High rise residential buildings use on average 25 per cent more energy per person than freestanding homes.

Now a new program in Australia, called Smart Blocks, hopes to help building managers, owners, corporations and residents improve the energy efficiency of common property in apartment buildings and slash their block power bills by as much as 30 per cent.

An interactive online toolkit is at the heart of the programme, providing a step-by-step guide on how to reduce money spent on communal elements such as lighting, swimming pools, hot water systems and heating and cooling plants.

The program is working collaboratively with nearly 20 community partners across Australia, including 15 cities and towns across five states, to deliver free workshops to apartment owners and their managers.

Avanti Apartments in Hornsby, NSW, is already seeing the benefits of the program, cutting energy bills significantly by installing carbon dioxide sensors in the car park.

“Our car park has a 90 kilowatt exhaust fan which sucks the fumes out, and two smaller fans which blow clean air in,” said Peter Davis of Avanti Apartments. “We installed C02 sensors in the car park a few months ago in the hope that we could reduce the number of hours the fans run, and therefore save on energy costs.”

Davis said the sensors found there was not enough carbon dioxide buildup to merit running the fans as often as they had been running them.

“They used to run on timer switches that automatically turned them on six hours a day, 365 days a year. Now we just turn them on for an hour once a month to test that they are functioning correctly,” he said.

The project was funded out of a sinking fund and cost about $45,000, but the corporation estimates the payback period to be just two to three years.

avanti apartments

Avanti Apartments

Combined with other energy saving projects, Avanti Apartments’ monthly energy usage has fallen from 75,000 kilowatts a month to about 29,200 kilowatts a month.

They now have their own website for owners, while the new building link computer program will enable all owners and tenants to communicate with the onsite building manager.

Smart Blocks builds on the success of the City of Sydney’s Smart Green Apartments program and the City of Melbourne’s Hi-RES project, and was developed in partnership between Strata Community Australia, City of Sydney, City of Melbourne, Owners Corporation Network of Australia and Green Strata.

The progam also enjoys funding from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism as part of the Energy Efficiency Information Grants Program.