15 April 2010 – One look of Sydney’s skyline lit up at night tells you everything about the simple things we can do to save energy.

This “Low Hanging Fruit” was the topic of discussion at a seminar held at the ARBS [Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Building Services] Trade Exhibition 2010 in Sydney this week, with panelists Bryon Price, Shaun Condon and Dr John Ward lending the industry, business and scientific perspectives on what businesses can do to reduce their buildings’ energy consumption.

There’s a two pronged approach to achieving energy sustainability, said energy efficiency and building sustainability expert Bryon Price who is strategic development director of AG Coombs Group.

“We need to attend to the ‘dumb stuff’, like switching off lights or appliances that don’t need to be on, but we also need to be more proactive and engage with contractors more. As an industry we need to get more involved, engaged and proactive,” Mr Price said.

While the urgency to be more proactive on energy savings is a popular refrain within the sustainability industry, one of the key tools to succeeding, says Bryon, is effective documentation and records keeping.

“Only four or five buildings in each of the CBDs of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne currently have detailed plans and records of their energy usage – the rest are a dog’s breakfast.

“Data is essential to be able to calibrate, check and test. Businesses need to keep records, they need to know what’s in their ceiling space and have the original documents of the building so you know what green systems the original designer had in mind.

“Metering energy so you know where it goes and how it’s used, as well as building controls, like alarms that tell you when energy is being wasted, are key to achieving energy efficiency.”

Shaun Condon, environmental manager for Investa Property Group’s asset services division, reiterated the urgency of industry being more proactive and engaging.

“Overall, we all more or less want to save energy and we need to engage with building owners, who will implement energy saving measures to at least cut costs, with things like sub-metering and BMS upgrades,” said Mr Condon.

“But it’s not all about financial return, as different energy reduction processes complement each other, and while you may not see immediate savings from one process, it may contribute to savings from another.

“When building owners save money on energy savings, they should use them to leverage other projects.”

Another critical component to achieving sustainable buildings are for building owners and managers to be aware of their energy consumption –  that is, what they are doing and what they are not doing.

“Holistic reviews of a building should be conducted as early as possible and understanding the required returns of the building owner is critical,” Mr Condon said.

“One look at the Sydney city skyline at night really says it all about the easy things we can do to achieve energy savings. Don’t wait – switch things off if it can switch off. Know where your energy usage is and think how you can find savings – find out where the big energy uses are and therefore the big savings.”

Dr John Ward, a senior scientist at CSIRO Energy Technology Australia whose work currently focuses on energy efficient building systems, suggested an approach to energy reduction that exploited the surrounding conditions of a building.

“Measures we can take to improve energy efficiency should focus on environmental and temporal considerations. Environmental issues include exploiting weather conditions, things like not overcooling a building during winter. Temporal issues include rearranging how we do things during the day and making changes to peak demand times.”

Seminar chair Steve Hennessey, a director of Steensen Varming, asked why so many businesses had not put  sustainability measures into place.

Mr Price, said: “One of the problems we’re facing are technicians and service providers who are not as conversant or interested in implementing sustainable practices.

“Often when there is a transition from one contractor to another, plans and documents are not passed on and this means that the new contractor has to go over a lot of groundwork that could have been avoided.

“We’re also facing a skills shortage with regard to technicians who can implement the latest sustainable technology.

“While these problems are facing us in the short-term, once mandatory disclosure comes in it will really turn the tap on with regard to businesses reducing their energy usage.”

The Fifth Estate – Sustainable Property – News and Forum