North Somerset Council’s complete refurbishment of the existing 4 storey, 1970s-built Town Hall by Wilmott Dixon and designed by another WECC member Alec French Architects has been named the Public Building Retrofit Project of the Year at the recent Retro Expo awards held at the NEC in Birmingham. Projected reductions in CO₂ emissions by 61% will save North Somerset Council £700,000 in annual running costs and has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the building’s energy performance certificate (EPC) rating from an E to A.
Here’s how they did it:
The energy reduction approach for the project focused on 4 key areas to ensure that real savings for North Somerset Council were maximised:
- Design and construction to achieve significant energy/carbon/operating cost reductions associated with fixed building services.
- Designing and specifying to reduce un-regulated energy usage from server and IT infrastructure and associated cooling.
- Developing an ‘energy budget’ for projected usage in the refurbished building and implementing a programme of in-use monitoring to verify actual savings.
- This major refurbishment was part of the Council Office Amalgamation Programme increasing the occupancy of the Town Hall from approximately 600 staff to an open-plan flexible office space for around 950 Council and partner staff, including the Police. The new design also incorporates the Weston Central Library and an integrated public service gateway.
Key building fabric/services and other equipment improvements which lead to the 61% savings were:
- Installation of 35kWp photovoltaic panel system.
- New server suite with associated high-efficiency dedicated cooling plant.
- Creation of an internal atrium space to transform the internal environment of the office areas and allowing a predominantly natural ventilation approach
- Replacement of all windows with Kawneer AA540 Series (BRE Global Green Guide online generic specification for windows and achieved a summary rating of A*).
- Improvement in fabric air permeability (air-tightness) of the Town Hall to 3.05m³/h/m² at 50 Pa, greatly reducing heat loss.
The judges commented: “The project demonstrates how a major refurbishment of a poor-quality office building can deliver a workplace transformation capable of 21st century needs.”
It is great to see a building that not only shows an absolute commitment to creating an excellent and contemporary space to work in and visit but also one that takes account of their environmental impact. Congratulations to everyone involved in the project, a true story of a retrofit trailblazer really kicking their carbon footprint.
We’re hoping to organise a WECC network event and tour of the Town Hall in Spring 2013!
Formerly known as the Bristol Port Estate and Vicinity Initiative, this Wednesday saw the official launch of SevernNet at the City and Port of Bristol Sports and Social Club. SevernNet, an initiative germinated in 2009 has grown into a network which has great potential to provide a wide range of benefits and improvements for businesses, organisations and the community extending from Royal Portbury Dock through Avonmouth, Severnside to Western Approach Industrial Park.
The primary aim of SevernNet is to “encourage sustainable resource management across the area (including materials, skills, assets, land, transport and infrastructure) through supporting and enabling collaborative and co-operative action by individual businesses and organisations and between businesses and organisations”.
It was great to attend and hear both how SevernNet is already facilitating change in the region and observe the sparks of ideas over more directed roundtable sessions with local businesses and organisations from very different perspectives and backgrounds working together to come up with innovative, inspiring and practical solutions.
At a thought provoking evening of discussion from WECC members Dr Sukumar Natarajan from Bath University provided stimulus by presenting the findings of their multi-disciplinary research regarding real time energy displays as enabling infrastructure to promote behaviour change. Preliminary results from the two six week trial experiments told the story that regardless of design installing tablets providing near instantaneous energy consumption data in the home or office can induce positive behaviour change.
The input from WECC members was paramount in exploring “the how” behind this finding. How can we use energy data to really engage your team? A lively discussion followed with the group coming up with ten top tips for sustained engagement:
1) Support your staff to come up with bespoke solutions that work for them rather than installing top down change. Ask your staff what forms of energy display would work for them. We’re a social species and spark off each other for inspiration and innovation so facilitate this space for your team.
2) Reward positive behaviour change. One idea suggested was having swipe cards for staff which build up points as more energy is saved as this may support more sustained behaviour change than one off rewards. Some members suggested that verbal or written recognition of positive behaviour change may be equally important as physical rewards.
3) Competition. Ego can play a big role in behaviour change. The element of competition was introduced in Sukumar’s trials by a system of ranking with prizes being awarded to the teams that consumed the least energy throughout the six week period. In your strategy whilst the role of competition may provide a useful tool it is also useful to consider it’s function in sustaining long term change. Once tablets were taken away and competition ceased there was evidence that positive behaviour change was not sustained.
4) Keep the message fresh and imaginative. Don’t “graph out” your staff. Smiley or sad faces on displays may be enough to communicate energy consumption patterns to your team. We hosted a great event on staff engagement last year with Futerra about how to truly inspire your team though utilising a much more creative strategy. In a world of many choices and little time you will need to be imaginative to catch and sustain people’s attention. Take a look at our recent blog post about five ideas we really like making energy data much more creative and tangible.
5) Don’t just discuss energy or carbon but wrap it up in a broader set of commitments and make it meaningful to the culture of your organisation. “Sustainability isn’t just for Christmas”. Rather than one off token actions sustainability needs to be embedded into the heart of your organisation. A successful strategy requires a simple and strong message that your organisation is committed to sustainability.
6) Benchmarking Energy Data provides you with the tool to benchmark your progress against other organisations and has great importance for your public profile.
7) Equip people with answers. “If I have a sad face on my energy display where’s the tool or knowledge to change this?” Energy displays are crucial but only part of the solution. Your staff need to be equipped with answers regarding how they can take action. An online platform can be really useful in facilitating this, providing practical tips for change and making the results of behaviour change more visible enabling staff to see how they’re making a difference. Carbon culture have some great examples this working as a successful strategy.
8) Quick feedback of data to your team is crucial so individuals can see how their actions are helping.
9) Know your audience. Effective communication of your data is all about knowing your audience. Would your target audience respond best to kwh/trees/£s?
10) Appreciate the limits of both energy data and competition as stand alone strategies. Changing behaviour is complex. Your message needs to be practical and personal to your team as intrinsic motivation is often much stronger than extrinsic motivation. “I cycle to work to work every day not because someone offers me a biscuit for reducing carbon…though maybe it’s so I can eat biscuits without feeling guilty!”.
Einstein once said “to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination”. Real time energy displays are part of this creative imagination but standing alone they do not offer a panacea. Focus must be directed towards inspirational and innovative strategies regarding how to translate this data into a message which is meaningful to your team and delivers staff engagement beyond the real time.
How do you really motivate your employees or fellow staff to save energy?
Telling people what to do but not why and what’s in it for them will just make sustainability seem like an inconvenient initiative. How can you create an environment where your employees feel inspired and empowered to make a positive change? To drive and sustain behaviour change in the workplace creative and innovative ideas that make sustainability both meaningful and tailor-made to your team and culture of your organisation are crucial. We’ve picked five ideas we really like for getting staff switched on.
If you’re not paying the bill why should you care about switching off a light?
But what if turning off the lights in your office could help someone in Africa turn theirs on? To change habits you must first tackle the questions of what do people care about and why should they care about sustainability? A compelling example of how to make savings much more tangible for employees is provided by communications agency Wieden Kennedy London working in partnership with the development charity SolarAid with their Off-On Programme. Wieden + Kennedy employees can directly see how much energy they’re using through super visual real time energy displays throughout the office and on their workstations with all resulting energy savings from positive behaviour change being channelled into funding for a solar installation at a children’s home in Nairobi, Kenya.
A real turn off: W&K partnership with Solar Aid engages staff with sustainability though creating a much more tangible connection between actions and effects (Source:Wieden + Kennedy).
A coalition that works:
What if you make the low energy option the fun one? The focus of a recent project by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Carbon Culture was on how to build and sustain engagement by creating an online space that can deliver behaviour change through developing and reinforcing community, encouraging user engagement with fun and easy to use tools. From incentivising carbon zero methods of commuting to work to working together in “scrunch” evenings (reducing the ‘size’ of the office to the size of the workforce who are in the office outside of normal work hours) Carbon Culture and DECC focussed on offering rewards (carrots or pizzas in the case of scrunch evenings!) rather than directives (sticks) so that “the action is seen as a choice and not something that is begrudgingly followed”. Choosing to change your habits rather than top down instructions are much more likely to engage and empower individuals to change their behaviour in the long run. The online social platform made it easy and fun to record daily activities, introduced an element of competition between employees and greatly increased awareness through visualisation of the impact of everyday activities.
Making it visual (Source:CarbonCulture)
Making waste visible
How can you encourage your staff to really think about the consequences of their actions? In 2006, Burt’s Bees set a goal to be zero waste by 2020. Some top tips to get higher employee engagement from their story include being firm with your goals but flexible in your tactics as different facilities require different approaches and engaging your employees with original methods to really connect them with the results of their actions. One such bespoke and highly original staff engagement campaign was at the heart of the project making current levels of waste much more visible. ‘Dumpster dives’ took place where employees donned hazmat suits and got up close and personal with two weeks of their waste dumped in the car park at their headquarters link. Employees sorted over 5 tonnes of material through this eye opening educational exercise, educating employees how the majority of this waste bound for landfill was actually either compostable or recyclable. By 2010 Burt’s Bees had achieved zero solid waste to landfill.
‘ Dumpster Days (Source: Burts Bees)
Taking your work home with you
What if you gave your employees opportunities to reduce their energy bill at home? Marks and Spencer’s provides us with an excellent case study of a company committed to engaging their staff in embedding sustainability. The breadth of PLAN A in making the company’s operations carbon neutral goes as far as engaging staff with sustainability at home. M&S offer their staff discounts on green services, loft insulation and solar technology grants as well as discounts with other companies for bikes, train and coach fares, even for eco holidays. Shifting how employees use and think about energy at home is a crucial and often neglected aspect of really engaging your staff with behaviour change. When your energy bill is cut due to initiatives supported by your employer it is likely that the benefits of acting sustainably seem much more meaningful.
Bringing relief from above
What if you improved your workspace and made it green? The space you work in is incredibly important to the happiness and productivity of your team. Sustainability doesn’t have to mean your Office space is any less comfortable, in fact quite the opposite. Successful engagement of the concept of sustainability must be expanded to include consideration of whether workplaces are good not only for the environment, but also for people. A green roof initiative can engage staff through providing a concrete visible example and incentive of the benefits of embedding sustainable practice. UBS Global Asset management have installed an intensive and extensive green roof in their London Offices simultaneously providing benefits for both the environment and staff. As well as increasing the insulation and cooling capacity of your building, improving water management and increasing the biodiversity of your building green roofs can really help to engage your staff through creating an area which can be used for after work functions, a place for staff to eat lunch and relax or even some lunchtime yoga.
UBS Roof Garden (Source: Tim Soar and Fletcher Priest Architects)
For all these initiatives to be successful effective monitoring of energy consumption is imperative. To maintain engagement employees need to see that their actions are really making a difference. Only through measuring and reporting emissions can companies set future targets and evaluate their carbon management initiatives. Using a tool like EnergyDeck can really help in this department Link
Socrates once said that “the way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” Brand reputation is arguably the most valuable asset an organisation has over the long term in both attracting staff and productivity. Successful employee engagement is about creating a culture in the workplace which thrives in the longer term, creating a virtuous circle feeding into happy staff and overall business success and reputation. Time spent really enabling employee engagement is both a long term investment and time well spent.
Whilst there’s no silver bullet to staff engagement there are an incredible number of effective and exciting options out there. You will need to investigate and experiment to find out what really works for the culture of your organisation and involve all your staff along the journey. Our next WECC network event being hosted by Buro Happold in Bath on Wednesday 7th November shall continue discussion of how to go further to energise your staff to get involved. Link
How can we create, promote and embed a low carbon culture in the workplace?
At our latest networking event hosted at Bevan Brittan we heard a morning of inspiring and insightful stories from West of England Carbon Challenge Champions on the subject of what is both practical and possible with regard to carbon reduction, energy efficiency and sustainability in the workplace. Case studies from seven WECC members conveyed both the success stories and current challenges with many examples centred on the need for staff engagement, successful monitoring of data and feeling empowered to ask more of your energy provider.
Simon Richards, Environment and Energy Manager for Avon Fire Service opened the morning discussing how collaboration within his sector and the region had been crucial to finding new solutions and getting better value from his energy supplier, especially with regard to voltage optimisation, where he made sure that savings were guaranteed through the establishment of rebates.
Chris Dunford, Sustainability Officer for At-Bristol emphasised the need to have an efficient monitoring system conveying how your data is your single most important tool to spot anomalies in energy use, quantify the success of your scheme and to act as an information hub promoting a low carbon culture within your team. In discussion Chris spoke about how a successful carbon reduction strategy must be always strive to embody a positive and proactive approach, enabling creative solutions which lead to best practice.
A topic positively correlated with carbon reduction was successful staff engagement. Coda Architects and The Environment Agency provided clear examples of initiatives which supported staff in providing proactive and bespoke low carbon remedies supporting the culture of “why don’t we try this to improve efficiency and sustainability” with the result that staff feel engaged and empowered when they see their solutions come to life. In addition to this bottom up approach of staff coming up with solutions was the agreement that top down support is paramount. Moreover when the solutions are both environmentally and economically advantageous Rob Stanley, Director of Property and Facilities at Bevan Brittan discussed how “quick and easy wins can be” creating internal revolving funds for sustainability projects thus providing a “no brainer” for the support of senior management and your finance director.
An issue mentioned by both delegates and speakers on Thursday which has been the focus of a previous WECC Event is the major challenge of sustainability and the sublease. How economically viable is it to invest in increasing the sustainability of a property which you don’t own? A number of members have overcome the barriers which may prevent action by working with their landlord to improve the office environment. Andrew Smith, Head of Estates & Sustainable Development at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) was encouraging in his presentation providing an illustrative example of this particular challenge and how they have worked with their landlord, the University of the West of England (UWE). Read more in our case study (http://www.westofenglandcarbonchallenge.org/2012/09/leased-cost/).
It was both inspiring and motivating to see the experience that exists in the region and how the movement to greater sustainability is consistently evolving and expanding. The number of carbon champions this year demonstrated the spiralling success of organisations engaging staff, optimising systems and introducing new technology. Tim La Touche, Systems Development Manager, from BuroHappold who have successfully installed a programme of Server Virtualisation and PIR sensors in their Bath Offices justly pointed out how the recent success stories are in many ways even more significant as have been against an economic backdrop where everyone has been “up against it”.
Having the foresight to embed sustainability into your organisation can enable greater competitive advantage, simultaneously bringing savings to the public sector and improving energy and resource efficiency. Throughout the presentations a feeling of “I wish I’d know about this earlier” was echoed by the different speakers. I wish I’d known earlier what I knew too late. It’s never too late to get on board and build momentum from these great stories of knocking energy, carbon and cash off your footprint.
Our next WECC Networking event, Energise you staff will take place at Buro Happold in Bath on the 7th November 2012, 4.30-6.30pm http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4408287306