Dealing with Mould

If the weather’s been very humid for a few days in a row you might notice mould starting to grow in your apartment. When it rains for several days it’s especially common to see mould start to grow on walls, benches and other surfaces because of the wet air.

If you live where humidity in the air is naturally high, such as the eastern suburbs of Sydney or another large body of water, then mould growth in your apartment can be a recurring problem.  However, does this make it an owners corporation reasonability to fix.

When moisture inside your apartment evaporates into the air it increases the humidity indoors. If your apartment is not well ventilated then the humidity will stay high for a some time.

Drying clothes indoors on stands is a common culprit when it comes to causes of indoor humidity problems. Air-Conditioning systems can also create humidity troubles when it artificially heats or cools the air.

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Not only does high humidity feed mould, but it means that puddles of water and damp materials in the home take longer to dry out. These wet surfaces can in turn create mould growth of their own.

Is the owners corporation responsible for the removal of mould.

The short answer is IT DEPENDS – It depends on where the mould is located and what is the cause.  If the causation is due to a common property water leak then it is – if it is part of the Lots internal pipework or not a common property issue then it not.

The best way to eradicate of mould is to eliminate the conditions. Removing moisture content in the atmosphere reduces the risk of mould growth; the best way to achieve this is to create cross flow ventilation. Opening windows is the most obvious way to do this.

Once you have addressed the causation, the final step is to remove the existing mould. Once the mould is removed the surfaces should then be repainted with special mould resistant paint to prevent spores from reforming.

 

Spalling in Strata Buildings

Spalling in Strata Buildings

Fix it now this is as cheap as it will ever get.

 

A very common but not well understood problem with older concrete structures is spalling. Sometimes known as “concrete cancer” it is something that you want to have to deal with. You may have heard this tem before but not completely understand what it means, is it as bad as people who have gone through the repairs make out.   Simply put, YES!

 

That’s nice, but what is Spalling?

Concrete spalling occurs when the steel reinforcement within a concrete slab begins to rust. The rusted steel increases to approximately five times its original size, displacing the concrete and causing it to flake.  Once concrete is flaking more and more damage occurs – as more water can enter the affected area and cause further rusting, thereby speeding up the process and increasing the affected area. Concrete spalling is usually caused by corrosion of the steel reinforcement bars embedded in the concrete matrix, but can be caused by other ferrous elements either fully or partially embedded in the structure. Steel frame window systems, handrails, structural I-beams, metal pipes and conduits are among the most common of the damage causing building components. Corrosion of the reinforcing steel however, is by far the most common cause of spalling and splitting in older concrete structures.

 

Steel reinforcement bar (rebar) is used in concrete to provide strength to the concrete that is extremely high in compressive strength but has very limited flexural or tensile strength. One of the principles of reinforced concrete is that the high alkaline content of the concrete is meant to aide in protecting the embedded steel from corrosion, for this to happen though there needs to be a minimum amount of coverage on the steel. As a general rule of thumb one inch of cover is required to protect the steel rebar, in other words, no rebar should be nearer than one inch to the concrete surface.

 

What causes Spalling?

There are a number of factors that can cause concrete cancer and it often depends on the unique circumstances of each case, the most common causes are;

  • steel reinforcement being located too close to the surface allowing water to react with it
  • poor quality steel reinforcement used
  • incompatible metals used close to each other causing a reaction
  • damage to concrete allowing water to enter the slab and come into contact with the steel

 

How can you tell if your building has Spalling?

Owners normally only become aware of concrete spalling once symptoms of the problem are visible to the naked eye or when delaminated concrete starts falling to the ground, however visible concrete defects are normally just the indicator of larger problems. Concrete staining and discolouration is often the first visible symptom, often mistaken as being caused by weathering. Concrete flaking from the surface of an affected area combined with the discolouration of the area usually indicate there are significant problems with the structure.

 

SPALLING STAGES

The development of corrosion in concrete that happens over time is generally seen as a multi-stage process.

  1. In the first period, aggressive substances penetrate the concrete and ultimately reach the steel, which causes the onset of corrosion called depassivation or corrosion initiation.
  2. In the second stage, actual corrosion takes place (its rate depends on moisture and oxygen availability). Given that properties in the Eastern Suburbs are constantly and continually exposed to sea water the expansion due to corrosion builds up tensile stresses in the concrete cover until it cracks. This cracking produces the first visible signs of corrosion, although in some cases rust stains at the concrete surface may show before cracking.
  3. In the next stage expansion due to corrosion proceeds, until parts of the concrete cover completely detach and spall off constituting a potential danger for users of the structure or the general public.
  4. In the fourth and final stage, reinforcing bar diameter loss becomes so severe as to approach the minimum required for structural stability; eventually collapse cannot be ruled out. Catastrophic Failure is imminent.

 

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The Cost?

A common question asked by owners undertaking spalling repairs is, Why can’t a contractor provide a more accurate estimate for the cost of repair? In essence they should be able to provide a qualified and expert estimate once the extent of the spalling is known.  However, the full extent of the spalling spread through the building is hard to quantify until work has started with all the affected concrete removed and the amount of steel exposed is known. While each property can be completely different in the time frame between the stages and cost of repairs the over all principle remains. Spalling will not stop until it is completed addressed and repaired.

 

 

 

 

Do Nothing?

Spalling concrete puts owners of property at risk of negligence suits. Damage can occur through concrete pieces falling and injuring people or property. Concrete spalling that is not attended to in a timely manner will only lead to further repair costs as the problem grows and spreads. Simply concreting or painting over the effected areas will not address the issues.  In order to affect the repairs the “spalled concrete” MUST be removed and any exposed steel MUST be either replaced or cleaned and treated.  It can range from minor issue only requiring cosmetic repair but left unattended it will become a major problem that can affect the structural integrity of the building and if left untreated can cause catastrophic failure of the structural elements of the building. Taking no action only results in further damage and increased costs.

 

This is far too expensive, so let’s just do a temporary repair.

If the cause of the original damage to the concrete is not determined, correctly addressed and eliminated, the spalling process will repeat itself on the repair material, resulting in wasted time, money and efforts, and a spalling problem still in existence. Future owners could also seek costs being incurred from the previous (current) owners for not undertaking the appropriate works now.

 

In one example an owners corporation was made aware of a spalling issue in 1986, the estimated cost of repair at that stage was $15,000.  The owners of the day did not wish to undertake the work as it could not be funded and was left unattended until 2010.  Further engineering reports were issued and tenders called for.  The spalling had dramatically increased and new estimates to repair the work were obtained.  The cost in 2010 was $1,100,000.00. Still no action was taken as the owners were deliberating over the costs and whether a less expensive repair could be undertaken. After a further 24 months delay the work commenced in 2012. The spalling was moving into its final stage and the building was close to being unliveable. The final cost to the repair was $2,150,000.00.

 

 

The cost of repairing concrete spalling might be high, but the cost of doing nothing is much higher.

Water Saving Tips & Ideas

Owners Corporation – Water Saving Tips & Ideas

A vast number of owners will be completely surprised to learn that they do not pay for the water that is used in their strata unit or townhouse.  If your strata plan is located between Katoomba to the West to Bondi Beach to the East or from Mona Vale to the North to Kiama to the South unless your scheme was registered after 2014 it is the Owners Corporation that pays.

It was only late 2014 that individual cold water meters for new apartments were mandated.  Until then only one master water meter was in place for the entire building.

That cannot be correct I hear you say, we receive a quarterly bill from Sydney Water – While an owner receives a water bill it is not for the actual water usage. It is a fixed fee for the provision of water, stormwater & sewerage services. It is NOT for the consumption.

It is the owners’ corporation that receives and pays the quarterly bill for all water consumed in the complex. It is a budgeted regular item and is paid from the administrative fund.  It also means that as owners you collectively are all paying for water consumption but not based on usage but on unit entitlement through your levies.  That means that while you may use less water personally then another Lot bit have a higher Unit Entitlement you are subsidising other owners.

If you have tenants they do not see the water bills and are not paying for any excess usage.  This means many tenanted apartments never report a leaking shower, toilet or tap.

So let’s consider where the average amount of water usage is used.

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While it is the responsibility of the owners corporation to pay for common property water consumption, studies have shown that over 85% of the actual water consumption is not common property water but in fact private use from inside a Lot.  In fact, more than half of a building’s total consumption emanates from Showers.

 

Toilets – Leaks

Now consider that a simple leaking toilet can waste over 16,000 litres of water a year.  If you then consider that the average Strata plan is 50 % tenanted and an average of 2 toilets per apartments.  As tenants are not responsible for the water usage they seldom report a leaking toilet.  That a lot of money that the owner’s corporation is wasting.  If the leaks are not fixed the cost, just keeps on going.

 

Toilets – Flushing

Older model toilets can use up to 12 litres of water per flush, whereas dual-flush toilets use only 3 litres on a half-flush.

Example of savings

Owners Corporation of 20 apartments with a mix of size apartments – let’s say 30 toilets.

30 (toilets) X 3 (flushes) x 12 (litres) X 365 (year) = 394,200 litres

30 (toilets) X 3 (flushes) x 3 (litres) X 365 (year) = 98,550 litres

Installing water efficient toilets can save the owners corporation money each time the toilet is flushed. Money not going down the drain.

 

Showers

As mentioned if 50% of the water usage is from showers then we need to look at how we can save on shower usage.  Naturally the simplest answer is to take shorter showers.  That is not always the answer.

You can install a flow controller which simply attaches to your existing shower head.  This simply device can reduce the amount of water flow.  An alternative is to install a save every drop paddle.  This allows you to PAUSE the shower, it quickly switches the water flow on and off while soaping or one person getting in or out. One flick and the water is paused, flick it again and the same pressure and temperature continues.

Heating water in fact costs more than the water itself.  Just pausing a hot shower for just 2 minutes per shower will save over 18,000 litres per annum.  That is a lot of hot water and electricity usage-  it is estimated to save a little over $320 pa in heating costs alone, If every apartment installed one the owners corporation could reduce its expenses by thousands pa.

There are many simple ways to save water. Water efficiency requires both smart behaviours and technology. The strata committee owes it to the owners corporation to investigate ways to reduce the ever increasing costs of strata living.

 

 

Can the owner corporation demand that an owner install any of these devices –