Climate risk for medium and high density apartment building

Damage caused by environmental factors can wreak havoc to your block

Even if you aren’t convinced by all the evidence of climate change, the fact is the environment is one of the biggest threats to your strata building.

In Sydney in 2016, a major storm caused trees to fall and flooded dozens of houses. Some of the worst affected were a string of million-dollar-and-then-some properties along the waterfront at Narrabeen Beach. The wild weather, combined with king tides, literally swallowed up these properties’ front gardens, even washing away entire swimming pools. Resulting insurance claims created a messy situation as the finger of blame was pointed in several different directions.

Major storm damage incidents seem to be becoming more common. It is important to estimate the potential destruction which can be caused by the environment and to protect your property as much as possible.

Assess your risk

Does your property have ocean views? Did you know rising sea levels are predicted to cost Australia $200 billion in infrastructure damage? The coast of Victoria is mentioned by the Climate Risk Institute as one of the most at-risk areas over the next few decades.

There are tools available which can indicate whether or not coastal erosion is a genuine threat for the property you manage. These predict rises in sea level and give you an idea of how you could be affected. They can also estimate the impact on the value of a property over a 30 year period, based on threats from coastal erosion. For a strata manager, it is worth taking a look before investigating how to mitigate this risk.

Beyond the long term threat of a diminishing coastline, intense storms are another environmental threat. Gum trees in particular are known for dropping branches during storms and causing extensive damage. An arborist will be able to spot potential hazards and spend a day or two removing branches or trees which put your property at risk.

Wind is another factor which can cause extreme property damage. As well as flinging around debris and smashing windows, it has the potential to rip off guttering and even entire roofs. One block in Sydney was damaged to the tune of $3.5 million after a particularly windy event in 2016.

Then there’s flooding. Ground level apartments and underground parking areas are particularly susceptible after a heavy downpour, especially if your property is near a dam, river or lake. Often back-up electricity generators are installed in the lower parts of a building. If they are flooded they won’t be able to operate and power the facility, adding to the drama of an already stressful situation.

Inviting a qualified builder inspector to review the hazards around your property can ward off the risk of damage from environmental events like storms, wind and floods.

Review your insurance

As strata manager, you are responsible for selecting an insurer and making sure premiums are paid. When you look into the building’s policy, read the fine print carefully. Check the property is properly covered for damage caused by storms, floods and high winds. You may have to put measures in place which meet the insurer’s requirements so do your research and take action accordingly.

Climate change risk assessors predict longer dry spells and more dramatic storms as greenhouse gases impact our environment. This means those one-in-100-year weather events will occur much more frequently than their name suggests. The Australian property market is expected to be impacted by this so where possible, prevention is better than cure. Make the owners corporation aware of the threats and help them to put a risk management plan in place to maintain the value of their property.


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