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The strata sector is experiencing significant growth and a plethora of new high-density mixed-use developments. The statistics are alarming and the government is predicting that by 2040 over half the population will live in a strata or community scheme.
The government has put in place many strategies to deal with the housing shortage in NSW and, along with some local councils, has rezoned many areas along the transport corridors so that they can be redeveloped for housing.
Approval for high density and more complex apartments is creating huge opportunities for all service providers associated with strata living. The new schemes are usually staged, have a mix of retail or commercial space and contain many shared facilities. A Strata Management Statement or SMS is developed by the solicitors, with practical advice from the strata manager and the building manager at planning stage to assist with the management and cost allocation between each strata plan. So the appointment of a highly experienced strata manager and building manager is crucial for the long term upkeep of the building. Both roles are significantly different and complex.
Strata living is often complicated, especially for people that have always lived in a house where they owned the walls, floors, wires – basically everything. People are usually shocked to learn that they actually don’t own the whole apartment rather structural cubic air space, which is basically the internal walls, up to the underside of the ceiling, the top of the floor slab if carpet and appliances. Everything else is pretty much Common Property and is owned and maintained by the owners corporation. The owners have a responsibility under the Strata Schemes Management Act to maintain all common property. So this is where the strata manager and building manager roles are needed.
The strata manager works at the direction of the owners corporation committee and their role is one of a banker, administrator and lawyer. They manage the funds of the owners, issue levy notices, hold the position of Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer (if Committee wishes), pay contractors, ensure the owners are complying with the Act, and many more.
Building managers however organise, control and coordinate the strategic and operational management in building and facilities and are the foot soldiers on the ground who deal with various contractors and suppliers in carrying out maintenance and upgrades and providing services such as security, cleaning and property maintenance and can issue keys, accept parcels and manage the adherence of the occupants to the registered by-laws. They are usually engaged where there are greater than 70 apartments, although we manage some sites that only have three apartments so it really depends on the owners. The managers are often onsite with a dedicated office in the building where as the strata manager is located offsite.
Building managers have an understanding of plant and machinery, how it operates and what maintenance is required. They must ensure that all plant such as fans, boilers, chiller are running at optimum levels and that maintenance is carried out according to the manufacturers details.
A reputable facility management company would use a software system to assist in this role and ensure that the service is performed on a preventative rather than reactive basis. An important role of the building manager is to provide information, services, meet varying expectations, support, be a good listener and deal with conflict to create a community environment residents are willing to call home.
The strata and building manager both need to work very closely to ensure that the correct budgets are set for the development. This is usually done in unison where the building manager produces and invites service contractors to tender on the various maintenance required to upkeep the property. They would prepare tender documents, issue and analyse the responses and come back to the owners with recommendations and ensure the building is receiving value for money. This does not mean the cheapest provider. Budgets can then be accurately set for at least three years in advance. These usually include; cleaning, air-conditioning, HVAC, lighting, fire services, landscaping, high rise abseiling, facade maintenance, security, concierge, hot water systems, grey water, solar cells, vertical gardens, elevators/escalators, pool equipment and servicing, exhaust fans, sump pumps, roller doors and more.
The building manager is usually the first point of contact within the building so all move-ins by residents are arranged through the manager and all contractors are required to report in before commencing work so the correct induction process is adhered to and insurances checked.
The building manager is also responsible for contract management, waste management and risk management and where capital projects are involved they would develop a business case, and forward to the strata manager and owners corporation committee recommendations to commission specialists/ consultants and manage the project in conjunction with the consultant.