar panels and upgrading swimming pool pumps and heaters can have huge impacts on the cost of running a building. Strata levies can be greatly mitigated through reducing energy consumption. Often the purchase cost and implementation of energy-efficient systems can be significantly reduced through government grants, such as solar rebates, meaning the pay-back period is short.

Smart Blocks provides a tool-kit for apartment dwellers to initiate energy-efficient projects. Whilst all apartment buildings are different and unique in their energy consumption, Smart Blocks takes residents through three main areas for establishing green initiatives:

  1. Auditing common property in the building including lighting, pool pumps and hot water systems
  2. Develop an energy reduction plan, and working with the strata manager and the committee to have the plan endorsed
  3. Understanding energy bills and collecting data by tracking how much energy is used by common property assets, when it is used and what it costs.

The Smart Blocks program has heralded great successes. There are numerous case studies on its website detailing projects that have resulted in significant cost savings in energy consumption, with the added benefits of reducing the building’s carbon footprint, and increasing the property value. Its success was recognised with two awards last year – the Melbourne Award for Contribution to Sustainability and Best in Category for Service Design at the Victorian Premier’s Design Awards. One of the more complex aspects of implementing an energy efficient plan is working with the strata manager to champion the plan. In a promising move, savvy strata managers are climbing aboard the energy efficient movement, recognising the significant benefits it can offer through reduced levies, the positive environmental impact and property appreciation.

Network Pacific Strata Management Leading the Green Charge

One of Australia’s largest strata managers, Network Pacific Strata Management has long championed the green cause. It is a pioneer of eco-friendly initiatives and is passionate about implementing business initiatives to increase participation in energy-efficient programs by apartment dwellers and developers. Director, Stephen Briffa, says “We aim to reduce our impact on the environment by implementing, maintaining and continually improving our environmentally sustainable practices”.

It aims to facilitate the move to green programs in a straight-forward and easy transition. Stephen says, “Moving to green solutions in apartment buildings really is a no-brainer. For minimal establishment costs, green initiatives can have a great impact on reducing energy bills. But not only is there a financial benefit, there are great positive impacts on the environment, the standard of living for residents and on property values. It’s the perfect example of a win-win.”

Network Pacific Strata Management actively encourages its Owners Corporations to embrace green initiatives to make their buildings as efficient as possible. Its Managers work with committees to audit their buildings and identify worthwhile energy-saving initiatives that should be implemented.

A value-added service to its clients, Network Pacific Strata Management established its Building Wholesale Supplies business, which offers a range of energy efficient products at wholesale prices. It sources high quality and energy-saving products from around the world which undergo strict quality control to Australian Standards so that it can guarantee the products. Stephen says, “We only sell products that offer high energy efficiency to save energy costs and the environment.”

Another business Network Pacific established with valuable benefits to developers, residents and the environment is Sh@reCar ®. Sh@reCar ® is contracted by building owners and is for the exclusive use of building occupants. It offers the convenience of a dedicated communal car at residents’ fingertips for just the cost of fuel use and road tolls incurred. Independent research has shown that each Sh@reCar ® removes 6-7 cars from the road. Not only is that great news for the environment, but also for developers since it reduces the number of car spaces required in building developments. All Sh@reCars ® are purchased new and chosen on their environmental ratings.

The Network Pacific Group fosters a culture of innovation and continuous improvement to ensure that it offers a valuable service to its clients and is an environmentally responsible organisation. Its leadership in the industry was recognised last month when it won the SCA (Strata Community Australia) Victoria Awards for Excellence for Best OC Manager > 3,000 lots and the SCA Victorian OC Manager of the Year.

The Future is Looking Bright

Thanks to forward-looking initiatives such as Smart Blocks and strata managers that are embracing and championing environmental projects such as Network Pacific Strata Management, those 3 million apartment dwellers in Australia can collectively make a huge positive impact on the environment….and their hip pocket!

April 30, 2018
dealcorp building

The Real Deal

Deal Corp goes about its business quietly and without too much fuss, yet it is one of the most respected, trusted and successful development companies to grace the Victorian landscape over the last 30 years. Deal Corp over that period of time has delivered in excess of two billion dollars of product to the market.

At its head is Managing Director David Kobritz. David’s maternal grandparents escaped the Russian Revolution to settle in Harbin in the northeast of China and then Tianjin near Beijing. It is in Harbin that David’s mother was born and in Tianjin where she met and married David’s father. David’s father had been sent by his own father from Hamburg to China before the Second World War to pursue the family’s trade interests. It is here that David’s father forged a close relationship with Isador Magid, the developer of many well known shopping centre developments such as Fountain Gate and Brandon Park shopping centres. After the war, David’s family was torn between migrating to California or Australia. In 1951, after much deliberation, David’s parents migrated to Melbourne, David’s birthplace.

“It is in Harbin that David’s mother was born and in Tianjin where she met and married David’s father.”

The seeds of Deal Corp can be found in the journeys of a young boy sitting in the back seat of a car while his father and Isador Magid drove around Melbourne assessing suitable development opportunities. Isador too was part of that expatriate Russian community that found itself living in China and then migrating to Australia; Harry Triguboff went to school in Harbin with David’s mother. Forces converged to create a destiny. David’s environment led him to a Town Planning degree from Melbourne University, work with town planners and architects both in Melbourne and London and ultimately, in 1988, to the creation of Deal Corp.

The Projects:

Developments to date include Aura Apartments a 28 level mixed use CBD development, Era, a 140 apartment and office complex in Richmond, Arkana in Dandenong, Toorak in South Yarra, Cohen Place in the CBD, Bond in South Yarra, Greville in Prahran, Gateway Apartments, Kubix and Polaris, to name only a few.

Polaris, by the time stage 12 is completed will be comprised of one thousand one hundred dwellings, retail outlets and well designed public space. Stage 2 and 3 are due to be completed this year and stages 4 and 5 within the next twelve months. Polaris adjoins the La Trobe University campus in Bundoora and works with the campus to facilitate travel between the two.

The Market:

Kubix is unique in the market place. It is a 232 apartment complex located in Wantirna, 35 kilometres east of the CBD. David Kobritz considers it to be a prime example of the diversity of the apartment market in and around Melbourne. As David puts it, there are markets within markets. Australia is finally catching up with the rest of the world in its development of high density living within its capital cities. The demand for apartment living has now started to make its way into the outer suburbs. Thirty years ago people purchased the then Australian dream of the quarter acre block. They raised their children in places like Wantirna, made lifelong friends, availed themselves of the services and amenities and wanted to stay when their children moved out. Kubix answered that market demand.

In fact, Kubix is a prime example of why there should be no government regulation of apartment sizes or interference with market forces according to David. Kubix began its life as a 4, 000 m2 parcel of land fronting Burwood Highway with a permit for two office buildings. However, Deal Corp quickly realised that the demand was not for offices in this area but for apartments. It therefore designed a development comprised of three buildings. Construction of the first one tower has just been completed and construction of the second tower will commence in July. The third tower is testament to market forces dictating development. The first and second towers saw strong sales of two bedroom apartments between 80- 85 m2. What emerged during the sale process was that the market sought and was therefore willing to pay for larger apartments of about 130m2. The third tower now caters for this demand.

Future projects are committed in Fitzroy and South Yarra.

The Future:

According to David Kobritz, it is dangerous for the government to interfere with the market. The market is and should be able to determine what it wants and there are sufficient planning controls in place to guide the developments. To push the standards above what the market wants is not acceptable. There is the affordability factor and it would be naïve to assume that legislated increases to apartment sizes and layouts would not affect affordability and therefore accessibility to housing. The world is a smaller place and we are catching up with what the rest of the world has been doing over the past fifty years. “Australia has for far too long been living in a fool’s paradise thinking it was insulated from the rest of the world.”

Deal Corp’s earliest developments began with the renovation of four villa units located in Chadstone. The projects over the years have become bigger and more complex but at the cornerstone of every development are Deal Corp’s core values of integrity, quality products and reputation for delivery. Deal Corp has in the past purchased property from State Government agencies including Places Victoria and Vic Track in order to provide affordable quality housing. It anticipates that future opportunities will arise for which it will tender. If successful, this will be another feather in Deal Corp’s already illustrious cap.