Get this right from the start and everything should run smoothly. Get this wrong – and strata owners, committees and management companies could be facing a world of expensive, troublesome and even dangerous problems.

As the Newcastle apartment market evolves from walk-ups to vast, elaborate strata buildings, the need grows for specialist solutions handled by experienced strata managers. Brad Spence of Vantage Strata Newcastle discusses the problems that can stem from a lack of expertise in managing these sophisticated and complex buildings.

Like many similar cities across Australia, Newcastle has changed and grown over the years. Traditionally an industrial hub at the heart of the coal industry, Australia’s seventh largest city has flourished into a hip and happening place with a young population, a buzzing social scene and a rising number of professionals and office workers.

With this growth has come a maturing of Newcastle’s housing market from traditional Victorian terraces and ‘six-pack’ walk-ups into large, vertical communities.

The typical walk-up apartment building in red or cream brick has been around since the 1930s, generally two or three storeys high and always without elevators. Many of these are strata buildings, but their simplicity means they are straightforward to manage.

As Newcastle’s skyline becomes dominated by high-rise strata buildings, there is a burgeoning need for strata managers who are experienced in managing these complex buildings. Today’s large, modern apartment blocks are a world apart from simple walk-ups and small strata properties. There are endless specialist services that strata managers need to take care of – from large-scale elevators, smart security and fire systems to communal spaces with entertainment areas, fitness facilities and retail units for shops and eateries.

This has completely changed the game for strata. Strata managers for these properties need to handle huge budgets, juggle a large number of specialist contractors and run elaborate building maintenance programmes. And strata committees need to be experienced and skilled professionals, able to make good judgements based on sound facts – it’s no longer simply a role for anyone with a bit of extra time on their hands.

Without sophisticated, intelligent holistic management by experienced strata companies, matters can rapidly spiral out of control.

The new wave of strata

As Newcastle’s population increases and high-rise buildings shoot up to meet demand, the prevalence of large strata buildings is booming. We expect this to continue for years to come – but it’s essential that the buildings are suitably and comprehensively managed. Poor or inexperienced management can put all interconnected owners at risk and lead to major, expensive problems and safety issues.

This is a typical concern for a maturing market of this type and age, and Newcastle would do well to sit up and take notice. When other cities reached this point, with an increasing number of these vast, complicated buildings, inexperienced strata managers were unable to cope as they were used to dealing with the smaller, simpler walk-up type properties. This resulted in countless problems, including leaking budgets, increased costs for owners and poor maintenance of essential facilities.

Most of us have heard of the highly publicised horrendous structural defects in Sydney’s tower blocks causing major safety concerns, which have led to recent changes in regulation.

A particular apartment block in Sydney, 93 Auburn Road, was the catalyst that led to NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler demanding new powers to prevent buildings being sold with major defects. Coming hot on the heels of news of the Opal and Mascot towers’ glaring structural defects, the issues here led to new regulations to help prevent developers from forcing people to buy off-plan in buildings with major defects. Under the new rules, owners can sue those responsible for defects in all buildings under 10 years old. Chandler can now withhold occupation certificates until a new building is safe and fit for purpose.

This is a big step forward for large tower blocks – and a much-needed development in the industry. But having a building that’s soundly built and safe when it is new is just the beginning – careful maintenance is every bit as crucial as decent initial build quality.

Why PPM is vital

Enter PPM – planned preventative maintenance. Having a planned and carefully managed PPM programme keeps assets running safely and smoothly, and in large strata properties such as these, it’s vital.

Managing the new wave of complex strata buildings is a whole different ball game to managing smaller blocks such as walk-ups. Walk-ups typically have very little in the way of complicated assets or technology-led systems, and using a reactive strategy for maintenance has far less potential to lead to problems.

But the importance of a comprehensive PPM programme for larger strata buildings cannot be underestimated. Many buildings of this type are powered by smart technology, and protecting and maintaining onsite assets such as elevators, security systems, roof integrity, common lighting, hot water, drains and much more is a costly and complex operation. A reactive repair system means the building will quickly run into expensive and dangerous problems.

With PPM, owners know their costs in advance. Assets are regularly maintained so should continue to function for far longer and better than they would otherwise. These smaller costs upfront should ultimately reduce owners’ strata levies and keep buildings running smoothly, efficiently and safely. With PPM contracts in place for all key assets, costs are known and planned for, with no unexpected bills or costs.

A professional strata company such as Vantage Strata has many years’ experience in this field, integrated view of Strata and Building Management understands exactly how to keep everything running smoothly in the most cost-effective and safe way possible. We’re used to effortlessly handling everything from committee meetings and assets to the fire and security of the building – and everything else in-between.

Newcastle is in the enviable position, as a maturing strata market, of being able to learn from experiences in other areas and apply these hard won lessons of a comprehensive approach to strata and building management as it continues to grow.