By Perentie – an occasional column on big issues
OK service stations are the epitome of the oil industry – dirty, polluting and an eyesore.
But even they have the potential to embrace sustainability.
While the most obvious potential is to start dispensing alternative fuels such as biofuels as part of their ordinary offerings they can also incorporate sustainable design, energy usage and management.
Service stations must comply with the relevant State and Municipal regulations regarding the storage and transportation of flammable and combustible liquids and gases. In addition late night service stations have safety and security issues to consider.
Though it is possible to retrofit a number of items to an existing service station, ideally sustainable factors work best when they are designed and built in at the initial stage rather than retrofitted later.
With selecting a site, the most sustainable location is to reuse an existing service station site. The next best choice is a Brownfield site. In this way existing (possibly contaminated) land can be reused.
By incorporating recycled and recyclable (for future demolition) materials into the construction carbon emissions can be reduced. These include using recycled aggregate in the concrete driveway, using recyclable steel and aluminium in the driveway awning and interior fit out.
Importantly a sustainable service station addresses energy generation and usage in the design stages and here is where there is significant potential to reduce carbon emissions.
• The driveway awning can be utilised to generate electricity using photovoltaic cells, which can be used to power operations.
• Low wattage exterior lights use less energy and minimise light overspill and pollution.
• Motion sensor lights in back of house areas (toilets, stores) where constant lighting is not required.
In addition to power generation the driveway awning can be used to collect rainwater which can then be used for non-potable requirements (toilets, cleaning). In this way the awning can be used for more than just protection from the weather.
Roof plantings on the awning reduce carbon emissions and assist in rainwater collection. They have been trialled in overseas countries however they could prove problematic given Australia’s drought conditions.
A green services station requires management that embraces sustainable management and does not circumvent the best design through poor maintenance.
Poorly managed service stations have the potential to contribute to significant emissions including leakage from the underground tanks, spillage when patrons fill their tanks and fumes from operations. These can be minimised by with well maintained tanks and membranes in older tanks. Collecting the driveway drainage and run off on site and treating pollutants when necessary minimises pollutants in stormwater drainage.
Landscaping on surplus land incorporating appropriate (drought resistant) plants will reduce carbon emissions provided they are maintained appropriately.
Further activities that a service station can undertake include becoming a collection point for recycling. This has already been done at a number of Australian service stations with old Yellow Pages and Christmas cards. Further items where collection has been carried out overseas include, used cooking oil and mobile phones. Used cooking oil is then recycled (depending on the process) into biodiesel, for use in the chemical industry and as a lubricant base amongst other uses.
Some prototype sustainable service stations have been built overseas and while their construction cost was not disclosed it has been quoted as “in line with standard construction costs”.