From Basement to Boardroom - Managing Sustainability

Garnaut Empowers the People But Will Government Seize the Moment?

Eco Living Centre’s founder, Alistair Duncan, is pleased to see that the final Garnaut Report has finally put into context how we all need to attend to the information about climate change and its impacts as a start to adapt and mitigate its effects on our lives. Government will set up carbon trading schemes but they can incentivise householders and business now to get started.

Sustainable Risk Management From the Basement to the Boardroom

Boardrooms will increasingly take notice of decisions made in their basements as the compliance regimes for “being green” escalate. Why basements? This is where the power and water meters reside for reporting usage. They are often hidden from easy view and not necessarily accurate. New reporting regulations will force a focus on accurate usage and costs of energy and water consumption. Managing these resources now needs to be transparent, accurate and effective, and not reliant on third part personnel providing data like Building Managers, the plumber, or electrician to monitor performance. It is essential that it becomes a viable part of the company’s risk management and “carbon reporting” programme. The opportunity with this strategy is that companies will save money direct to the bottom line, and add value to their reputations as good corporate citizens.

The following outlines an approach that uses current technologies to meet these topical and carbon related reporting regimes while also saving water and energy. It is now imperative for senior management to take control of what has been regarded as a technical and operational responsibility often managed from the basement or by the building owners. Pressure, flow rate, kLt,  kWhr, power-factor correction, harmonics, peak and shoulder rates are just some of the technical words that now need to be familiar to managers if they are to effectively manage their sustainable planning and implementation programs. Note, that as yet there is no mention of CO2 reductions. These will naturally occur when savings in water and energy usage are delivered. You do not have to get caught into the debate on climate change, global warming etc, just the practical benefits of reducing water and energy usage to deliver bottom line savings.


With limited resources any strategic review of water and energy saving should focus on the 80:20 rule; that is, where you can get the most return, alternatively this is the “grab the low hanging fruit” first option. Each of the options discussed below uses proven technology. The greatest challenge is changing people’s mind sets, and appointing a senior manager who is responsible to drive these changes. Many of these initiatives have been implemented by businesses here and around the world. In the past the focus has been on water saving, but in terms of “bang for your buck” the emphasis should be on energy saving by eliminating unnecessary waste. This is not as difficult as it seems with the current technology now readily available.

Step One Who is Driving What?

While the Company Secretary is normally responsible for the reporting requirements a senior management person does need to be in charge of the implementation and drive the project as the results are tangible dollar savings in a short timeframe. These savings are then for evermore and generally not one-off. Too often Facility Managers want to do one thing, Property Services another, engineering another and no one from accounts is demonstrating how much too much water or energy is costing, or where savings can be made. A senior manager can ensure that all Departments implement programs rather than just talk about them.

Step Two follows the old adage, if you cannot measure it, you cannot monitor it or improve it. The simplest method is to install water and energy smart meters that deliver their measurements to a PC.

Not only are they accurate but can be easily programmed to raise alarms with any abnormal usage; ideal for leak detection, pipe breaks, power outages and equipment failure. Smart metering provides a simple method of risk minimisation for water damage or fires caused by equipment malfunction. Without these measurements it is difficult to set priorities, and not in time with what is actually happening over a 24/7 period. Some buildings have conducted audits, particularly for water just once. Then base their planning on this one document that often is misleading. Web access to smart meters ensures the information is not only up-to-date and checked against the invoices, but is constantly available for anyone with PC or mobile phone access.

Data is then available for meetings which is more relevant and easier for everyone to follow. Each area of the building a business occupies should have the information on their water usage and energy usage, not just in total, but time of use. This assists changes in behaviour; if people can graphically see their usage they are more willing to accept the need to change.

Energy Saving -The Simple Steps

The cost of power will continue to increase and ensure any investment in energy saving will improve its financial yield curve over the life of the equipment. Energy smart meters delivering web based information on your PC ensures you have real time, accurate and reportable data at both the managerial and operational level.

Saving on power of >20% on your current power consumption should be a minimum target, and greater savings are more than possible. Here is a quick summary of the key technologies available, right now.

Energy smart metering as well as providing accurate data on power consumption and CO2 emissions will indicate the opportunity to power-shift, switching on and off equipment at different times of the day to take advantage of lower kWh charges. It also provides a real advantage in any negotiations with your power supplier on time-of-use schedules. Peak load cost rates will increase more rapidly and in many instances are 2-3 times more expensive than off-peak rates.

Power-factor correction can typically save 20% on the power consumption of a site, improving the quality of the power to a site, matching load to input. These units are simple to install and start delivering savings immediately on power consumption. They also deliver maintenance savings due to less wear & tear on equipment, particularly pumps and compressors.

Variable speed drives, or inverters are also another simple to install unit to save power on pumps and compressors. Most new air-conditioning units now come complete with these units pre-installed. If not they are simple to retro-fit and again can delivery 20% power savings on pumps and compressors.

Lighting presents other problems. There has been much talk and effort to replace incandescent globes with compact fluorescents, but at what cost? High mercury content ensures these globes will cause major problems with disposal and land fill in the future. Already several Local Governments in America ban them from entering their waste disposal stream, and IKEA USA, having previously sold them, will now voluntarily take them back. If not compact fluorescents, then what?

Lighting poses three (3) major problems for commercial buildings: the cost of power to run them; maintenance costs to replace them; air conditioning required to balance the heat generated. The epidemic use of halogens by designers is the source of the problem. A typical office can have well over 200 halogens. These are very efficient at converting energy into heat, normally 96% of a 50 watt halogen is given off as heat and only 4-5% in light! A 50W halogen is really a 45W electric heater.

The cost of running 200 x 50 watt halogen and their individual 20 watt transformer for 363 days a year can be over $ 7,000. While a halogen globe may be rated at 4000 hours, manufacturers measure globe life statistically; the rating means 50% will fail by 4000 hours! Businesses pay high maintenance costs for replacement and higher energy costs for air conditioning working overtime.

However, help is at hand. LEDs, or light emitting diodes, can solve the problem with high impact illumination in modern designs that are low in wattage and convert over 95% of their energy into light, and not heat. Lighting designers are now turning to LEDs. A 10 watt LED can replace a 50 watt halogen, an immediate saving of 80%, and 95% of their energy is light not heat. Thus a 10W LED equates to a 50W halogen, and in a choice of colours produce little to no heat. In a typical single floor office space the annual energy bill falls dramatically to $2592, (if you still use the old 20 watt halogen transformer). In new installations you would use a 60 or 100 watt transformer for 6 -10 LEDs; if you chose this option the energy bill falls to $1728, a 76% saving. Maintenance for a typical 10 watt LED will be rated at 100,000 hours, or replacement every 23 years!

Fortunately light emitting diodes, LED, have reached a technical and practical maturity to replace halogens, metal halides and high-pressure sodium lighting. The key benefits are high lumens, good quality light better matching daylight and extra long life.

Security lighting for buildings, depots and car-parking can also benefit from 1500 lumen to 2400 lumen LED lighting; offering superior perceived light and long 55,000 hour life or 6.2 years of 24/7. Given that many metal halides are in difficult positions, often requiring scaffolding or cherry-pickers to reach, longer life quickly translates into much lower maintenance issues. This is seen with the introduction of LED traffic lights realising savings of 80% in maintenance costs.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 22 percent of electricity used in the U.S. powers lighting, and by using LED lighting over the next 20 years.

  • Reduce electricity demands from lighting by 62 percent.
  • Eliminate 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
  • Avoid building 133 new power plants.
  • Anticipate financial savings that could exceed $115 billion

These saving are dramatic and already achievable with existing LED technology. LED City, a USA based organisation promoting the use of LED with Councils highlights several have already moved to lighting their cities with LED lighting e.g. Austin, Texas.

Fluorescent tubes are also waste electricity, every time they are switched on they use more power than they need, especially with older style fluorescent tubes with poor ballast factors. There are alternatives e.g. T5’s, but these are expensive to supply and fit, disrupt the work environment during installation and typically only save 13% of energy. A better and more cost effective alternative is to simply install Powersavers in 20amp modules to reduce existing power consumption by up to 30%+ in most cases. The added benefit is longer lamp life as the tubes run cooler, resulting in less maintenance and replacement costs.

Water Saving Made Simple

Water saving we have left to last. In some instances the emphasis on water has been over-done. Despite this there are real advantages to save water and costs in three key areas of air-conditioning, men’s urinals and irrigation. Again the start ought to be effective data collection via smart metering. This is especially effective with air-conditioning units and irrigation where large volumes of water can go unaccounted. An additional benefit of water smart metering is the immediacy of leak detection. An SMS is sent to the plumber if an out of normal use flow rate is detected. This is also a useful component of any risk management plan for sensitive areas like computer rooms and libraries. However it can also double up as a vandal alert in remote buildings where often taps are deliberately left on. Once alerted real damage to a building can be averted.

In many communal areas the traditional tap is still used. The introduction of timer taps, as part of any maintenance program or in high usage areas is a useful preventative water saving measure.

Men’s urinals are well known for their maintenance issues and complaints. Solving this problem calls for varying levels of investment using waterless urinals and water management systems like using Sani-Sleeve that combines low water usage with safe and effective cleaning regimes. ¬†However remember that these systems still need water even the waterless ones to ensure uric sludge and acid are safely taken away and do not corrode the pipe-work. Only the go anywhere compost toilet is truly waterless.


To achieve a sustainable program in water and energy saving requires clear management direction and leadership to force the changes in a timely manner. Energy initiatives can be easily retro fitted to existing systems and produce cost savings immediately with ROI measured in months in the case of lighting and 2-3 years in other instances. It is all achievable using current technology available in Australia. Water saving is best focused on risk management for leak detection for both buildings and park irrigation. Changing over men’s urinals to effective water management- systems is likely to best save maintenance rather than water.

In summary, effective monitoring will ensure progress is evaluated and transparent, speeding up any necessary changes of behaviour. Programs can be simply implemented assuring financial and water & energy savings, including any CO2 emission targets.

Prepared by Alistair Duncan MBA Grad Dip CSP 1300 308 823< ><–>