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Sustainable Kitchens?

15 November 2009

In many instances the catering function is one of, if not the single largest user of utilities that the FM provider is responsible for, so any savings that can be achieved in this area will provide the client with tangible benefits

BEING GREEN, SUSTAINABLE, environmentally friendly or whatever label you care to put on it the ‘energy issue’ is rapidly climbing the corporate agenda and with it is the inevitable expectation that their FM provider is fully committed to work with them to achieve environmental and financial targets.
In 2006 a group of people representing varying elements of the catering industry met to discuss if and how they could work together to address these issues, this group evolved into the Catering for a Sustainable Future Group (CSFG) which is currently making inroads in these areas.Kerry Burnett – Director CDIS-KARM was at those initial meetings said, “One of the first things that soon became apparent was that these challenges can only be undertaken as a partnership with all those involved in the process”.
To succeed everyone from the client through design, supply and operation need to be actively involved. The FM provider is ideally placed to facilitate this co-ordinated effortbeing the lynch pin between the client and end user through the supply chain to the operation and maintenance of the catering function.
Burnett HMS Collingwood, claimed to be the ‘most sustainable catering operation in the UK’ with savings in excess of 30 percent over the traditional facility, is an example of how this can work in practice. VT Group (formerly VT Flagship) are the FM provider for the Royal Navy and were the Prime Contractor in the design and build of a new catering facility, feeding 1200 personnel three times a day.
Flagship was able to facilitate the active involvement of the client team into the design process along with the usual design team members - architect, catering design consultant, M&E and structural consultants – through construction to implementation. They were also able to involve the contract caterer, Sodexo Defence, in to the process to ensure operational issues were taken in to account throughout.
Not everyone has the benefit of a new build, but this should not be a barrier to achieving
real savings. CSFG have recently prepared a guide entitled ‘Energy Efficiency in Commercial Kitchens’ which is a CIBSE publication. Its aim is to provide information for anyone from an independent catering outlet to the multinationals, for end users to design teams and be a reference document for the FM provider.
By involving everyone in the process the FM provider can start making small but instant savings just by making the user aware of what they are doing. In many cases simply by involving those at the sharp end day to day they respond positively and they are an excellent source of ideas for further savings.
A detailed PPM programme can provide savings on running costs and increase the life span of equipment. For example, a clogged evaporator on a fridge can reduce its efficiency by 30 percent. Regular cleaning can prevent this loss and also improve the life of the unit. A damaged door seal can reduce efficiency by a further 11 percent.
By carrying out an energy audit of the current operation the facility can be benchmarked against its theoretical energy usage and carbon footprint, and a plan of action can be established setting short, medium and long term objectives to realise savings against these. The FM provider should be able to ask those awkward questions challenging the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. If an item of equipment needs to be replaced resist the temptation to simply get the best price for a like-for-like replacementbut ask is this still the best way to provide the required output, is there a different way that is more efficient.
With all the stakeholders involved it is possible to review the required output and the means of achieving this. An example would be the use of combination ovens which can provide a full English breakfast (excluding fried eggs) in minutes rather than firing up a range of stoves, grills and fryers, thereby not only saving on energy but providing a healthier product at the same time.
This change in operation requires the buy in of the operator. By having an energy plan it is possible to consider, for example, automatic taps on wash hand basins rather than simply replace worn taps with the same type to save water by not having taps left running or leaking.
An energy audit will give you your starting point from which you can prepare short, medium and long term plans, involve everyone within the process - the end user (the ultimate customer), the operator, the maintenance team, purchasing etc - and find some quick fix quick win items. Once these savings can be seen against your starting point there will be an air of success which will fuel further advances.
● Kerry Burnett is a member of the FCSI

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