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6 Tips to Increase Energy Efficiency During Winter

Star PM Energy Efficiency

The days are short, the wind is biting, and you’re tempted to stay in bed all day.

As the winter chill sets in, the warmth and comfort of your building become paramount. But did you know that staying warm doesn’t have to mean skyrocketing energy bills?

Increase your property’s energy efficiency, and stay warm all winter long.

What is Energy Efficiency and Why is it Important?

Energy efficiency refers to using less energy to perform the same task and to produce the same result. In buildings, this means optimising your property’s systems and appliances to consume less power without compromising comfort or functionality.

The benefits of energy efficiency are endless. Not only do you save money on your utility bills from using less energy, you reduce your environmental impact as efficient energy use lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

More efficient systems also often improve indoor air quality, increasing the overall comfort of the occupants in your property, whilst regular maintenance to maximise your energy efficiency can help you ensure that you are complying with local regulations and codes.

This not only means being able to stay warm better when you’re indoors in winter, but it also means being able to stay cool and refreshed in summertime without issue.

Star PM Energy Efficiency

6 Tips to Quickly Increase Energy Efficiency During Winter

Making sure your property is energy efficient is all and good, but we understand that it can take time to check that all your systems and appliances are at their most efficient.

Here are 6 ways to quickly and effectively improve your property’s energy efficiency.

  1. Seal Gaps and Insulate: Inspect windows, doors, and other potential draft points. Use weather stripping or caulk to seal gaps, and ensure your insulation is up to standard. Proper insulation keeps warm air in and cold air out.
  2. Upgrade to Energy Efficient Windows: If you have the money and time, double or triple-glazed windows are excellent for preventing heat loss. Otherwise, consider using window films or thermal curtains to enhance efficiency.
  3. Optimise Heating Systems: Ensure your heating system is running efficiently. Regular maintenance of your air-conditioning systems, such as cleaning filters and servicing boilers, can significantly improve performance. Consider installing programmable thermostats to better control heating schedules and reduce wastage.
  4. Use Energy Efficient Lighting: Replace incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, which consume less energy and last longer. Take advantage of natural light during the day by keeping curtains open and arranging furniture to maximise sunlight.
  5. Use Smart Technology: Smart metres and home automation systems can help monitor and control energy usage more effectively. These technologies can provide insights into consumption patterns and help you identify areas for improvement.
  6. Encourage Energy Saving Habits: Simple habits like turning off lights and unplugging devices when not in use, and wearing warmer clothing indoors can collectively make a big difference in energy consumption.

3 Things to Consider for the Future

Looking for ways to significantly improve your energy efficiency beyond quick fixes? Here are three things you can consider in your medium- to long-term plan for your property that will make a huge difference in your energy consumption.

  • Invest in Renewable Energy Sources: Solar panels or wind turbines (if you have the space!) can provide a sustainable and cost-effective energy supply. While the initial investment may be high, the long-term savings and environmental benefits are substantial.
  • Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Appliances: When it is time to replace your appliances, opt for those with high energy efficiency ratings. Look for products with high energy ratings, which meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the Australian Government.
  • Implement a Building Energy Management System (BEMS): These systems can monitor and control building energy use more effectively. BEMS can provide real-time data and analytics, allowing for more informed decision-making and energy-saving strategies.
Star PM Energy Efficiency

By following these tips and considering future improvements, you can significantly increase the energy efficiency of your property, leading to cost savings and a positive environmental impact all year round.

Star PM is here to support you every step of the way, providing expert advice and services tailored to your needs. Contact us today.

Categories Blogs

Prevent Flooding With Smart Landscape Irrigation

landscape irrigation

In recent years, heavy and frequent rainfall has become the norm in Greater Sydney. With all the extra water, having smart landscape irrigation has become crucial to prevent flooding, erosion, and damage to outdoor areas.

Landscaping features such as decking, paving, and retaining walls can deteriorate faster from standing water, reducing their lifespan and increasing the need for regular maintenance.

Importantly, pools and puddles can become a huge safety concern for any visitors to your property, increasing the risk of slipping and falls whilst they spend time in your outdoor spaces.

By taking the time to implement smart landscape irrigation strategies, you can effectively prevent flooding and ensure that your outdoor spaces remain beautiful and functional, even during the wettest seasons.

How Does Flooding Occur?

Flooding occurs when water accumulates within your garden and spills over onto other parts of the property, such as pavements or streets. Without enough vegetation or porous surfaces to absorb the rain, water quickly flows across gardens and streets. Floodwaters often contain contaminants and pollutants that pose serious health risks and carry them into the water system.

Standing water can also become a health risk as it can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests, whilst waterlogged areas can lead to mould growth, causing respiratory issues and other health problems.

In fact, urban stormwater runoff is a major contributor to water resource pollution and a common cause of flooding on properties, causing severe damage to buildings, roads, and bridges. The strain on infrastructure and ecosystems has led many cities to implement stormwater runoff fees for property owners.

With that being said, what are some ways to implement smart landscape irrigation and reduce urban flooding on your property?

landscape irrigation

Improve Your Lawn’s Ability To Soak Up Rain

A boggy lawn is every gardener’s woe. Excess water compacts the soil and drowns the grass, leaving a muddy stretch of brown in place of lush green turf.

One effective way to prevent this is by incorporating a swale into your lawn. A swale is a depression in the landscape, either natural or excavated, that redirects water drainage. To maximise its effectiveness, line the lowest point with rocks and plant deep-rooting vegetation on the slopes. This slows the water’s path to the drain and enhances absorption.

Ensure the swale directs water flow to a safe release area. For regions prone to frequent flooding, direct excess water into a dry well or a garden bed with excellent drainage and high water tolerance. Avoid having a swale drain directly off your property.

Another method to enhance your lawn’s water absorption is aeration. Aerating your lawn creates adequate space in the soil to soak up as much water as possible. For best results, use a plug aerator instead of a fork. Plug aeration not only properly aerates the soil but also breaks down naturally into your lawn’s surface, improving soil structure over time.

Avoid using fake grass, as it does not absorb and drain rainwater as efficiently as natural turf.

Install Decks and Patios With Rainfall In Mind

When designing outdoor seating areas, it’s essential to consider rainfall to prevent puddles and water damage.

Timber is a popular material for outdoor areas, but without proper garden drainage solutions, you risk mould and timber warping. To prevent this, ensure there is adequate spacing between each board to reduce the risk of puddles forming on the surface. Beneath your timber surfaces, apply flashing as a moisture barrier and install a drainage system for ultimate protection.

For patios and walkways, consider using permeable paving or gravel. These materials reduce the likelihood of standing water within your space, promoting better drainage and preventing flooding.

One of the most effective approaches is installing drainage channels, which can provide a solution for patios and driveway designs, including areas around garages and conservatories. Water from the drainage channels can flow into a storm drain or soakaway, ensuring it is safely directed away from your outdoor areas.

Similarly, look for products that will keep water safely away from the joists, beams, and the exterior of your home. Simple solutions like corrugated plastic sheets can be effective, but ensure they are water-tight.

A slight slope can significantly impact drainage, helping to direct rainwater run-off into nearby flower beds or other drainage areas such as a soakaway, which is a pit in the ground, usually filled with gravel, that allow water to slowly soak through to the soil.

landscape irrigation

Improve The Soil Structure Of Your Garden Beds

To improve drainage in your planting beds, start by digging over the soil and incorporating grit. This helps water move more freely through the soil and prevent waterlogging. Adding organic matter will further enhance the soil structure of your flower beds and borders. In the spring, apply a balanced fertiliser followed by a layer of mulch over the root area to maintain soil health and moisture.

When mulching, choose heavier mulches like hardwood to ensure they stay in place during heavy rains. Lighter mulches can float away, leaving your soil unprotected.

If your region experiences a lot of rain, consider swapping out traditional borders for raised garden beds. Raised beds offer better drainage and easier soil management, helping to prevent waterlogging.

Additionally, consider planting species that thrive in wet soil to reduce the risk of damage. There are many plants well-suited for areas prone to water retention, which can help maintain a healthy and attractive garden even in wet conditions.

Create Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are designed to provide areas for water to pool during heavy rainfall, slowly releasing it into the soil and reducing runoff.

When building a rain garden, place plants with the highest wet-soil tolerance in the centre. The edges of the garden will drain more quickly, while the centre remains submerged for longer periods. Using native plants is highly recommended as they require little to no additional watering between rainfall.

Most rain gardens range between 5-10 square meters. Even a small, inexpensive rain garden can significantly reduce flooding and runoff.

To enhance the effectiveness of your rain garden, consider redirecting water from other outdoor areas into the garden. This can be done using a rainwater tank, rain chains, or incorporating a small pond within your garden.

landscape irrigation

Implementing smart landscape irrigation techniques will help you significantly reduce flooding and runoff within your outdoor spaces, making them beautiful and attractive places to spend time in, even during heavy rain.

Not sure where to start? Star PM can help you conceptualise how to incorporate smart landscape irrigation into your current outdoor areas with our Star Know-How.

Contact us today.

Categories Blogs

6 Clear Signs It’s Time For Tree Removal

Star PM - Tree Removal

Trees are an essential part of our environment, providing numerous benefits such as clean air, shade, protection from heat, and a leafy aesthetic. However, if the tree is dead or dying, in the way, or planted in the wrong location, even if it’s difficult to say goodbye to a tree that has been on your property for years, tree removal becomes necessary.

What are the 6 main signs to look out for to know when you need to remove your trees?

1. Your Tree is Leaning

A leaning tree is often a clear sign that it may be at risk of falling. If you don’t recall your tree having a natural lean, any new lean could indicate that the tree is dying, the ground around it is no longer supporting it, or the roots have been damaged and can no longer hold the tree upright.

To assess whether your tree is leaning, find a spot in your yard with a full view of the tree and look for the following signs:

  • Super-saturated soil: After heavy rainfall, if the ground is waterlogged and you sink into it as you walk, it may not be able to fully support and stabilise trees. Many trees fall or start to lean significantly after substantial rainfall, putting them at high risk of being uprooted.
  • Soil heaving or cracking on one side of the tree: This indicates that the root ball is shifting, which destabilises the tree.
  • Exposed roots: If you notice roots that you haven’t seen before, it could be due to erosion or ground subsidence, suggesting that the roots are starting to pull out of the ground.
  • Multi-stemmed trees and trees with long, heavy branches: These trees are more prone to toppling over.

A leaning tree may not always be hazardous, but without a professional inspection, you can’t be certain. The sooner your tree is inspected, the better. Remember, any tree within falling range of homes, cars, utility lines, or sidewalks is considered a hazard if it’s leaning because it is not structurally sound.

2. Your Tree’s Roots are Decaying

Decaying or rotting roots is a sign that the tree’s structural support is compromised.

One way roots can be damaged is by lawn mowers, animals, or construction, affecting the tree’s ability to gather nutrients and water. If you have had recent construction or landscaping around your home, it might have harmed the tree’s roots or disturbed the surrounding ground which caused potential damage.

During extended droughts, the lack of water can cause sections of roots to die, causing the entire root system to suffer. Conversely, during extreme rain, too much water can cause roots to become waterlogged, which may lead to root-rot, and again, cause sections of roots to die.

Sometimes a tree cannot recover from root damage, leading to its decline and eventual death.

3. Your Tree Has Sustained Storm Damage

If you recently experienced a strong storm, your trees may have suffered significant damage. High winds, heavy snow, or ice, and lightning can all cause harm to trees.

The most noticeable damage is often fallen trees or broken limbs. However, trees that don’t show obvious signs of damage can still be dangerous. Large branches might have broken but not yet fallen, posing a risk of injury or extensive damage if they fall on a person, home, or car. Heavily damaged trees may also show signs of trunk splitting or branch cracking, indicating instability and high safety concerns.

For these reasons, it is best to have your storm-damaged trees assessed by a professional.

Star PM - Tree Removal

4. There is Fungus Growth on Your Tree

Fungal infections on your trees are often visible as mushroom-like spores and areas of soft, discoloured bark, particularly near the base of the tree or around the roots. If left unrecognised and untreated, fungal infestations can severely damage the health of your tree. In severe cases, fungal infestations can cause the death of your tree.

How is it so deadly? Fungi typically enter a tree through wounds or injuries that damage the protective bark. Once inside, the fungus begins to spread, causing internal decay. This decay compromises the tree’s structural integrity, making it more susceptible to further damage from pests, weather, or additional infections. Over time, the affected areas can weaken significantly, increasing the risk of branch or trunk failure.

In addition to the visible signs, you might notice other symptoms such as wilting leaves, reduced growth, or dieback of branches. It’s crucial to address fungal infections promptly to prevent extensive damage. Regular inspections and maintenance can help identify issues early, allowing for timely treatment and increase the chances of saving your tree.

If you suspect your tree is affected by fungus, it’s best to consult a professional arborist who can accurately diagnose the problem and recommend appropriate treatments to restore your tree’s health.

5. Your Tree Has Developed Odd Shapes

Has your tree developed an unusual structure? This could be the result of a severe storm or improper pruning practices.

One common improper pruning method that can drastically alter the shape of your tree is known as “heading cuts” or tree topping. Topping not only affects the tree’s appearance but also causes it to produce multiple weak shoots from the cut branches. This outdated and extreme pruning method stresses the tree, often leading to its decline or even death.

An irregular shape may also signal potential damage to the tree’s structural integrity, indicating that its foundation might be compromised.

6. Your Tree is Located Extremely Close To Buildings

Trees that grow too close to buildings can potentially damage building foundations as the roots of the tree can extend too close to the building. There is also risk of branches, or the entire tree, falling onto buildings. This can result in damage to your siding, gutters, roofing, or windows, especially during storms or high winds. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep large trees at least 3-4 metres away from any buildings.

Trees also need to be 3-4 metres away from each other as trees that are too close compete for resources, such as sunlight, water, and nutrients, which can hinder their development. If you have many trees growing close together, it may be beneficial to remove some of the nearby trees to allow the remaining ones to thrive.

Star PM - Tree Removal

Tree Removal: The Rules and Regulations

Owning a tree on your property in New South Wales doesn’t give you unrestricted rights to modify or remove it. Removing a protected tree without prior approval from your local council can result in significant fines. Certain native species are protected nationwide, and you must provide specific reasons, usually detailed in an arborist report, to gain removal approval.

The catch is that tree removal laws in NSW are not uniform; they vary depending on your location and local council regulations. Before proceeding with tree removal, it’s critical to review the laws in your Local Government Area (LGA) to avoid hefty fines that could have been prevented by simply consulting your council.

However, some species considered pests are exempt from these regulations. Pruning and maintaining protected trees are also allowed when it benefits the tree’s survival. The local council ultimately decides on tree removal approvals based on Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and Local Environment Plans (LEPs).

If a tree isn’t significant or protected, you can remove it without restrictions, but it’s wise to check significant tree registries first. Consulting with a professional arborist can help identify the tree species and understand local regulations. For trees posing safety risks, seek additional guidance from your local council.

If you find yourself in need of expert guidance, whether to decipher the specifics of your local council’s regulations or to understand the health and structural integrity of the trees on your property, Star PM is here to help.

Our expertise is your solution for ensuring the health, safety, and compliance of your trees.

Contact us today.

Categories Blogs

Council Permits: Does Your Renovation Need One?

Council Permit - Building Permit

Dreaming of renovating your property?

Before you start choosing what pavers to use for your landscapes or what colour to paint your façade,  you need to first make sure to get the less glamourous side of renovations sorted: council permits.

Although permits and paperwork are the last thing anyone wants to do in any project, it is essential to make sure that your renovations have all the right approvals before you start ripping up your floors or building scaffolds as it proves that your renovation plans comply with local regulations, building codes and safety standards, and preventing legal issues.

Before you get lost wandering the aisles of your local Bunnings for inspiration, consult with your local council to understand if and what permits you actually need.

What Sort Of Work Needs A Council Permit?

The rules and regulations vary across the different Councils throughout Australia. As a general guideline, unless you need to structurally change your property, internal renovations such as painting walls or changing cabinetry won’t need council consent.

In NSW, the general rule of thumb is, you will need a council permit if your construction or renovation project is valued at $5,000 or above.

If your plans involve structural modifications, major extensions, any undertaking involving extensive excavations or fills, or building external buildings, you will need council consent before starting your project. For example, garages and carports, fences, decks and verandas, retaining walls, and balconies will all require council permits to go ahead.

Specific conditions may apply to particular buildings or zones. Heritage-listed properties, for example, require approval for nearly any change, including painting. Projects in environmentally sensitive or bushfire-prone areas also have additional requirements.

Council Permit - Building Plans

The Different Types Of Council Permits

With that being said, what are the different types of permits you need before you start work?

A planning permit ensures that your land can be used or developed for a particular purpose, such as building a verandah behind your property. An approved planning permit doesn’t mean that you are now authorised to start your construction project; it is a separate application to the building permit (but can be submitted at the same time!).

A building permit is your licence to build your project. It ensures the safety, health, and structural stability of your building, and shows that your approved plans and specifications complies with building regulations. These are displayed outside all renovation projects, from residential homes and big construction sites.

The Application Process

Now that you know what council permits exist, how do you go about actually getting council approval for your project?

As we said before, council regulations vary across each council area. However, the following steps can provide you with a foundational guide to kickstart this process:

  1. Organise an initial consultation with your council. This helps confirm the specific policies, procedures, and any fees associated with your renovation project. Each council may have different regulations, so it is important to gather this information directly from the source to ensure your project complies with local standards.
  2. Once you have an understanding of the council requirements, the next step is to hire a skilled draftsman or architect who can bring your renovation project to life on paper whilst ensuring that your plans adhere to all relevant building codes, council regulations, and local planning laws. They can also offer invaluable advice and suggestions on how to make the most out of your space.
  3. Get your plans certified by a Building Certifier, who will review the plans to ensure they meet all the necessary safety and structural standards. This step is essential as it provides assurance to the council that your plans are in compliance with the Building Code of Australia.
  4. Appoint a Principal Certifier (PC). The PC plays a critical role throughout the construction phase of your project. They are responsible for overseeing the construction to ensure that it aligns with the approved plans, and they are responsible for issuing an Occupation Certificate upon completion of your project, which is an official declaration that your project meets all the required standards and is safe for occupation. Your PC can be the same as your Building Certifier.
Council Permit - Approved

Some Handy Hints For A Smooth Application Process

  • Be patient and apply early. Approvals can often take up to six months or more.
  • Personally contact your council. Don’t rely on the advice of neighbours or even contractors about whether your project needs approval.
  • Be prepared and have all the relevant information ready. If you have ticked all the right boxes, your application will be easier and faster to process.
  • Regularly communicate with the council as you prepare your documentation before lodging your application. After lodging your application, be proactive about meeting requests for more information.
  • Include application fees in your budget as fees may apply at different stages of the application process.
  • Avoid making changes to your plans once they have been approved. Changing your approved plans can be costly as it might require further approvals, causing delays mid-project.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is better to double check any details you’re not sure of beforehand, than receive a fine or have to undo something later on.
  • Once you have your approval, start your project before it expires. If the approval expires, you will have to go through the process again.

Council permits is a time-consuming but essential part of any construction or renovation project. Use Star PM’s Know-How to help you navigate this process for a smooth, efficient, and fast renovation.

Contact us today.

Categories Blogs

6 Tips To Turn Your Garden Into A Water-Saving Paradise

Water-Saving Garden

Many people think Australia and think sand, sun, and surf. But there is a lot more to our landscapes than that.

Dorothea Mackellar’s famous poem, My Country, summarises it all in its four most famous lines: ‘I love a sunburnt country,/A land of sweeping plains,/ Of ragged mountain ranges,/ Of drought and flooding rains.’

It all sounds majestic and grand, but in the daily scheme of things, what does this mean for businesses and property owners who want to create landscapes and gardens that is long-lasting and easy to maintain?

The answer: A water-saving garden.

Water-Saving Garden

Why Water Conservation is Important in Australia

Australia has a historically precarious relationship with water. Of all of Earth’s continents, only Antarctica gets less rainfall than Australia. And out of all the rainfall Australia gets (just 470mm a year on average), it’s very unevenly distributed. In the Northern Territory, Darwin gets around 1,700mm a year whilst in South Australia, some inland towns survive on less than 200mm a year.

In Sydney, we sit somewhere in the middle, receiving 1175mm of rainfall on average per year. However, as Australia’s most populated city, efficient water usage is still of extremely high importance, especially during periods when we experience high heat, low rainfall, and drought.

By adopting water-saving strategies, we help mitigate the impact of droughts, ensure a sustainable supply for the future, and support the health of our local ecosystems.

The Business Benefits of a Water-Saving Garden

For businesses, creating water-saving landscapes brings on a multitude of additional benefits.

The first benefit, and the most impactful on your operations, is the reduction of your water bill. Gardens are one of the most water-consuming parts of any building. In fact, running a sprinkler for an hour can use more water than a family four will use in a day! By reducing the water being used for your garden or landscape, you can redirect your financial resources towards other vital areas, enhancing overall operational efficiency.

From an environmental standpoint, water-saving gardens and landscapes reduce the demand on local water reserves, which is a significant concern in Australia. They reduce your business’s environmental impact and ecological footprint, which has the added bonus of attracting eco-conscious customers to your business.

Beyond financial and environmental benefits, the strategic designs that water-saving gardens require can greatly elevate the visual appeal of your property, contributing to a positive first impression and potentially increasing real estate values. These landscapes can also improve air quality and attract local wildlife for an added bonus to your local environment.

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. – Thomas Fuller

Six Water-Saving Tips For Your Garden

Incorporate Native Plants

Native Australian plants are accustomed to the local climate and soil conditions and thus require less water than exotic species to survive and thrive. By using these plants in your landscape, you will create a garden that is easy to maintain, water-saving, and will support local biodiversity.

Invest in Drip Irrigation

As opposed to traditional sprinkler systems, drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to the base of your plants, minimising evaporation and run-off as the water goes straight to where it’s needed most.

Use Mulch

Applying a layer of mulch around plants helps retain soil moisture and will reduce the need for frequent watering. Mulch also suppresses weeds, which compete with plants for water, and adds an aesthetic touch to garden beds.

Opt for Water-Smart Design

Design your landscape with water conservation in mind. This includes creating zones based on water needs, incorporating permeable paving to reduce runoff, and incorporating features such as rain gardens capture and utilise rainwater.

Implement Rainwater Harvesting

Installing rainwater tanks to collect and store rainwater for irrigation purposes is a highly effective way to reduce dependence on mains water and provide cost savings over time. Other ways to harvest rainwater include water features such as natural ponds and fountains, which also have the additional benefit to becoming a water source for local wildlife.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial to a water-saving landscape. This includes checking irrigation systems for leaks, pruning plants to encourage healthy growth, and aerating soil to improve water penetration.

Water-Saving Garden

Now that you know why a water-saving garden is useful, and how to transform your landscape to be sustainable, it’s time to start implementing them in real life.

Not sure about how to do so?

Star PM is here to help. Let our Star Know-How in Commercial Landscaping and Commercial Gardening help you create a landscape that is as sustainable as it is stunning. Contact us today.

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