The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a covering report relating to further information regarding environmental awareness of other public bodies, particularly energy and carbon reduction measures.
At its previous meeting, on 29 August 2012, the Panel heard from representatives of Teesside University in this regard and it was anticipated that representatives from other organisations would attend future Panel meetings over the coming months.
Samantha Granger, Sustainability Co-ordinator at Fabrick Group, was in attendance at the meeting to present information regarding the work undertaken by Fabrick in respect of energy and carbon reduction.
The Chair made introductions and provided the Sustainability Co-ordinator, S Granger, with background information in relation to the Panels remit and current scrutiny investigation.
The Sustainability Co-ordinator advised that during 2009/10 the Fabrick Board had noted that provisions needed to be put in place in relation to reducing energy. Fabrick had spent some time with Middlesbrough Council working on its One Planet Living initiative and subsequently adopted the Strategy. In April 2011, Fabrick developed its own Group-wide Strategy, outlining the organisations plans in relation to reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint from 2011-15. Subsequently, Fabrick had committed to a five-year action plan.
The organisation had initially focussed on issues that could be addressed immediately such as reducing energy consumption and wastage in its office buildings and communal areas. A campaign named Youre in Control was developed and aimed at staff to promote switching off electronic office equipment such as PCs and photocopiers when the office closed for the evening. A group of 40 energy champions was established, made up of around 30 staff and 10 residents, and stickers were placed on PCs and photocopiers and lights that had not been switched off after 5.00pm, to request that people remember to turn them off when going home. At the start of the three-month campaign, approximately 50% of PCs and photocopiers were being left on constantly. After three weeks, 75% were being switched off and the most recent analysis showed that 96% were being switched off at night. The campaign had been inexpensive but very effective in producing instant energy savings.
Reference was made to Riverside House, an all electric building with automatic power-down at 7.00pm. By adding Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of the building, its carbon footprint had been reduced by around 36%. This had been achieved spending very little money. A 46% reduction in the carbon footprint at the Cargo Fleet Lane buildings had also been achieved, however, it was noted that this was now occupied by fewer staff.
Finally, Fabrick had brought all of its energy under one supplier which had provided further savings. This included all office buildings and communal spaces.
During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-
It was confirmed that despite a small number of staff having initial reservations in relation to the Youre in Control campaign, staff were generally very much on board with the ideas.
It was queried whether the percentage savings previously quoted could be equated into monetary savings as this was often a better incentive to encourage people to save energy. Members were advised that it was difficult to equate to financial terms, however, an average saving of approximately £50 per PC was made over the course of a year by turning it off after office hours. The Sustainability Co-ordinator agreed to provide the Scrutiny Support Officer with financial information in relation to savings made equated from the percentages quoted.
In relation to residential properties, Fabrick had offered a number of initiatives such as cavity wall and loft insulation and lighting schemes to help residents reduce energy bills. Trials of LED lighting were currently taking place at Lord House (a four-storey building). The cost of LED lighting was initially more expensive, however, it incurred lower repair costs and used less energy. This would be monitored over a six-month period to identify any financial savings.
The Panel was advised that Fabricks Head of Asset Management was now looking at how to reduce energy costs at its high-rise buildings. Fabricks housing stock was amongst the top 23 in the UK for energy efficiency but was now at the point where the more difficult issues needed to be addressed, for example, boiler replacement in older stock. It was highlighted that some housing stock was currently heated by expensive electric heating/night storage heating and Fabrick was looking at the possibility of replacing with new efficient gas boilers or air source heat pumps (in stock with no gas services). It was explained that the air source heat pumps were very different from usual heating systems and worked a bit like a fridge in reverse and could achieve water temperatures of up to 40 C. The system was left to run constantly in order to keep homes at a reasonable temperature and could take up to 36 hours to get back up to temperature if switched off, therefore, it was important to spend time educating and supporting residents in how to use it correctly.
Funding had become available for external wall insulation in some situations and this was being explored. In addition, a feasibility study of photovoltaic panels was also being investigated.
The Panel was informed that new-build properties for Fabrick were currently being built to Code Level 3, however some of its new-build properties had been built to Code Levels 4 and 5 (the higher the level the more energy efficient and more renewable features the property had). Fabrick had recently commissioned the build of six houses at Code Level 5 and had compared these with its Code Level 3 properties in terms of cost and savings. It could cost an extra £50,000 to build to level 5 from level 3.
Other work being undertaken by the organisation focussed on training staff in relation to energy reduction and efficiency and rolling the information out to residents via Housing Officers, literature, internet and resident group meetings.
Discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-
In response to a query from a Member, the Panel was informed that a number of electricity monitors had been purchased to help residents understand their energy consumption and highlight which appliances were costing the most to run. The monitors were currently being used in 40 properties then would be passed on to the next round of properties for use.
Reference was made to water meters and it was queried whether Fabrick had installed or would consider the installation of water meters in residential properties. The Panel was advised that all new-build properties had to have water meters, however, this was not something that the organisation would be looking at for its older stock as often properties would house families and it could make properties difficult to let.
In response to a query, Members were informed that Fabrick had a dedicated Tandem Team that provided support and advice to residents with their energy bills and to assist them in ensuring they were on the correct tariff with their energy supplier, etc.
In relation to encouraging residents to come together to seek out a single energy supplier on the best tariff, it was confirmed that this was not something that Fabrick was currently considering.
Reference was made to a recent scheme in Gresham Ward to provide external wall insulation where the properties were older and had no cavity walls. An example was provided in relation to a resident who had found a saving of at least £10 per week on energy bills following the installation of the insulation.
It was queried whether there was currently any organisation or arrangement whereby public bodies, housing associations, local government, etc could meet on a regular basis to share information in relation to energy efficiency measures. The Sustainability Co-ordinator was not aware of any such arrangements. The Panel considered that it would be useful for public bodies to meet once or twice a year to discuss progress and initiatives in relation to energy reduction.
The Scrutiny Support Officer advised that he had attended a recent seminar on energy reduction and would obtain further details of information produced by APSE (Association of Public Service Excellence).
The Chair thanked the Officer for her attendance and the information provided.
AGREED as follows:-
1. That the information provided by the Sustainability Co-ordinator, Fabrick Group, be noted and considered in the context of the current scrutiny topic and be taken into account when compiling the conclusions and recommendations for the Panels Draft Final Report.
2. That the Sustainability Co-ordinator, Fabrick Group, provide the Scrutiny Support Officer with financial information in relation to savings made, to date, within the organisation in relation to energy reduction measures.