Practice what you preach
It seems that every time we open a newspaper or magazine someone is telling us that we must reduce our carbon footprint and make sure that our offices and homes are green. There is a huge amount of information in the media – some of which makes sense and some of which gives us conflicting opinions and it seems it is up to us to decide how we can make it work for us.
One area in which we are seeing a growing demand is companies who only want to do business with other green companies – ones who do indeed practice what they preach and already have their own houses in order. Here we look at a selection of companies in the building services sector who are already practicing the green message.
Colt International, based in Havant, designs, manufactures and installs systems that provide healthy, comfortable and safe working conditions in industrial and commercial buildings. Committed to providing the most energy efficient option for the projects that it contributes to, Colt endeavours to practice what it preaches within its own office and manufacturing environments.
As a starting point for its energy efficiency strategy, Colt has achieved ISO 14001, the standard intended to help organisations minimise the negative impact their operations may have on the environment.
Colt has held this standard for three years and here are some examples of its continuous improvement measures.
Using materials with a low embodied energy – Embodied energy refers to the quantity of energy required to manufacture and supply to the point of use, a product or material. The aluminium which Colt purchases for manufacture has a high recycled content and is smelt using hydroelectric power.
Waste management – in its factory, Colt has recently stopped buying packaging such as cardboard and wooden boxes. Any cardboard waste that is produced is recycled and all excess wood is turned into pellets.
Staff initiatives – a company car policy has been implemented with the purpose of capping carbon dioxide emissions.
Energy conservation – Colt’s office building dates back to the 1960’s and is inefficient in its consumption of energy. However, as part of a wider refurbishment, Colt has plans to install its own climate control technologies in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and energy costs, while demonstrating what can be done to improve the efficiency of older buildings.
As a first measure, a Colt Caloris WRF water source heat pump system will be installed to provide both heating and cooling. Besides being extremely energy efficient, Caloris requires minimal refrigerant. At a later stage Colt intends to integrate its other complimentary climate control technologies into the building, including natural ventilation and solar shading.
Colt’s integrated solutions approach to climate control is intended to provide the most energy efficient option, and combined with its bespoke design service these technologies can be adapted and installed on both new and existing buildings.
Is having an enviable reputation for being at the leading edge of pump technology and with an extensive product range incorporating many environmental firsts enough to be considered a green organisation? It seems that Grundfos do not believe it is.
Over an extended period they have introduced a number of measures designed to support and encourage not only the business, but their staff, the local community and even government, to take a closer look at the bigger energy picture.
From an accreditation viewpoint all the UK sales and manufacturing sites have achieved the environmental ISO 14001 standard. All aspects of energy usage and waste are measured on each site and targets set not only to exact immediate improvements, but to build on these improvements over a protracted period of time. An example of this is waste disposal where they increased their recycling from 43% of the total to 63% in three years, whilst over the same period reducing their waste to landfill from 47 tonnes to 15 tonnes.
The company also employ a range of other energy saving schemes some examples of which are:
- Print on demand (sales materials).
- Use of e-communication/emarketing/ e-Newsletters.
- Video conferencing to cut down on travel time, overheads and fuel.
- FISH is an electronic based staff suggestion scheme where a range of ideas – including environmental suggestions – are put forward, assessed and shared.
- In-house pumps are upgraded to the most efficient available.
- Offer customer interactive – web and CD-based – pump selection tools.
In terms of staff, Grundfos offer a range of benefits to encourage people to save or use energy wisely. These include:
- Offering the Toyota Prius as a company car option.
- Flexible working hours that places less strain on people and avoid rush-hour congestion.
- Paying staff who walk or cycle to work £1 per day or contributing towards the cost of public transport or car sharing.
- In-house library.
- Environmental quizzes and competitions.
They also extend their environmental ambitions outside of the company and into the local community where they recently ran an art competition in conjunction with a local newspaper. This was aimed at children and asked them to design a poster to encourage people to save energy. The results showed the interest levels and great ideas that exist among the next generation. There is no environmental ‘magic wand’ and companies must take the responsibility to act as caretakers in order to ensure we pass this planet onto the next generation in the condition that will ensure its long term future. Grundfos strive to help achieve this ambition every day.
Reducing carbon footprint for Megaman has been a matter of considering every detail and exploring the possibilities of each, in a detailed and structured fashion.
When Megaman moved into new premises in Welwyn Garden City, Herts, it was vital that its UK headquarters reflect the high standards of sustainability that has become the norm for its factories and offices in the Far East. The choice of building, in itself, was an important consideration, with factors such as U-values and efficiency of services as key criteria.
Unsurprisingly, one of the easiest areas to address was the use of low energy lighting. As a manufacturer of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) the company has ready access to a wide range of lamp types for every requirement. Even in the warehouse area, where high bay fittings with high intensity discharge lighting would be the norm, the company has used its low energy 320W Clusterlites to replace standard 400W Metal Halide lamps. These lamps save 80W each (23%), last twice as long and will save over £4386 a year in energy running costs. Combined with this is sophisticated lighting control, using technologies such as occupancy detection to ensure lights are not left on in unoccupied areas. Megaman is also able to make use of its dimmable CFLs to dim the lighting in relation to natural daylight.
A similar approach is taken with other services, so that heating is zoned to enable its use to be minimised. As Megaman is a technologybased company there are also relatively high heat gains from computer equipment so this mitigates the need for heat even further. Air conditioning is required in some areas of the building but this is minimised by solar shading.
To some extent, these are all obvious areas to address when reducing carbon footprint; but there are other areas to be addressed that can also have a significant impact.
To that end, Megaman has introduced waste recycling throughout the building, as well as taking measures to minimise waste in the first place. For example, unnecessary printing is discouraged to reduce paper and toner usage.
In selecting the building, the company also ensured that it was close to public transport routes to minimise car usage. It also encourages the use of telephone and video conferencing to minimise travelling to meetings.
As Managing Director John Murphy explains: “The key is to look at everything, not just the headline energy consumers such as air conditioning and lighting. We are now working with sustainability consultants to identify other areas for improvement and to examine the potential for renewable energy sources. We hope to achieve carbon neutrality within two years.”
Mitsubishi Electric is using its unique position as one of the UK’s major suppliers of heating and cooling equipment to promote its Green Gateway Initiative, (http://www.greengatewayinitiative.co.uk/) which highlights ways to reduce energy use within the built environment and points the way to a reduction in CO2 by over three million tonnes a year by 2016.
The company has also examined its own carbon footprint and has initiated a number of programmes at its Hatfield headquarters as Facilities Manager, James Hobson explains: “We have already moved to an electricity supplier offering 100% renewable sourced electricity and in June of this year we are installing 272 photovoltaic panels to generate over 50kwatts per hour of electricity. At weekends any excess power generated will be transferred to the main electricity provider.”
The site is also used as a test facility for the company’s range of air conditioning and this includes a ground source heat pump system connected to a slinky which has already been proved to be over 500% more efficient at heating than a boiler and cheaper to run per m2 per year than a traditional boiler / chiller combination, whilst producing 2,964kg less CO2 emissions per year.
“We know our products can help others reduce their carbon footprint but we also know it is important to look at our own operations,” adds Mr Hobson.
Other initiatives include a CO2 restrictive car policy which limits the number of vehicles used – all of these are ecofriendlier diesel and hybrid vehicles and the company is also investigating carbon offsetting for its entire fleet.
Office waste is segregated to maximise recycling and this includes as many recyclable elements (such as drinking cups) as possible. The company is also examining lunchtime takeaway packaging and has introduced biodegradable products to minimise waste.
Waste paper is recycled and the company has moved to paper sourced from managed forests for all photocopying and correspondence. Staff are also actively encouraged to minimise the amount of printing of emails and other correspondence.
For the grounds, the company is preparing a natural meadow and is installing a wormery to take care of kitchen waste and produce rich organic compost and liquid plant feed.
To assist in reducing the amount of water that the office uses, the company is looking to install a rainwater harvesting system and this grey water will be used for office toilets, thereby saving on mains water.
If we look at the action which is being taken by these four companies it would be safe to say that the building services industry is taking the green initiative very seriously. But can we be sure that everyone is taking part?
There are still a number of companies who are putting the green initiative low on their agenda because they claim that they simply don’t have time to implement the changes which would be necessary to green their building. But the fact that these four companies who make up a small proportion of the industry are doing so much suggests that this argument is one which is no longer valid.
It is all very well to ignore the changes to the climate and ignore the need to reduce your carbon footprint but this industry is changing. Very soon there will be a much higher proportion of companies who will only do business with like minded professionals and therefore if you ignore the obvious signs you do risk being left out in the cold.
Looking after the environment is a job for everyone because that is the only way that we will make the changes that are necessary so don’t leave it up to everyone else. Even a small change can make all the difference and with the number of environmentally friendly products which are now on the market there really is no excuse for doing nothing.