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The wormery that turned a profit

03 August 2016

Reducing running costs is the guaranteed way to gain the attention of any organisation, especially when the savings run into millions of pounds.

For those who have become cynical about the claims that raising sustainability levels can also deliver substantial savings, a brief conversation with Wolseley UK national facilities and property compliance manager John Page is highly recommended.

His efforts have seen the running costs of the company’s Leamington Spa headquarters reduce by nearly £3m from £4.2m per annum to £1.3m.

Do we have your attention? Please read on…

When Mr Page joined the company in 2008, the first thing he looked at was managing the waste produced by the site.

“The first thing we did was to sort out the bins,” he says. “At that point, I think the recycling of waste was only around 10%.”

There were only two types of waste bins used on site at the time, grey general waste and green dry-mix recycling. Mr Page quickly identified the options available and introduced clearly labelled bins for different types of waste.

“It was just literally the simple things, like labelling, so we went to work with the environment manager and we said: ‘That’s generalised, that’s dry-mix recycling, that’s cardboard, etc’,” he continues.

“And in a very short space of time we increased the recycling rate to 32% just by changing the bins and looking at how things were collected.”

Further to this, a staff education and engagement programme was implemented to raise awareness levels with all colleagues and on-site personnel.

The success of this can be judged by the fact that recycling rates then more than doubled to around 67%.

“But we weren’t happy with that and we thought we could do better still,” says Mr Page. “So we bounced around ideas such as using compactors, but we thought we could do better than just crushing waste into bins.

“Then the environment manager at the time suggested setting up a wormery and I said ‘That’s the one, tell me more!’” he recalls.

95% waste recycling

Following an investment of around £2,000, a wormery was established that allowed the company to process all of its vegetable waste collected in the newly-introduced yellow waste bins.

This resulted in the Wolseley UK HQ recycling rates rising to an impressive 95% within just three weeks while also producing compost for the company’s on-site flower beds.

Continuing efforts to increase on-site recycling saw this rise again, with just 2.5% of waste sent to land-fill.

Further concentration on the waste issue saw this redirected to an energy-from-waste site in Coventry.

“The only waste now produced is the ash from the energy-from-waste, so we’re now able to state that we’re a zero-to-waste site,” says Mr Page.

Following this highly successful exercise, attention was then turned to the Leamington Spa site’s energy consumption. Starting in 2010, these efforts have seen costs reduced by approximately £78,000 per annum.

One of the first measures introduced was the installation of a new building management system (BMS), after the original version was deemed to be inadequate for the delivery of improvements.

Mr Page states that once the new system was installed, there was a noticeable increase in control of equipment such as the site’s air conditioning, delivering savings “from the outset”.

Similar to his focus on the raising of recycling levels, Mr Page began to build further on his initial success by looking at other options in more detail. This included consideration of areas such as lighting and the construction of the on-site data centre.

Describing his preferred method of delivery in achieving the best results in site management, Mr Page says he is firmly in favour of working with specialist service providers. With regard to his efforts in increasing energy efficiency, he contracted Cloudfm to provide consultancy and project management services on all of the above and other relevant areas.

He compares the results of installing LED lighting with the running of the data centre.

“It costs us around £11,000 a month to run the data centre and the lighting has actually saved us £11,000 a month, so we’ve off-set the data centre,” he says. “When you start to examine the results in more detail, you soon start to discover the good news stories.”

It should also be noted that the data centre is highly efficient, principally due to its use of cold aisle technology that requires only one third of the space to be cooled. Equipment is housed in pods, reducing the area requiring cooling.

Working with Cloudfm on the data centre design, Mr Page says free cooling was also considered but discounted at the time.

This was decided against when further investigation showed “the technology was too expensive and still evolving“, he states. “However, we decided to future proof the building so we could install the technology in the future.”

On our tour of the site, Mr Page confirms this by showing PFM the space allocated within the exterior plant area for free cooling technology.

“In order to achieve successful outcomes, all that’s required sometimes is being brave enough to do it,” he continues. “When I first put the data centre proposals on the table, people thought I was crazy, but this was when we brought [Cloudfm] in.”

Cold aisle technology

Authorisation to proceed with the data centre proposals was granted in 2013 after a detailed case study and presentation of the then potential savings had been studied by Wolseley UK.

In addition to the innovative use of cold aisle technology, there is also constant monitoring of high, medium and low temperature points by the BMS to maintain a constant level within a 2 deg C tolerance, further increasing energy efficiency.

The air pressure within the floor void under the equipment is monitored as well, to ensure the correct volume of air is directed through the strategically placed grilles and further raising efficiency levels, with the end result providing a highly cost-effective means of keeping the data centre running.

Using cold aisle technology means the Wolselely data centre is run at a temperature of 27 deg C, instead of the usual 22 deg C, requiring significantly less energy.

Mr Page has also been able to show the benefits in detail: “Because of DR planning, we had to bring all our old kit into the data centre to migrate it over to the new kit, so we had to run it at 22 deg C for a while,” he says.

This has resulted in a direct comparison of running the data centre at both temperatures, confirming a 12% saving in energy consumption. Reducing the energy usage by 12% has also provided the significant advantage of allowing the company to add 11% more capacity when required in the future.

Following the various upgrades and installations to reduce energy consumption and raise efficiency levels on site, Mr Page is highly complimentary about using BREEAM In-Use as an effective means to demonstrate the various improvements made over the last six years.

At the time of PFM’s visit, the site had achieved a rating of Excellent, raising the company’s sustainability credentials yet further, while also highlighting the significant contributions to the fall in costs referred to at the start of this report by reducing its energy usage.

Lighting upgrade

A major factor in raising its rate from Very Good to Excellent within BREEAM In-Use was the company’s upgrading of its lighting, installing LEDs, PIR motion detection and daylight harvesting technology.

This included both interior and exterior lighting, with the aim of reducing both energy maintenance and maintenance requirements. Mr Page says that the introduction of LEDs resulted in a 43% reduction in electricity usage within the company’s extensive on-site National Distribution Centre (NDC) in this further Cloudfm-managed project, with the company providing additional consultancy services for the company’s BREEAM In-Use accreditation.

Yet another major project was the installation of 8,000 solar PV panels on the roof of the NDC building.

Completely invisible from the ground, this has seen significant levels of electricity generated since the system was installed and is expected to continue for many years to come. Mr Page further explains how these various efforts have led to Wolseley UK joining 17 other businesses in the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Electricity Demand Reduction (EDR) pilot scheme.

This requires companies to take part in an auction, with winning bids selected on a £/kW ranking and receiving funding to deliver energy savings.

Successful bids require companies to commit to delivering the savings outlined, with DECC paying them their winning bid price, multiplied by the average capacity savings for those achieving full compliance.

Wolseley UK was awarded £50,000 towards the cost of its LED installation project following a successful bid. Further outsourcing of on-site services includes the sites catering, cleaning and security requirements.

“We outsource these services, because they are specialist services with the appropriate expertise and management structures,” says Mr Page.

“The key thing is that all our partners work with us to achieve our sustainable objectives. For example, Interserve use recycled toilet paper and environmentally-friendly cleaning products, like Ecover, as that’s important to us.

"Our security partner, G4S, is careful to shut down all appliances at the end of every day and turn off the water when the last person leaves the building. And Catermasters are committed to reducing packaging and recycling all their food waste into our worm farms.”

With the various methods outlined above resulting in an overall saving of nearly £3m in running costs, combined with the additional benefits of an added number of sustainability credentials, there are considerable levels of supporting evidence to show how the two can be successfully combined.

Wolseley UK site figures at a glance:

Site operation costs reduced from £4.2m to £1.3m in eight years

Data centre run at 27 deg C instead of 22 deg C

Use of cold aisle technology reduced energy usage by 12%

Data centre recognised in RAC Cooling Awards 2015

2,692 warehouse lamps replaced with 616 LED luminaires

8,000 PV panels fitted to the warehouse roof

Part L of the Building Regulations compliancy achieved


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