THE STORY SO FAR…
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Neami National – retrofitting rented facilities
Neami National is a community mental health service working to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, so that they can live independently and persue a life based on their own strengths, values and goals. Neami National delivers support, outreach, residential youth rehabilitation, sub-acute services, assessment and referral to over 4000 people in urban and regional areas of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, West Australia and South Australia.
We spoke with Amy Piesse and Cathy Gibson, Neami National’s Sustainability Officers, about what’s worked in their organisation.
Q. Tell us about Neami National’s energy efficency projects!
Cathy: “Every one of Neami’s sites has undertaken a lighting audit, and we have done retrofits for suitable sites to replace halogen downlights with LEDs. This kind of project is a no-brainer. At our Brunswick office, we estimate that we will reduce our lighting costs by up to 64% by replacing T8 fluorescent lights with LEDs. It’s a rented building with a 3 year lease, but we went ahead with the project anyway because it pays itself off in 2.5 years. It cost us $3,280 initially, but will then save us $1400 in energy costs every year. That’s a great saving that will continue for the rest of our tenure in that building.
:”The planned upgrades will reduce energy costs and potentially save thousands of dollars, while improving the experience of the site for residents at the same time..”
Amy: “Based on the report from the sustainability design consultant, we now plan to install skylights, LED lights and ceiling insulation. We are also opting for light coloured paint and floor coverings to reduce lighting needs. Three of those sites are also designing and constructing community gardens, so we are installing extra water tanks and pump upgrades so that we could supply the toilets and gardens with harvested water. Across all NN sites, our IT team ensure the power-save settings are programmed correctly on photocopiers and equipment.
How does Neami pay for these projects?Amy: “Lighting retrofits pay themselves off quickly and they’re an easy win if you have the dollars. For our rented sites we will usually approach the landlord and ask them to contribute 50%. Landlords are usually pretty reasonable about these requests, and some have been happy to pay 100% of the cost of the upgrades that improve their asset in the long run. It helps to have these discussions when lease agreements are being negotiated.
“Neami’s contributions come from our annual capital expenditure budget for sustainability improvements. We’ve used this for other sustainability initiatives, such as providing compost bins to 50% of our sites and installing bike racks where required. For the extensive upgrades at our Youth Residential Rehabilitation sites, we also received a capital works grant.
Any tips for community services in rented properties?Cathy: “Lease negotiations are quite a powerful time to get some building improvements in place. We know that organisations in our sector don’t get a lot of choice when we’re looking for new sites, but once you’ve found a suitable site it’s also useful to ask questions such as:
Neami has 50 sites – how do you keep track of energy use over so many facilities?Amy: “Energy is often invisible to most staff in big organisations, particularly if all the bills are sent to a head office. So we made some simple changes to our centralized financial processes so that, along with fuel costs, we also collect data about consumption across all our 50 sites. We added extra fields into our accounting system so that we could also record our kWh for electricity, MJ for gas, and litres of fuel for our fleet.
“We track and report on our key carbon indicators of gas, electricity, fuel and flights. Like any new system, a few data errors came up in the beginning but we’ve sorted out the bugs now. Being able to track energy use over time has enabled us to easily report back to all Neami sites on how they are going with their consumption. We are hoping this will be a good motivator for staff, as well as a great way for flagging when there might be major spikes in energy use.