Demonstrating a response to mitigating climate change

Discreet evidence of Mitsubishi Electric’s carbon-reducing mixed mode system developed with Passivent is this small grille in the facade.
Mitsubishi Electric’s headquarters at Hatfield is well visited by those looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. The company’s own facilities manager, James Hobson, gives an insight into what can be seen — and takes readers behind the scenes to show how green ambition is matched with operating reality.When our air-conditioning division instigated a 100-day plan back in February 2007, looking at how the company could reduce its own, and the nation’s, emissions, one of the first things I had to do in my role as facilities manager for the company’s headquarters building was examine our own operation and see how we could reduce energy consumption and waste. The 1980s-built, 3-storey glass curtain walled building is about 4500 m2 and houses not only the air-conditioning department, but also the heating department, the industrial and the visual information systems divisions, senior management and administration. There are about 300 people in all. The first step, and the easiest to check and do something about, was our electricity supplier, and we have now moved to one offering 100% renewable sourced electricity. However, we are not stopping there as we are now installing 196 photovoltaic panels to generate over 38 kW of electricity. At weekends, any excess power generated will be transferred to the main electricity provider. Where I am lucky, I suppose, is that our parent company manufacture photovoltaics in the Far East, so finding a supplier was fairly straightforward. Working out where to put the PV collectors was not easy as they will also be used as a sales tool for the product, which will be available in the UK in the next year. Logic dictates putting them on the roof. Although we needed to undertake careful calculations on weight loads, this could have worked. Where the problem arose though, was the thought of customers being taken up to the roof to view the product — not the best idea as far as health and safety is concerned! We have therefore reached a compromise and will install 45 of them on the ground on a south-facing bank, where they will still gather huge amounts of solar energy while being completely accessible to sales staff and their customers. This solar PV system will reduce our CO2 emissions by 16.3 t each year. The Hatfield site is also used as a testing facility for Mitsubishi Electric’s range of heating and cooling products. There is a ground-source heat-pump system connected to a slinky which has already demonstrated its value by proving to be over 500% more efficient at heating than a boiler and cheaper to run than a traditional boiler/chiller combination, whilst producing nearly 3000 kg less CO2 emissions per year. A 800 m2 open-plan office area is also used to demonstrate the company’s mixed-mode venture with natural-ventilation expert Passivent. The area receives free cooling and heating from natural ventilation unless it cannot cope on its own because of wind, rain, external or internal temperatures. At this point the efficient air conditioning kicks in to supplement the natural ventilation. With new equipment, maintenance is not much of an issue because of the constant testing and monitoring. However, maintenance programmes are one area where everyone can start to make real difference without necessarily costing a penny. Anyone who uses mechanical equipment needs to ask how often it is cleaned and checked, so that filters are not blocked and equipment does not working overtime and consume more energy than it needs to.
Having a site where new building-services equipment is tested makes the job more interesting, especially as each month there seems to be another new piece of equipment that will save energy, waste or water. We have just finished installing Mitsubishi Electric jet towels in all our toilets. They use far less energy than traditional hot-air hand dryers, helping to save energy, and removing the need for supplementary paper waste in the form of hand towels. We are also installing an Ecodan air-source heat-pump water-heating system to supply hot water for taps in the toilets and kitchen areas. In the main though, most of the rest of the role is what any other facilities manager will face and, in line with many others in the FM sector, I have been looking at all the ways we can reduce the impact of our operations at Hatfield. To help reduce the amount of water the office uses, the company is going to install a rainwater harvesting system, and this grey water will be used for office toilets, thereby saving on mains water. Other initiatives we have implemented include a CO2 restrictive car policy, which limits the number of vehicles used and ensures that they are all eco-friendlier diesel and hybrid vehicles. Office waste is segregated to maximise recycling and minimise the amount we have to send to landfill; it includes as many recyclable elements (such as drinking cups) as possible. The company is also examining lunchtime takeaway packaging and has introduced biodegradable products to minimise waste further. Waste paper is recycled, and we have moved to paper sourced from managed forests for all photocopying and correspondence. Staff are also actively encouraged to minimise the printing of emails and other correspondence. For the grounds, the company is preparing a natural meadow and is installing a wormery to take care of some of the kitchen waste and produce rich organic compost and liquid plant feed. The remainder of the food waste is taken away by a bio-fuel truck to a biogas plant for processing which is turned into odourless organic fertiliser and used to generate electricity. All these measures have a direct impact on budgets, as we can cut the costs of sending waste to landfill and reduce our monthly energy bill —something that any business or individual should be happy about. Our primary objective by 2009 is zero landfill. I have been in the FM industry longer than I care to remember. I have always enjoyed it as each day throws up unique problems and challenges. What I particularly like about today’s working environment is that the overall attitudes of staff are much more supportive of energy saving and things that used to be seen as simply me ‘having a moan’ are now regarded as simple common practice. I think it is true, therefore, that with regard to climate change, there are things that the big corporations can do and, equally, there are little things we can all do individually in whatever role we have. I am just lucky that at the moment with the focus on energy and waste reduction, my position allows me to have a direct impact on that. James Hobson is group facilities manager for Mitsubishi Electric at its Hatfield headquarters.
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