An historic Australian college imbued with a strong sense of social responsibility has committed itself to a programme of water and energy conservation designed to deliver strong sustainability benefits also applicable to many other businesses and institutions.
Avondale College at Cooranbong near Newcastle
The historic 118-year-old Avondale College of Higher Education – internationally renowned for its teaching, theology and nursing tertiary education, as well as business, science and arts studies – has employed CST Energy and Water utility monitoring systems to affordably help reduce costs and achieve greater sustainability across its approx. 325 hectare (800 acre) campus in Cooranbong near Lake Macquarie, NSW.
The water and energy monitoring and reporting systems it is establishing with the CST – and the culture of individual responsibility for sustainability that flows from that – provide a model that could gainfully be adopted across a range of Australian educational, community and business enterprises, says water and energy conservation specialist Andrew Boughton.
“Avondale is quietly and modestly undertaking, on its own behalf, a sustainability programme that would do credit to some of the top Australian businesses with which we work,” said Mr Boughton, who is General Manager of CST Wastewater Solutions’ Energy Division.
CST Wastewater Solutions has delivered green energy and wastewater solutions to some of Australia’s leading companies for more than 25 years, including recently Oakey Beef, Golden Circle Cadia mining, BHP Billiton and world resource entities as well as local authorities across Australia. The technologies it distributes have won local and global awards, including recently the IChemE global green energy award for the RAPTOR™ system from wastewater treatment and green energy authority Global Water Engineering (GWE) for technology which replaces fossil fuels. The conservation measures being deployed at Avondale are of a similarly high national and international standard and benefit, says Mr Boughton.
Utilities monitoring systems at Avondale cover two main areas. Sub-monitoring of electricity using CT (Current Transducer) devices connected to data-loggers provides accurate data on all electricity usage, while water meters log every litre of water at 30 second intervals, providing highly precise readings.
The initial benefit of this information is that costs can be allocated per building and per department, which makes each one responsible for the management of their own utilities, enhancing responsible usage.
“We need baseline data to efficiently control get our water and energy costs,” says Mr Paul Hattingh, Vice President of Finance Infrastructure and Risk at Avondale. “Monitoring is the first step in helping departments to be able to take responsibility for their financial and environmental sustainability, whereas, with pooled costs, no one can be individually accountable,” he said.
Another cost-saving measure achieved through the monitoring is assisting users to determine when peak energy usage is occurring and finding ways to reduce or reallocate this.
One of the largest energy costs comes from the demand or capacity charge, which is calculated based on the half hour of the highest usage of the year. Energy companies justify that they need to have the necessary infrastructure at all times to be able to cope with this peak usage. By reducing the highest half hour of usage, Avondale can save large amounts of money on their energy bills.
The longer term goal is to implement behavioural change, which CST Energy and Water will assist with, in regular meetings with Avondale. The type of change CST and Avondale will be looking for includes practical measures such as turning off lights and air-conditioning when buildings are not in use and putting timers on electronic devices so that they automatically turn off if no one has used them for a certain period of time.
“Individually these are pretty commonsense measures across an enterprise, but what is needed – and what is being deployed – is an integrated system that achieves results right across an enterprise. This is essential regardless of whether you are dealing with one large site, such as Avondale, or a university or business with multiple sites,” says Mr Boughton
Implementing monitoring and accountability changes was the particular challenge for Avondale, which didn’t have a BMS (Building Management System) in place. However, CST’s utility monitoring system was able to cost-efficiently substitute for a BMS, and provide all the data necessary to recommend the changes they need to make in order to use their utilities more sustainably.
“We have a long-term vision of greater sustainability,” says Mr Hattingh. “In the future, we hope to be running courses on sustainability and even allowing a student group to recommend and manage behavioural change, based on the utilities monitoring data we have introduced,” he said.
One of the advantages of the nationally available utilities monitoring system such as that being deployed at Avondale is affordability, says Mr Boughton.
“Previously one of the biggest challenges with utilities monitoring was justifying the cost up-front. Without any idea of how much it will save down the track, most companies are put off by the initial investment cost. Our systems are around a third of the cost of most others in the market, meaning that we can get results in a much more cost efficient manner,” he says.
“Another big problem with existing systems is that they tend to be divided into two schools of thought – financial and engineering,” says Mr Boughton. “But these two categories rarely want to communicate, which has often led to two systems being installed, doubling the investment cost. Systems such as those introduced by Avondale combine both areas, allowing us to provide a comprehensive analysis to the user,” he said.
“The project being undertaken by Avondale is an outstanding example of how to achieve long-term sustainability gains without huge up-front investment or complicated technology. It is a practical, down-to-earth approach that proves measurable results virtually from the outset.