19 December 2013 — The Water Corporation of Western Australia has launched a water savings program for Perth offices, designed to educate office workers and reduce potable water use.
Having a hinterland of vast expanses of parched scrub and baking desert puts Perth in a fairly tricky position in terms of water resources – and it’s getting more so as their local climate gets drier. For the Water Corporation of Western Australia, managing this scanty resource is vital, with reducing use a key part of the long-term water management strategy, alongside desalination and recycling.
The Waterwise Office Program aims to educate and support the reduction effort, through targeting the commercial office sector. The program allows office buildings to compare water use with others in the industry, complete a water management plan and receive recognition from the Water Corporation, Property Council of Australia and the City of Perth for best practice water use.
According to The Property Council, commercial buildings in Perth consume approximately 1.5 billion litres of water a year, with research suggesting that implementing simple water efficiency measures could save 30 per cent of that total water use – equating to 500 million litres of water saved in the Perth CBD each year. For a 10,000 square metre office tower this equates to an annual saving of $14,000.
There are some 100 eligible office towers in the Perth CBD with over 5000 sq m of floor space.
A current NABERS rating is not a prerequisite for participation, although buildings that have one and also meet the relevant program benchmarks can be eligible for Gold or Platinum levels of waterwise recognition.
Any owner or facilities manager of office space larger than 5000 sq m can register for the program, and early indications suggest that many of the estimated 100 eligible office towers will come on board.
“We expect the first official Waterwise Office to be endorsed in early 2014,” said Ben Jarvis, Water Corporation manager, water efficiency.
Jarvis said research into the state of Perth’s office buildings showed they have an average age of 25 years, which means many would have older appliances that could be retrofitted with more water efficient items.
“While retrofitting showers and taps is cost effective, other options such as toilets can be more expensive,” Mr Jarvis said. “Despite this, many building owners and managers are seeing the value of investing in waterwise options as these generally have greater appeal to tenants, as well as reducing operational costs through reduced water and sewerage charges.
“A lack of understanding about exactly where water is being used in these complex sites can also be a barrier to adopting effective water saving measures. As part of our Waterwise Office Program, we’re providing access to data logging services, which will assist building owners and managers to improve understanding of how and when water is used in their buildings.
“We also endorse a number of Waterwise Water Auditors, who are skilled to complete assessments of large sites and recommend measures that will achieve the most effective water savings.”
Some of the water saving measures most commonly used include retrofitting water efficient toilets, urinals, taps and showers, improved monitoring of water use and leak detection and repair.
The Water Corporation has also worked with industry experts to develop a free Cooling Tower Water Efficiency Training Course, which informs facility and operations managers on water saving opportunities for commercial building airconditioning systems. Three of these courses were delivered in 2013 with more planned for 2014.
The program is based on solid research into the sector, and is supported by data from facilities management consultancy HFM Asset Management.
HFM director Damien Moran said there were two key motivations for participation – cost savings, and social and corporate responsibility. He explained that with Perth’s shrinking fresh water supplies and the cost of infrastructure for groundwater sources and desalination, costs for end-users are rising. So efficiency can make a significant contribution to a business balance sheet.
In terms of corporate responsibility, he said the program allows office owners to “tick a credentials box”.
Moran also pointed out that as Perth’s commercial vacancy rates have risen, tenant retention has become paramount. This means offices need to provide energy and water efficiency as well as reliability and comfort in order to have value in the marketplace, and a Waterwise Office endorsement will help establish those credentials.
HFM developed the methodology for the program and provided the data and benchmarks on a pro bono basis, drawing on the information the company has accrued in working with clients on sustainability measures.
“We have a significant body of data we are starting to share with industry as part of our contribution to improving efficiency,” Mr Moran said. “We save energy and water – it’s what we do – and we want more people to be aware that it is doable and achievable and that there are simple steps to achieve it. Any building can become efficient,”
Moran said a key element of achieving efficiency is measuring and monitoring, with the use of submetering systems a sound practice in terms of pinpointing exactly where water is being used, and also who is using it. Metering is also key to being able to quickly flag and respond to faults.
“If you’re measuring it, you can manage it,” he said.
Currently HFM is working with Water Corporation to develop a similar program for retail buildings, which is expected to commence in the second half of 2014.
“We’ve been working with our residential, business and industrial customers to help find ways to reduce water use in our drying climate, which in 2011-12 resulted in a saving of around 100 billion litres of water in Perth,” Mr Jarvis said.
“Since 2007 we’ve run our successful Water Efficiency Management Plan program, which requires all business customers that use more than 20 million litres of water per annum to complete a Water Efficiency Management Plan. This program has helped save 18.5 billion litres of water so far with 344 businesses now involved.”