Generally, a council’s building stock will account for anywhere from 20-40% of their total corporate greenhouse emissions. It’s an area that must be tackled to reduce emissions, and presents valuable educational and promotional opportunities for buildings that communities engage with.
It is also an area where Australian councils have indeed taken action with 97% of councils installing solar on their own facilities, 93% upgrading lighting in council buildings and 85% implementing energy efficiency programs for large facilities.
The technical side of building management is relatively straight-forward. There are many experts out there who can provide specific solutions – for example, experts on HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), cogeneration or passive design.
The complexity is in the strategic side of dealing with buildings, not the technical solutions. Making a public toilet sustainable is straight-forward. Making 50 of them sustainable is harder. We focus on embedding management structures and policies that work for councils in the long-term.
A typical council has between 100 and 800 buildings they manage. One council we work with has over 2,000 buildings. Ironbark understands the complexity of managing sustainability in hundreds and thousands of buildings – from the standard council administration building or town hall, to complex leisure centres and small facilities. Also, how to manage leased facilities, old historical buildings, buildings where councils don’t pay the electricity bills leading to split incentives. We also appreciate the roles and responsibilities of the different parts of council in managing, designing programs and maintaining buildings.
ESD Policy Development for Council Facilities
Developing an ESD (Ecologically Sustainable Development) policy can be very simple or very complex. The complexity is normally around how much a council wants to consult – internally and externally. We often develop a business case along with ESD policy, allowing a council to compare current practice with leading ESD policies and what the capital costs and savings are to improve. We can then assist the whole way – from design, implementation, assessing impact and ensuring you bring the key stakeholders along on the journey.
Sustainable Building Management Strategies
A Sustainable Building Management Strategy looks at a council’s entire existing buildings portfolio and how to manage it over a 10-year period to improve sustainability performance. This includes development and input into capital budgets, identifying key ways that councils will implement and tackle sustainability. For example, improving equipment replacement specifications, targeted retrofit programs, energy performance contracting, solar feasibility and much more.
Ironbark are experts at advising councils on the strategic ways to manage buildings, and also undertake a lot of on-the-ground project management and implementation. Our team of technical experts includes engineers, NABERS and Green Star accredited raters, auditors and project managers.
Building System Check and Optimisation Program
It’s very common for larger council buildings such as leisure centres, swimming pools, libraries, town halls, administration centres to not be working as well as they should. This can be because of a variety of factors – technical, behavioural, process. Our role is to support the people and systems to make them work. A straight-technical fix is rarely sufficient. It doesn’t matter how good a building management or HVAC system is if there are not supporting policies and trained staff to ensure everything is working optimally. We’ve found the most basic changes in practice and process can help – for example, checking and updating timers at a large council library reduced energy by 21%.
Ironbark supports councils with everything from high level solar feasibility across an entire buildings portfolio to project management of delivery. We don’t develop solar panels or work directly with any single provider but help councils undertake the procurement process. This includes helping procure the right solution provider, analysing and assessing different technologies (panels, batteries, inverters, control systems) and third party assessments on whether providers are putting forward high-quality systems. We’re also currently supporting 56 councils in two regions to support large-scale renewable energy PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) projects.
Small and Large Building Audits
Building audits are a good way to get a hit list of potential actions to target. But the reality is an audit is only a first step. In our experience, most recommendations in an audit are unlikely to be feasible, as an auditor is only on site for 2-6 hours, which isn’t enough time to have a sufficient understanding of the challenges of a building. An audit is a good starting point to priorities and implement projects, but the overall management approach is more important. Ironbark have undertaken over 1,000 audits across every state and territory and have also developed the free BART (Building Audit and Rating Tool) for councils to plan, implement and report on energy and water efficiency programs.