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Sustainable Prescription

15 February 2007

No longer an ‘add-on’ action on sustainability must be at the core of any organisation from now on. The winners of the Partners in Sustainability category in the PFM Awards 2006 showed how sustainability can become an integral part of everything that the FM team does. Jane Fenwick reports.

The Norwich and Norfolk University Trust

GOING CARBON NEUTRAL HAS BECOME ‘flavour of the month’ in the wake of the Stern Report on climate change. The Report brought the true economic cost of not reducing carbon emissions to the attention of corporate boards across the country causing at least some of them to act. However, as the facilities management sector knows well, many organisations have already developed and implemented sustainable strategies in energy use and carbon emission reductions, and have these strategies embedded in their culture and actions needing no ‘fanfare’ to announce the fact. Among these are the winners of the Partners in Sustainability category at the PFM Awards 2006, Serco with the Norwich and Norfolk University NHS Trust (NNUH Trust). The judges said of this partnership, “An excellent example for the healthcare sector of sustainable working that has lessons for a wider audience.”

The NNUH Trust is a 989-bed PFI hospital built in Wave 1 and opened in 2001. Built by the Octagon consortium in a science park seven miles outside Norwich shared with the University of East Anglia, the Sainsbury Centre and John Innes Centre, the hospital treats over 600,000 patients a year from across the region. It is also a tertiary centre of cancer for neighbouring counties and a university teaching hospital.

Serco is the total FM provider and has three contracts with the SPV, Octagon - as FM manager in a 35-year contract, as hard FM services provider also for 35 years, and as soft FM services provider under a contract which is market tested every five years. Serco has just been re-appointed following the first market test of the soft services contract since the hospital opened.

As with many PFI contracts whole life costing and sustainability are embedded in the design and fabric of the building. However, as Serco was not the original FM services contractor but came to the consortium after the building design phase, it has had no direct input into sustainability of the building structure. Nevertheless, a CHP plant was installed when the hospital was built and it currently produces net savings to the Trust, after maintenance and carbon trading costs, of about £90,000 a year. Overall the hospital energy bill amounts to £400,000 for electricity and totals about £1m for all utilities – gas, electricity and oil.

Addressing rising energy costs is the key priority for 2007 says Martin Payne, Serco’s Operations Manager. A number of energy reduction possibilities are being investigated including not lighting all sections of the car park all night. By re-directing traffic to lit areas and limiting the fully lit areas when only a few cars are using the car park, could Payne estimates save about £2,000 a year and reduce carbon emissions accordingly. However, he admits that maintaining the car park’s security accreditation also needs to be considered.

The Trust is engaging in the EU Carbon Trading scheme through the NHS and the emissions targets set for 2008 present a challenge to attain, putting with even more stress on energy savings and management of the buildings. Solar and PV technologies are under consideration and work is ongoing to improve waste segregation and recycling and reduce waste to landfill. Currently up to six 1,100 litre bins of waste for recycling and 28 tonnes of cardboard are harvested saving up to £40 per ton from landfill charges.

Working with its catering suppliers and East Anglia Food link, about 15 per cent of food for the patients is sourced locally. The same strategy it being applied in the retail catering outlets for staff and visitors where fair trade products already outsell non-fair trade items. As Payne explained, “We are moving on all fronts and we can still improve the building efficiency, utilities usage, water leakage, procurement of sustainable and ethical products and recycling – these are all a normal part of all conversations. Our suppliers recognise the priorities that Serco puts on these issues and they are adapting.”

Serco’s FM role places it firmly as the custodian of FM sustainability on the site. The 600 FM staff provide Payne with an army of extra eyes and ears is all parts of the hospital complex. Serco delivers all the hospitals support services apart from reception, switchboard and theatre portering. Using the staff resource, together with their enthusiasm and innovation, is providing support the Trust’s sustainability objectives.

Through Serco’s the ‘yellow card’ scheme the FM staff already highlights potential health and safety hazards by completing about 80 cards per month with their observations and ideas. Now a new ‘Blue Card’ scheme is to be launched for other ideas from staff such as turning lights out. The FM team decides on the best initiatives to implement each month and the winning member of staff receives £35 and an opportunity to win £350 at the end of the year.

“Rolling this scheme out through the FM group will make people more aware of the role of facilities management,” explained Payne. “Elsewhere in the hospital we have developed ‘champions’ with whom we work informally to help promote recycling in administrative areas, for example.”

He stressed the necessity of looking at sustainability in the ‘round’, not limited to energy issues alone. Indeed sustainability’ in the context of NNUH Trust is interpreted broadly and Serco, backed by the resources available from Serco’s own corporate Assurance Group, is central to the Trust’s strategy. When the Trust conducts a NEAT (NHS Environment Assessment Tool) inspection later this year, it will bring on board the latest thinking on carbon neutrality being adopted by Serco.

Few decisions are taken without consideration of the impact on the Trust’s sustainability agenda. Sustainability covers the spectrum of hospital activity and impacts not only on healthcare but also on the economy of Norfolk. NNUH Trust is a major employer and leading community organisation with a high public profile. The hospital adopted a Good Corporate Citizenship assessment model last year to help highlight the activities it support and to make it easier for those involved to communicate and promote the benefits of their activities. These include an Ambassador programme commended by the PFM Awards judges which sees individuals working with local schools and colleges and contributing to careers fairs and work placements as well as helping young people with interview techniques and skills events. Additionally, Serco takes on two apprentices each year to improve the ‘sustainability’ of its workforce and to build its managers for the future.

The hospital also has strong links with the University of East Anglia and through the East Anglian Business Environment Club. The University has a leading Environmental Sciences faculty and NNUH Trust works with its MSc students to provide opportunities to support research projects. Recently one student developed a register of bio-diversity across the site and a strategy to enhance the range of birds and insects. This is now being followed by the Serco FM team.

According to Payne, the driver for the sustainability agenda is the partnership between Serco and NNUH Trust and he has a willing partner in Mark Page, the Trust’s Concession Manager who is particularly interested in promoting it. The list of potential actions going forward covers the built environment, equipment and materials, energy, transport, waste and the community and social environment. Establishing strong links between all the hospital’s stakeholders and with external groups and sources of support and assistance are central to taking the sustainability strategy forward.

Quarterly meetings of its Sustainability Forum sees those Serco units located in the East of England meeting and exchanging ideas and good practice. Some ideas are quite simple but with big implications. One such idea is to place ‘hippos’ in toilet cisterns to reduce water usage.With 700 toilets on site Payne expects to make a considerable impact on the hospitals water usage.


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