Environmental Sustainability Initiatives Of Australian University Construction Essay

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In this modern era, it is very important to have a sustainable built environment as it gives much benefit to the society in the future as well as in present. Sustainable construction management does become a main factor in achieving this; however other factors such as environmental management and facilities management must also be taken into consideration if we want more people to enjoy the benefits from this goal. In facilities management, development strategy should be planned carefully in order to get the best out of it.

Currently, many universities in Australia have taken seriously the view of having sustainable approach in their operation. As a result of this, Facilities Management (FM) groups in each of these universities have been assigned to review and analyse their environmental management plan (EMP) and sustainable initiatives in achieving the goal of 'promoting ecologically sustainable building design and operations'.

University of New South Wales (UNSW) is chosen as the case study. As an External Facility Management, I will discuss some of the environmental sustainability initiatives of UNSW and suggest some ideas or actions that can be taken in the future for the existing EMP. Besides that, I will also try to fulfil the FM's Key Performance Targets of, 1) creating and maintaining a sustainable UNSW Estate, and 2) enhancing the campus experience for all UNSW stakeholders. This report will include a) a discussion of current UNSW's sustainability initiatives, b) a review of relevant sustainable initiatives, c) and assessment of UNSW's sustainability initiatives with innovative practices or strategies adopted by other local universities or organizations, and d) recommendations of possible future strategies for UNSW, justification concerning why the recommendations are relevant and importance for attaining the UNSW's sustainability goals. Basically, this report will cover three main management to achieve sustainability which are energy management, water management, and biodiversity and open space.

For current UNSW's sustainability initiatives for all three management, all the actions were taken from UNSW EMP 2005-2010, Volume 2: Strategies and 2005-6 Action Plan.

ENERGY MANAGEMENT

Current UNSW's sustainability initiatives

In the energy management, UNSW objectives in order to achieve sustainable built environment is that they really seeks to save energy, especially by depending on renewable energy and to decrease net greenhouse gas emissions to zero. Besides that, they also try to lessen greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and gas usage per EFTSU by 2% per year through design, demand management and enhanced efficiencies. Furthermore, all energy-related equipment and fixtures must be ensured to achieve at least 4 star rated.

To achieve all these objectives, they came with different strategies and actions. To continue improving operational energy efficiency through user demand management, UNSW has improve, endorse, stimulate and implement UNSW air-conditioning policy and also established and apply comfort conditions targets. Besides that, they also start and deliver energy saving campaigns such as Spot It Stop It and unswitch.

In order to increase percentage of energy derived from renewable sources, they has implement staged setting of photovoltaic systems at Kensington campus and by 2006, they have achieved their target for having installation of 50kW Heffron building. Other than that, they also explore the value of prominent edge wind turbines, fuel cell, cogeneration and other technologies for use at UNSW and by 2006, they have installed 1kW wind turbine at Red Centre Building.

Moreover, to continue improving operational energy productivity through management of assets and infrastructure, consistent with (draft) Energy Strategy, UNSW has improve, gain approval for and begin implementation of policy to remove hot water from washrooms (except disability access facilities) and achieved target of 100 washrooms by 2006. In addition, they have also implement staged connection of automatic lighting and air-conditioning controls in workplaces and teaching spaces and achieved target of lighting in B buildings, 25% if all known a/c split units by 2006. Currently, they have applied Greenhouse Building Rating to all new developments and refurbishments.

Last two strategies are in applying life cycle and energy efficiency price criteria to all buying and development activities, UNSW has establish recommended capacity for UNSW buying of energy efficient equipment and to gain credit as an environment leader and involve the UNSW community in environment management, they have change and implement communication plan as relevant to Energy Management (UNSW, Environment Policy Advisory Committee 2005).

Review of relevant sustainable initiatives

One of the most used alternatives for energy sustainable initiatives is the usage of solar panels. Solar panel is a very popular alternative to generate electricity as well as can produce quite huge amount of electricity depends on the size of the panels itself. For example, in Key link Industrial Estate, they are using a 50 kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity system and has about 300 panels over an area of 400 sqm and can generate about 70 thousand kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Well, that is a very huge amount of renewable energy you can generate just by collecting the solar energy. In other words, it is the same with taking off 35 cars of the road per year and will be enough to power up to 47,354 plasma TV and 20,250 PC per day. As we know, solar power is when the sun's energy is being used to generate electricity. These solar panels were made by PV cells which made from semiconductors called silicon. When the light strikes the panels, the silicon will absorb certain energy from it and transferring it. The energy absorbed will make the electrons to move freely. In the PV cells, it has electric fields which will make the free moving electrons to move in certain direction where it is called current. By placing metal contacts in top and bottom of PV cells, this current can be drawn out and used as electricity. One cell can produce about half a volt and by connecting a series of cells, more voltage can be generated (Key Link Solar n.d.).

Besides that, other initiatives that being used in construction of building as example in Aldi Stores Development in East Burwood such as installation of high performance façade including very good insulation levels, great standard of glazing and outer shading devices. Besides that, they also used low energy air conditioning system using adjustable refrigerant volume technology and small energy lighting system zoned to allow control of perimeter zones to make use of day lighting level. Other than that, low energy high performance cool water systems and economy cycles also being used. To monitor and assessing building energy performance, electrical and gas sub-meters are provided on the different buildings and different systems. Furthermore, they also improve their energy efficiency by having façade performance level greater than BCA Section J requirements and put high efficiency lighting and air conditioning units (Waterman International Consulting Engineers 2008).

Assessment of UNSW's sustainability initiatives with innovative practices of other organizations

Based on UNSW initiatives and other organizations initiatives on energy management, both have the same target which they want to reduce or achieve efficiency in their energy usage. Like in UNSW unswitch, they encourage staff to turn off their monitors when not in used for periods more than 30 minutes and turn off their computers at the end of each day, except it is vital to leave them on (Energy UNSW n.d). With this campaign, a lot of energy can be saved thus can save lot of cost of paying electricity bill. Other campaign such as Spot It and Stop It also has successful in encouraging people to report occurrences of energy and water wastage through the UNSW's website.

Comparing with the other organisations such as Key Link Industrial Estate for example, UNSW can improve a lot in term of energy saving if they install solar panels on each of their buildings. Fortunately, currently UNSW has taken big step of achieving solar technology in their management by constructing Solar Research centre. In Aldi Stores development, usage of low energy air conditioning and low lighting can contribute a lot in the energy saving. The design of the building that allow natural light to come in has assist in reduction of electricity for lamp and bulb thus reduce the operational cost for the organisations. UNSW also has implemented this action by applying sustainable design for their buildings such as façade glass that allow more light to come into the workstation.

Recommendations

In UNSW, they might consider to construct a passive design for the buildings which include the coordination, shading, cross air circulation, and insulation that can lessen the need for air conditioning (Little Bay Living n.d). With the right design, less air conditioning can be installed and this will result in reduction of operational costs and also the energy used to run it. Air conditioner also works till the room reach the chosen temperature, and this means that the whole room must be fully sealed off. If any window or door left open, hot air can come in and maintain the air-conditioning system running thus increase the energy consumption.

Besides that, the usage of solar technology can also be considered to run electricity-based fixtures and equipment. With solar panels installed, UNSW can save a lot of money especially on electricity bill. The investment to buy solar panels may be a lot but once the original investment has been recovered, they can just get free energy from the sun. The reduction will be very significant because UNSW use a lot of electricity to run all the buildings. Furthermore, the solar energy is environmental friendly where it does not produce any harm emission to the air while consuming it and it also does not contribute to the global warming. This can help UNSW to achieve higher Green Star rating thus improving its image as a sustainable organisation.

WATER MANAGEMENT

Current UNSW's sustainability initiatives

Some objectives that want to be achieved in this management are to cut annual potable water intake by 3% per EFTSY p.a., maximise on-site retention of stormwater from Kensington campus and from the University's bore water supply by 2010 and to make sure all new water-related tools and fixtures are at least 4 star efficiency rated.

One of the strategies is to continue develop operational efficiency of drinkable and bore water usage through user demand management. Actions taken were comprising low water requirements in species assortment criteria for Kensington campus plantings and to take account of water efficiency as criterion in ecological audits of UNSW organisations to advise advice on water-efficient practices.

In continuation of improving operational efficiency of potable and bore water usage through management of properties and infrastructure, UNSW has construct percolation chamber at Village Green to care revive of Botany Sands aquifer. They also organize specifications for time-flow taps and waterless urinals for inclusion in design requirements for all new developments and main refurbishments. Furthermore, plan to support staged retrofit of time-flow taps also has been carried out and in 2006, 200 units target has been achieved.

UNSW also has come up with strategy to raise awareness of the Kensington campus as a series of sub-catchments through engagement with the UNSW community. To achieve this, they start drainage pit stencilling project to encourage catchment awareness among UNSW staff, students and visitors.

In order to gain recognition as an environmental leader and engage the UNSW community in environmental management, they have developed and implement communication plan as relevant to Water Management (UNSW, Environment Policy Advisory Committee 2005).

Review of relevant sustainable initiatives

In Aldi Development East Burwood, they have taken various actions in reducing the use of mains potable water. Some of the initiatives taken by them are provision of rain water storage with catchments from the main roofs on the site. Besides that, they also reticulated non-potable water supply from the rainwater tanks to assist toilet flushing and landscape irrigation including the irrigation of the community realm immediately next to to the site, in particular the neighbouring nature strips. Plus, with low water usage fixtures and fittings, water efficiency can be achieved (Waterman International Consulting Engineers 2008).

In Macquarie University, they have installed rain water tanks to serve toilets in one existing building and filters were fitted onto all potential taps to cut the flow of water, and therefore the amount of water used. They also renovated two major amenity spaces to connect water savings devices and began the testing stage for the sewer mining project to water their large sports field's areas (Macquarie University 2010).

Assessment of UNSW's sustainability initiatives with innovative practices of other organizations

The usage of automatic water tap in each toilet really helps UNSW to save on the excessive potable water usage. Many students of staff always forget the close the tap back after using it resulting in the water being wasted just like that. Same goes with the toilet bowl, they has attached semi and full flush system which encourage the people to use semi flush instead of full flush. This can save a lot in term of water consumption and can promote to students and staffs that water is really important in their life.

In Macquarie University and Aldi Stores development, similar approach has also been used to save water consumption. Instead, they use rainwater tanks to collect rainwater and use it in toilet. This is very efficient because they can avoid using water from the main pipe and reduce a lot, again, in water bill. Moreover, the rainwater collected from the tanks can also be used for other purposes such as cleaning the toilet, roof or maybe as a medium for construction project.

Recommendations

One of possible future action that can be taken by UNSW is by having water recycling and waste water treatment, through either grey water or black water treatment plants. The objective from this is to make available recycled water for irrigation, and toilet flushing (Little Bay Living n.d). Same factor, it is about the money. By using recycle water, UNSW can again save a lot of money by not paying more for water bill. Most of recycled water now is not safe for drinking, but with proper treatment, it can be safely used as part of drinking supplies. Again, UNSW should consider building a water recycling plant that can produce recycled water which is safe to drink. The money that gained from the saving of electricity by solar panels can be used to develop or research a way to produce a safe-to-drink system of recycled water.

One more possible action is that, in the UNSW food court, most of the Asian restaurants are using water to cool their woks. However, if UNSW replace this system with air-cooled woks, it can save a lot of water in their food management (University of Wollongong 2009). Conventional wok use water for two main purposes which are for cooling and for cleaning it. According to Sydney Water, if by eliminating the need for cooling wok by water, up to $2,300(based on 2004/05 Sydney Water charges) per year of water, sewer usage and trade waste costs can be saved. With waterless wok stove, UNSW can reduce water usage thus reducing the water supply, sewer usage and trade waste discharge charges, and also it has an air gap that insulates wok stove elements and ensures the release of this hotness to the kitchen exhaust hence removing the need for cooling water (Sydney Water n.d.).

BIODIVERSITY AND OPEN SPACE

Current UNSW's sustainability initiatives

In biodiversity and open space management, UNSW wants to achieve continual improvement of ecological functionality and habitat potential for natural fauna on land in UNSW control and decrease chemical use on land under UNSW control by 5% per year. They also want to complete recovery plans for sites with substantial biodiversity values by 2010.

In managing land under UNSW control to protect and enrich biodiversity, strategy and development of Fairy Wren "refuge" at Kensington campus has been conducted. Besides that, feasibility revision and commencement of seed orchard of local native plant species establishment also conducted. UNSW have prepared management plan for Kensington Campus colony of Grey-headed Flying Foxes and also prepared project plan and start test of native lawn species.

To minimise opposing environmental impacts, they have study, adopt and implement UNSW Environmental Weeds Policy.

Moreover, they also raise the alertness and understanding of local and eastern suburbs biodiversity values by re-establish UNSW Urban Landcare group to upkeep landscape restoration and bushland revegetation activities on UNSW land and in the broader community plus they also bring up-to-date biodiversity map of Kensington campus.

Last but not least, they have developed and implement communication plan as relevant to biodiversity to gain recognition for UNSW as an environment leader (UNSW, Environment Policy Advisory Committee 2005).

Review of relevant sustainable initiatives

In Macquarie University, they have conducted program such as BushCare@MQ and there are two creek systems running through the lands with various flora and fauna located within their boundaries. Therefore, their biodiversity management have a potential to give great impact. Resulting from this, they have established bush care group in late 2008. This program held on a bi-monthly basis in a chosen area set aside for restoration and by 2009, they have planted 300 plants with over 148 extra people joining. Though this program, they will continue to enlarge its corridors of vegetation, and restore areas of natural habitat. Besides that, Macquarie University also have run numerous other programs such as the use of only local provenance in their plantings on campus which 'Florabank Guidelines' were used to control appropriate plantings. They also do collection of local seeds to form a seed bank for the University and local area plus with a Biodiversity Management Strategy developed, it give guidance for the management of their campus grounds in a more environmentally appropriate method. Furthermore, car-pooling system was launched with dedicated car-pooling parking spots and over 400 users have sign up to utilise the system. (Macquarie University 2010)

Assessment of UNSW's sustainability initiatives with innovative practices of other organizations

Both UNSW and Macquarie University have established a group which will care for the flora and fauna in their university and revegetation of the plants. This initiative brings a lot of benefits that can reduce the chemical control for unwanted plant and pests, while providing a habitat for natural enemies that kill on pests. Thus, with lower pest numbers, this will result in reduction of diseases that they spread. Besides that, extra profit can also be attained in form of income from the sale of native seeds, cut flowers and bush.

However, UNSW seems to do not take any action in order to utilise the open space efficiently. Compared to Macquarie University, they have introduced car-pooling system that dedicated for car-pooling and lot of people joined to utilise the space. Efficient utilisation of open space is very important because they can be used for many purposes such as recreation, socialising area, sports fields and other events that held by universities. Thus, it is important to identify and use this space as efficient as possible.

Recommendations

For open space management, there are quite a few initiatives that can be implemented by UNSW. One of them is by having sub-tropical design values, including the establishment of shade trees at community central points, rest areas, and along paths. This will create a harmony surrounding where students can relax their mind and study in peace. In addition, it can also provide a beautiful scenery where could contribute in UNSW's image as nature loving organisation. Plus, UNSW may be interested to also have some artwork at their open spaces that could reflect the creativity of its students and improve the aesthetic aspect of it. Furthermore, they should also provide a path for bicycle from the lower campus to go straight up to upper campus. With this, bicycle users who come from lower campus and having their class at upper campus, can easily cycle up using the bicycle path without having difficulty with many students that walking using the main path.

As for biodiversity, UNSW may as well create a park that has all sorts of flora and fauna in there. This park could be constructed in any open space in the university so that people can go there and enjoy walking in the park. This park may also become a recreation park with all the flowers or plants that can help contribute to green environment. Furthermore, all the plants in the park can be used in cooking or sell off to get some extra income for the university. Not only that, it can also create a new habitat for animals thus provide a place for students to enjoy the nature.

CONCLUSION

As a conclusion, sustainable construction and initiatives are significant to the built environment nowadays. Various initiatives involve different unique and sustainability features that can help to improve the environment on earth. Although UNSW has come with many initiatives that contribute to ecological surrounding, there is still much to develop and improve in order to bring the best for their operational activities. Many challenges may involve during the initiation of the plan, but the belief that good result will be gained at the end of the day ensures the success of the sustainable actions delivery.

Three main management has been reviewed which are water, energy, and biodiversity and open space. In water management, the main target is to reduce the consumption of potable and bore water usage throughout the UNSW community. In energy management, the consumption electricity is the main factor that numerous energy initiatives has been taken to reduce it. While in biodiversity and open space, UNSW has taken approach to maximise the utilisation of open space and as well to use it as restoration area for native plants. All the management focus on the same objective, which is to reduce the operational cost and as well to bring a better environment to the community. Besides that, they also realize the importance of these sustainable initiatives to give them the recognition as the environmental leader in the society.

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