Learnings from Eurobodalla Shire Council audit and retrofit program – achieving immediate savings at multiple sites

Lucy Carew-Reid

Eurobodalla Shire Council have recently completed a Sustainable Small Facilities program where they undertook simple retrofits, engaged with the building occupants on sustainability and collected information to generate a rating (out of 5 stars) and an audit report all in the one visit.

This program identified possible greenhouse gas emission and water savings of around 30%, and around $28,000 in annual energy and water costs is projected to have already been saved through the on-the-spot retrofits. 

In this article, Council’s Environment & Sustainability Project Officer Tom Dexter who delivered the program shares his learnings with Ironbark Business Leader Lucy Carew-Reid.

Eurobodalla is one of 17 councils who have implemented the Sustainable Small Facilities program. See results from across Australia here

Key Outcomes 

The assessment approach delivered to 59 facilities has enabled Council to: 

  • Increase building occupant enthusiasm for sustainable building use;
  • Identify an estimated $340,000 in energy and water bill savings with a payback of 3 years;
  • Bring their buildings up to a star rating of 4 stars (very good);
  • Achieve immediate energy and water savings through on-the-spot retrofits completed during the assessments including:
  • Around $28,000+ in annual energy and water costs with a payback of less than a year;
  • 85 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • 1.6 ML of water.

Tom Dexter said: “The opportunity to be one-on-one with community people – from rural brigade managers through to quilting groups – was really valuable. They all took an interest. Doing these retrofits engages people in an informal way – and reaches those that wouldn’t necessarily come to other community events.”

The Project from Start to Finish

Here is a summary of all the steps and the duration of each. Council had 1 dedicated staff person working 2 days per week to address 59 buildings within a 2-year timeframe.

Steps:

  1. Decide what to include in the Sustainable Facilities Assessment (e.g. retrofit, rating, audit) 
  2. Learn how to use the Engeneous assessment software
  3. Identify which buildings to address (Council prioritised the 59 top energy using sites where they pay the energy and water bills)
  4. Decide what equipment to retrofit on-the-spot and order stock
  5. Undertake the Sustainable Small Facilities Assessment at 59 sites – visit sites and write reports (3 hours per site over a 10 month period)
  6. Present results to site managers and install some behaviour change signage at each site
  7. Review outcomes and identify next steps for all Council buildings

Learnings 

Here are Tom Dexter’s learnings for retrofitting and engaging with site users:

  • Not all building occupants are going to be enthusiastic about saving energy and water. When this is the case, we will let technology do the walking e.g. install motion sensors to switch off lights
  • It’s really valuable to discuss the assessment report and outcomes with the facility managers
  • I have learned it is more effective to talk about what people will waste if they don’t do certain things. E.g. say “If you don’t switch of the lights then you will lose $...” rather than saying “If you switch off the lights you will save $...” 
  • Dispose of any items you are replacing wisely. We took all our fluorescent lights to a special recycling facility. 
  • We chose retrofit items that were of negligible cost with a good payback and were easy and quick to install e.g. showerheads, efficient lights, tap flow restrictors, hot water system insulation and draft stoppers.
  • I had a trailer that made it easy to transport the retrofit stock from site to site and room to room.
  • Draft stoppers:
    • Have a range of different draft stoppers to suit different doors and windows;
    • Drill them on rather than stick them on – it’s more robust;
    • The brush variety are good when having to drag along uneven ground;
    • The rubber variety are good for when the ground slopes away;
    • The automatic door seal that lifts to open and drops when closed is good for inward opening doors as the brush and rubber often drag across floors too much (see Figure 3);
    • Brush seal is good for when doors or windows have to move across the frame. Foam is good for when the door or window rest against the frame;
    • Only install draft stoppers in places that are actively heated and cooled.
  • Lights:
    • Lights are sometimes designed for aesthetics as well as amenity so think carefully about what to use;
    • Sometimes lights aren’t used enough to warrant the cost of replacement;
    • Make sure you choose good quality products – they will last longer;
    • Lights were removed in areas too bright according to Australian Standards;
    • We always used a lux meter to measure light levels before and after a retrofit and informed building occupants about the changes;
    • Fluoro tubes are the most time consuming items to replace. It took me about an hour to replace 30 tubes;
    • Group like tasks – e.g. unpack everything first, then install it;
    • Expect some of the older light fittings to break. In this case get facilities maintenance to replace the entire fitting.

Note from Ironbark: Choosing appropriate lights for your particular council’s needs can be complicated. Contact us for more information.

Next Steps for Eurobodalla Council

Council plan to monitor energy and water bills to evaluate outcomes and prioritise all other opportunities identified through the audit. Then they will look to roll out the Sustainable Small Facilities program to other sites.

Council is collaborating with the Rural Fire Service who are already implementing some of the audit recommendations at their buildings.

Council are now conducting night audits of outdoor lights. Tom Dexter said: “We want all the building awning fluoro tube lights to be controlled with a manual switch and timer rather than a PE cell. That way they will only be used when needed, rather than being on as soon as it is dark and staying on all night. Exceptions to this may be the light above doorways.”

They also plan to invest in some LED office lighting for some of the more light intensive buildings and have already begun this for their library, one of their biggest energy users.