The licensed clubs sector in Australia has seen the balance sheet benefits of improving sustainability of its built assets. In areas as far flung as Mt Isa, Dubbo, Sydney, the Illawarra and the Mornington Peninsula, clubs are changing how they operate and embarking on energy-efficiency upgrades, renewable power, rainwater harvesting and better managing food waste.

The sector’s 6500 licensed clubs nationwide, all not-for-profits, range from bowling clubs and football clubs to workers clubs and Catholic clubs. A KPMG census of the sector last year found that in NSW, clubs generate $3.2 billion in economic benefits; employ 42,000 people, including 20,000 people in regional areas; and have a total of 5.7 million members across the state.

Anthony Ball

According to Clubs NSW chief executive Anthony Ball sustainability and waste reduction have become more important than ever to the sector, with many striving to demonstrate best practice.

“I think there also has been an increasing expectation from the public, both club members and non-members alike, that businesses of all types take their environmental responsibilities seriously – and that is exactly what clubs are doing,” Mr Ball said.

The community now expected organisations to take the lead on the environment.

“As community-owned organisations, clubs are delivering on that expectation and as a result are seeing not only better environmental outcomes but also hearing great feedback from staff, members and the wider community.”

Savings from sustainability initiatives can direct more funding into communities, Mr Ball said. Activities include large investments in projects that reduce both the club and community carbon footprint and also smaller actions that cumulatively have an impact beyond the club itself.

Trends in the sector

Dhvanit Shah

JBA Consulting Engineers has completed a number of projects for the club sector in Victoria, including new builds, extensions and refurbishments. The firm’s sustainability team leader, Dhvanit Shah, said that in working with any client, including a club, a key element of discussions was highlighting potential and operating cost savings through the use of smart, sustainable engineering design.

He said clubs were particularly sensitive to capital and operating costs because of their not-for-profit status and focus on providing community outcomes.

A major area of cost savings is in reducing a facility’s energy and water use.

“Smart water usage through water harvesting, highly efficient toilet and wash facilities, building materials appropriate for minimising water usage and the selection of durable plants reduces the usage and reliance on water, thus delivering cost savings,” Mr Shah said.

Installing solar panels would deliver savings in energy, he said, but if the operations and tuning of building systems were not also reviewed, the facility may not achieve the most efficient and cost-effective outcome.

Operational tweaks that could deliver further cost efficiencies might be as simple as a one degree temperature change in mechanical systems.

A recent energy and sustainability review for a community and club centre identified an “immediate” 10 per cent energy saving through smarter use of existing systems and a further 25 per cent reduction by installing [photovoltaic] panels for electricity generation and installation of LED lighting throughout, Mr Shah said.

“The energy solution delivered a [return on investment] payback period of four years, delivering long term benefits for the operations of the club.”

The most cost effective solutions for new builds, he said, were solar hot water, rainwater harvesting, double glazing, adequate ceiling and wall thermal insulation and building sealing.

In renovation or refurbishment projects clubs look at photovoltaic panels for electricity generation, LED lighting upgrades with motion sensors, water efficient fixtures and fittings, and energy efficient controls for the airconditioning.

Undertaking projects in existing facilities had its challenges. Mr Shah identified pain points including altering old systems, cabling, power availability and considering the needs of the club operators. Sometimes a building carried a heritage listing that meant consultants struggled to carry out an effective services design.

However, smaller clubs where funding was a challenge were more likely to ask that sustainability in energy and water efficiency be made a priority.

“They identify the day to day running costs of their facility as a major cost component to their operations. Energy usage by the lighting and higher water bills are always a concern.”

While solar PV has benefits including a rapid return on investment and a “showcase” benefit in terms of the club’s community, co-generation and trigeneration systems were slowly becoming more common, although Mr Shah said they have traditionally been seen in larger developments.

Recently, the firm has been asked on a few occasions by smaller clubs to look at specific initiatives such as mini cogeneration plants, gas-fired airconditioning and combined solar hot water and PV solutions.

There are also some other innovative design approaches being utilised, such as a gas powered airconditioning system along with the exhaust heat being used to pre-heat the hot water in the building.

“This initiative is very popular where a high electric network upgrade cost impacts the project’s feasibility,” Mr Shah said.

“The gas powered airconditioning system may have a bit higher capital investment but it significantly reduces the operating cost of the building, especially in Victoria.”

He said the main obstacle to the sustainability conversation with clients had been education and awareness, and that it had traditionally been a matter of client choice whether building design prioritised sustainability. However, since the more stringent Building Code of Australia Section J requirements came into force, clients and designers are now required to evaluate designs for the sustainability aspects.

“By understanding the benefits that sustainable design and sustainable building operations can deliver clients, property owners and tenants are becoming more engaged in how and where they can reduce their costs and reduce the environmental impact,” Mr Shah said.