Lloyd Macfarlane, Editor of the Green Business Journal, interviews Graham Tate, Divisional Executive: Facilities Managament at the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
The Development Bank of Southern Africa is playing a meaningful role in facilitating sustainable growth inSouthern Africa, however the organisation is also showing leadership in the way that it is doing so in a sustainable manner. Lloyd Macfarlane, Editor of the Green Business Journal, spoke to Graham Tate, Divisional Executive: Facilities Managament at the Development Bank of Southern Africa about the organsation’s initiatives to target energy security and sustainability at its Midrand Campus and in its operations generally.
What caused DBSA to embrace a path of sustainability?
There were a number of primary drivers of our sustainable activities and policies. When the country went through that period of power failures in 2008, we realised that we were particularly exposed, principally because of the location of the campus on the power grid. We were experiencing black outs for longer periods, more often. There were two reasons why we had to look at an energy plan – energy security was becoming an issue and secondly, the cost of energy was beginning its climb to huge predicted increases. At the time, in 2008, we were paying about R400k per month for electricity. We now pay about R700k per month after huge interventions, so we can assume that had we not gone through the process that we did, we would now be paying in the region of R1m per month.
In addition, The DBSA is an infrastructure development finance institution and we have an interest in promoting sustainable business to our customers, who along with other southern African companies are increasingly required to report on their environmental footprint as part of the emerging triple bottom line corporate governance requirements . The organisation must therefore be seen to be leading by example and strategically it was felt that the initives would help us to achieve this.
How did you get started and what plans did you put in place initially?
Once the organisation realised that it had to do something, various environmental consultants were brought in. They suggested a range of interventions, including the incorporation of the ISO 14001 environmental management standard. This was all very well but we were interested in the business case and so we started with an environmental policy and then proceeded to break things down into sub-programmes that would have their own economic drivers and cost savings. We have spent the last few years developing a number of programmes which are at various stages of implementation that are aimed at greening the campus and improving our environmental sustainability profile in line with national and international initiatives.
DBSA first tackled the lowest hanging fruit opportunities in the form of certain energy and water efficiency programmes on existing building and infrastructure. Energy generation can be an environmentally sensitive issue and so we first set about looking at energy demand management.
Some of your Midrand campus buildings are more than 20 years old. How did you tackle energy and water efficiency and waste management in the existing buildings on campus?
We conducted water and energy audits on campus to see where consumption was taking place. 65% of the energy was being consumed by the HVAC systems.
Energy demand management interventions included solar water heater installations, occupancy timers, timers for air-conditioning, energy efficient lighting, etc. R500k was spent on removing all the old incandescent globes and replacing them with CFL’s. The approximate reduction in consumption since September 2008, our baseline period, is 50% and which has left us with a base load of about 4MW of power a year.
We also discovered that City Power had been overcharging the organisation and that this was revealed during the process of the audit. We wouldn’t have known about that had we not conducted that audit.
Water demand management programes were immediately tested and then rolled out. For example, a locally developed dry flush system for the urinals on campus, which saves 2 litres of water per flush, was piloted in three of the men’s restrooms and is now in the process of being rolled out to the remaining 20 restrooms (70 urinals). We decided to run the test because we were sceptical about whether or not there would be an increase in bad odour with the new system. The test lasted four months and the smell was fine. So insetad of using 2 litres of water per flush after each use we are using half a litre of water every 2 hours. We have limited the amount of water treatment processes that we need to apply and reduced chemical use. In our latest building we have designed into it a grey water system for toilet and irrigation usage which is supplied from rainwater that is harvested.
Solid waste management and recycling programs have been developed over the last few years and roughly one ton of paper, tin, glass and plastic is now recylced each month. In addition the campus also now has a special office printer paper recycling program.
The campus has two large kitchens and most of the cooking in the kitchens is done with LP gas. We are looking at a central collection system for the bio-waste that we produce each month and we are in the process of inviting tenders for the supply of two bio-digesters into the system – we want to supplement at least half of the LP gas requirement with bio-gas produced from the peelings and vegetable matter that we waste from the kitchens. An additional by-product in this process is nutrient rich water, which will be used in campus vegetable gardens, which in turn will supply food for the kitchens.
DBSA wants to set about reducing its transport emissions by focussing initially on employee commuter trips to the campus. A commutter Shuttle services were created is being planned and the organisation has engaged with Gautrain to try and get the existing Gautrain bus services to stop at the campus. The campus has also been planning for electric vehicles (e.g. waiting for Nissan to release the NV200 locally) for casual shuttle services required during the business day. An extension of this plan is to build plug-in facilities for electric cars at the campus and ultimately to power those charge units from renewable energy sources.
You have two relatively new green buildings on campus which are performing exceptionally well. I believe. Tell us about some of the key green components and features of these building and about some of the costs and opportunities that are associated with green buildings?
DBSA energy efficiency interventions were geared towards getting the best possible performance from the older buildings on campus. So when the organisation was faced with the opportunity to build two new buildings from scratch, it was decided that these new buildings would incorporate the ultimate passive design and renewable energy solutions. In 2009 we began with the Visitor’s Reception building which is an off-grid building that doesn’t draw any energy from the campus. The Visitor’s Reception building is passively designed and has its own water heating and cooling system. It draws power from photo-voltaic panels on the roof and has no mechanical air-conditioning system. It’s a totally green building and yet we decided not to pursue a GBCSA ‘Green Star’ rating for the building because the process of accreditation was going to add an additional R600k to the building cost, which was only R12m.
The Visitors Centre Building is cooled by an air intake system which is set away from the building. Ambient warm air moves into the intake underground and runs along a 200m stretch of pipe which has a surrounding underground temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. The air then surfaces into the building at a temperature of between 19 to 23 degrees, depending on the time of day.
Air rises naturally through the building and then vents out of the top of the building. In winter the building uses the hot water system on the roof to heat the air coming through the intake system at the bottom of the building. The air intake system that sucks and moves the air around the building is powered by photo-voltaic panels and batteries.
The second new building was the new office complex and the cost of this building was much larger. We were able to incorporate some of the ideas from the Visitors building and had a few additional opportunities because of its size. The much larger roof allowed us to harvest roof water into a 40 thousand litre tank under the building. A water fountain aerates the water – we try to minimise the amount of chemical interference with the stored water.
Grey water is also pumped up to a reservoir in a tower and then gravity fed down to flush toilets. We have a soil roof and the sprinkler systems irrigate and keep the roof cool. Irrigation water is collected and runs back into the system again.
The first building taught us a lot about cooling. The solar power was good but the cooling system came with the largest learning experience. The second building was bigger and the water heating system has a lot of thermal energy – we had too much. So we were able to chanel the excess thermal energy to the next door corporate gym which was complaining about not having enough hot water. We put in a 1500 litre pressure geyser which is now fed from our solar water heating system. That water was running at 230 degrees Celsius!
The 2 new buildings on campus are ‘off-grid’ and in fact supply any excess energy to the campus grid. We have now plucked all the low hanging fruit and have managed energy demand down, but now the next steps are to develop our own renewable energy – the campus needs to be totally ‘off-grid.’ There is massive development in the Midrand area that is draining the available energy from our substation. Not only are we going to be exposed to additional energy security risk, but we have an opportunity to work with City Power to generate some of the energy that will be required for this area in the years to come. We can release energy onto the system to help the utility and they are interested in assisting us to do this.
You now have some exciting renewable energy projects that are in process already. What kind of systems will you be using and what electric and thermal outputs will you achieve with these systems?
When the large, main campus building was constructed back in the 80’s, it was an energy efficient building for its time and technology. It simply no longer performs to any current green building standards and we are looking to retrofit heat pumps to replace the old evaporative cooling system. However the only practical renewable energy solution to drive the HVAC and other electrical requirements for a normal office environment is to use a PV system. We don’t need vast storage systems for that energy because it’s only really required from 7am-6pm for 5 days a week. So we are planning on constructing a 1MW PV plant and the plant will demonstrate four different types of PV panels, such as silicon and thin film. We will split it up to show the relative efficiency of each PV type and try and asses the yield of each type. Any power that we don’t use from this plant we can put back into the local grid – we would like to play a part in co-generation once we are able to obtain a Power producers license and negotiate a nett metering agreement with City Power.
However, this project has not been able to move forward because of technical issues in obtaining the required environmental approval. The environmental biodiversity on the campus is important for us and must be maintained. Technically the PV plant would occupy a one hectare field and ordinarily the concrete base structures for the PV panel support systems would have a detrimental effect on the environment. Instead of using concrete base structures we will use terra-screws which are more environmentally friendly and we will also increase spaces between the panels in order to allow the grass to grow between them. This means that if we need to move them we can do so at minimal cost and it also means that because the sun can reach the grass spaces between the panels the ecology of this space can be maintained – small animals and birds have a habitat. Other environmental initiatives on campus include bringing birdlife back to the campus, restoring grasslands and removing alien invasive species.
Our large conference/auditorium building complex consumes both thermal and electrical energy and the HVAC plant is more modern than the main building so we are also going to use a CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) system which will provide us with both. Electrical energy is used mainly for lighting and equipment whilst the thermal energy will be used for heating and cooling. We will store a portion of the thermal energy so that at night we can convert it into steam to power a turbine for the generation of electricity for the campus.
These projects sound quite costly. Do you have good information about returns from these investments and payback periods?
Even though we have managed to significantly reduce our energy demand for current activities – we are still able to show the savings on our 2008 baseline for each year that passes. The two renewable energy plants (the 1MW PV plant and the 200KW CSP plant) are in the process of implementation and will cost about R70m. If we look at Eskom’s known NERSA approved energy tariffs going forward, payback on the initial capital investment will be achieved in the next four years or so. The plant’s life will be about 25 years.
We are currently waiting for DEA environmental approval for these plants and one of the most interesting delays has come from the Air Traffic Control atGrandCentralAirportwho objected because we are on the flight path fromGrandCentralAirportand initially thought that this plant would interfere with the air traffic control on this flight path. There was also a concern about how much water the plant would consume. We have been through a process of educating these stakeholders about the size, shape and behaviour of the plant, including the use of water in its closed system. The plant is expected to turn cash positive in about 7 to 8 years after which time it will be a working asset.
King III is placing even more emphasis on integrated and sustainability reporting. Is DBSA formally reporting about its sustainable activities?
We are busy with a more detailed and accurate measure of our carbon footprint and our first attempt at at Global Reporting Framework (GRI) report was in 2011. We are also reporting on waste, paper use and recycling and this is driving activities under these items. We are starting to learn a lot about how to do all this better, for example we consume about 54 tons of printer-type paper each year and we were recycling this after shredding it, for security reasons. Shredding actually damages the paper fibres and renders the paper less valuble as recycling content – the paper has a lower grade. So, we have started to recycle the paper without shredding it and this is makes it much easier to recycle back into plain white paper.
You must also have an ability to extend your good work beyond the DBSA. Are you influencing or pressurising your suppliers?
We are pushing for more of our suppliers on campus to be green and we believe that this influence is working. For example the supplier that cleans our carpets uses a dry system which is saving both water and electricity. Cleaning materials and detergents used in kitchens are also required to be biodegradable and green, and we are busy with our travel suppliers to begin using their green programs (e.g. car hire companies).
Do you think that the organisations reputation has improved as a result of your green journey? Is this important and how?
We are trying to demonstrate to our clients that all these things are possible. We want to do things ourselves before we go and preach the gospel to others about what they can achieve. This builds confidence and reputation. We are an infrastructure development finance institution so if we are not seen to be doing the right thing then we are going to be taken to task. The Minister has been here complimenting us and our stakeholders expect this of us and are happy with what we are doing.
There is currently a lot of talk about green finance and it would appear that funding for green projects has increased. What are your views about green finance?
Nationally we are busy with a number of renewable energy projects. We are also registering as a CDM program so that all the projects that we fund will be able to claim carbon credits under our program at a lower registration cost.
Green finance can be a double edged sword – we have green funds and we fund green initiatives but we are struggling to get buy-in on these. So we have engaged with our own funders and have said, “Let us demonstrate how these activities can work.” There are sometimes hidden agendas where green finance, carbon credits or supported green project development are concerned. Funders/partners will often apply various pre-conditions or ‘conditions precedent’, such as wanting first right on the carbon credits emanating from the project. International funders often also specify that the project must use equipment and plant infrastructure manufactured in their country and all these sorts of conditions make things difficult. Grant money is becoming available for projects but it’s mostly for research projects or similar. There are also large hidden costs with green funding and they sometimes come in the form of EIA’s or consultancy fees that are necessary to move a project forward.