Of what materials is your complex built? What happens to materials no longer in use or required? What consideration do you give to materials for renovations or upgrades of your common property? What about materials that are used regularly?
These questions are more important than they might appear to be at first glance. The materials with which our complexes are built, surfaced, maintained and cleaned have major sustainability and health implications.
Building standards for new developments now pay more attention to the nature of materials used in the construction and interior finishes of new developments, but what about older complexes that were built in times of lower standards – where most of us live.
Some questions for owners corporations to be asking about the materials used on common areas are:
- Adhesives and sealants– what VOCs are out-gassed? Choose water-based zero or low VOC products.
- Carpet– What VOCs might be out-gassing from backing materials, adhesives, underlay, stain guarding, faire retardants and moth proofing? Natural materials such as sisal and jute can be used.
- Cleaning Products– what cleaning products are used by staff and contractors to clean common areas? Are they natural, sustainable and non-toxic?
- Glass Windows and Doors– how energy efficient are they in minimising the need for heating & cooling?
- Insulation – is it the right insulation for the job? Is it an environmentally friendly with recycled content? The safer solutions are cellulose fibre, wool and air-cell.
- On-site storage of chemicals – are pool chemicals stored on site? Is there any possibility of leakage or out-gassing of fumes into common areas?
- Paints and finishes– are they water-based zero or no-VOC paints? Look for plant-based and mineral paints, and untreated wax or water-based natural stains
- Timber flooring and doors: - is it from sustainably managed plantations or recycled? What chemicals are used in treating it? What varnishes and sealants are used? What volatile organic compounds (VOCs) might these be out-gassing?
There are a number of independent guides and product directories for sustainable materials. Some of these are:
- Good Environmental Choice Australia - Certified products register
- Ecospecifier Products
- Good Wood Guide (Greenpeace Australia)
- Green Pages sustainability directory
- Safer Solutions Renovation Guide (Total Environment Centre)
- Window energy rating scheme, Certified Products – Residential
- Your Home Renovator’s Guide