The UK events industry took a key role on sustainable management practices when it launched the British Standard 8901 in late 2007. Prompted by the London Olympics and the Government’s push to be seen as environmental and cultural leaders, BS 8901 was designed to give organisers, venues and suppliers a means of delivering events more sustainably through management strategies, evaluation, reporting, communication and training.
Since then a number of venues have embraced environmental standards which aim to improve sustainability awareness and give event organisers, venues and suppliers a way of adhering to sustainable practices. Other standards have been taken up by the industry – all variations on the theme of more sustainable event management.
In 2006, work started at the Midlands venue on a £13 million investment in new air conditioning units. Through the use of more economical fans, gas burners, refrigeration equipment and controls, these units began to reduce the venue’s carbon footprint. The venue opened an onsite waste pre-treatment centre in 2009. As a result, it commits zero waste to landfill. It has also secured the ISO 14001 standard.
“The NEC prides itself on not just ‘ticking the ecological box’ and has risen to the environmental challenge with great innovations which have become part of our day-to-day operations,” said The NEC’s sustainability and environmental manager Paul Jenkins. “We now process a minimum of 50 per cent of total site waste through the Waste Pre-Treatment Centre where the waste is baled or sorted for collection for a network of local suppliers.
“Food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant where it helps generate electricity for homes in Staffordshire. Any waste that isn’t dealt with through our centre is sent for further sorting to a local materials recycling facility.”
The facility recycles between 70 and 90 per cent of the waste it receives, with residues going to the local waste-to-energy-plant.
The NEC is also keen to support local community groups and donates materials for re-use. These include:
A local theatre group has used materials from the venue for set building
Paint has been donated to charities
Sawdust and carpet has been donated to a local animal sanctuary for bedding
Wood and pallets have been turned into bird boxes and bird feeders by local school children
120 tonnes of top soil has been donated to a local charity to create allotments for people with learning disabilities.
In December 2012, The NEC began the first phase of a smart utility meter network with monitoring software to manage its utility usage. An investment of nearly £500,000 will see the rollout of 720 sub meters across the venue, which is expected to reduce energy use by at least five per cent. “The accurate measurement of site energy use will enable us to highlight areas of wastage, reduce consumption, increase the efficient use of energy, reduce CO2 emissions and highlight opportunities for savings,” said Jenkins.
The venue is also approaching the end of a tender process to build a large green energy power plant on site. The proposal centres on a plant providing 13MW electricity and 22MW heat outputs from locally sourced wood waste that would have been sent to landfill. The power from this plant will be supplied via a private network to The NEC site and some of its onsite tenants and neighbours. This would satisfy the venue’s entire electricity requirement, with any excess low carbon electricity being exported to the National Grid.
The NEC is also taking some more unusual methods to go green. Now starting its fifth year, 815 urinals have been fitted with Hygienex Ureco product – billed as a “total green solution”. With this installation, the urinals only flush four times a day, saving 103 million litres of water per year. In addition all of The NEC’s onsite shuttle buses meet Euro 5 emission standards, featuring greener low-emission Mercedes-Benz BlueTec diesel technology.
Jenkins believes that The NEC is committed to being an industry leader in the drive for more sustainable event solutions following its ISO14001 accreditation.
“This journey has provided us with confidence in our ability to meet our environmental policy, including the commitment to comply with legislation, to prevent pollution and to continually improve our environmental performance,” he said. “Through training and our company values we make it clear that every member of Team NEC has a part to play in managing our environmental impact.”
The north-west venue has reduced energy usage by 30 per cent following a £150,000 investment. A new on-site recycling centre will open in January, with the aim to have zero waste to landfill within two years. It secured the ISO 20121 accreditation in January 2013.
The venue will also have a new smart metering system in 2014. The smart meter will give a realtime breakdown of energy use in all areas of the venue.
“It will make a massive difference and will help us to drive down energy use further,” said operations director Dirk Pittaway.
An important part of the process was to change staff behaviour. This involved team members doing regular sweeps of the building to turn off lights to get the message across.
The venue has also been educating other suppliers, and indeed venues in workshops, on how to be more sustainable and guide them through the ISO 20121 process.
The NEC has also launched another initiative for organiser – sustainability reports. It has so far done this with two exhibitions.
These are completely free and would normally cost clients several hundred pounds. “We do it all for the clients as we know they have got enough to do during a show,” said Pittaway. “We track all their water usage, food waste and recycling. The event managers do it as a matter of course.”
In May 2013, Manchester Central became one of the first major venues in the UK to have electric vehicle charging points installed. The venue is supporting the Greater Manchester Electric Vehicle scheme (GMEV), led by Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) and has had three charging points installed.
Harrogate International Centre
The HIC has recently introduced a new combined heat and power unit, which runs on biofuel.The Yorkshire venue has also invested in a green roof. It provides microclimates for insects and bird life, improves the quality of water which runs off through rainfall, which is then used for flushing toilets in the new halls, provides a greater natural degree of insulation, helps provide sound insulation and improves air quality due to the filtering mechanism of the plants.Another measure has been to fit occupancy sensors to switch lights on and off in less-used parts of the venue.
“It makes a big difference and it doesn’t inconvenience our customers,” said HIC director Simon Kent.
HIC has also stepped up its efforts to deal with its waste.
“We now separate waste at the venue,” said Kent. “Wood, carpet and paper all goes into separate skips. Previously all waste was dumped into one skip.”
As another move towards sustainability, the venue recently agreed a five-year catering contract with Kudos, part of the Crown Group.
“A big part of the tender specification was using more locally sourced products to reduce road miles,” said Kent.
Since opening in 2011, EventCity has introduced a number of measures to assist in the venue becoming more sustainable.
These range from changes to the building infrastructure, heating and lighting systems, reviews of energy suppliers, all the way through to improving links to public transport, car sharing schemes and sourcing local suppliers.
The venue looks to appoint contractors that can supply evidence of a strong commitment to sustainable solutions.
For example, facilities services business NG Bailey was appointed for the recent upgrade of its lighting and heating systems, with the firm’s One Approach and Target 2012 initiative, a significant element in the decision.
The Target 2012 initiative saw NG Bailey reduce its CO2 emissions by 24 per cent and halve the amount of waste sent to landfill.
EventCity has recently invested in desktop carbon management. This tool allows the venue to analyse the use of resources over a 30-minute period. It is intended to present organisers with a full breakdown of how power, water and gas were utilised over the course of their event, and can be used to target future use and look at developing savings without compromising the event. EventCity does not send any waste to landfill. The venue recently appointed a new facilities manager, who has a specialist interest in seeking to maximise reuse of waste to produce usable products or energy.
The venue has also recently completed a £1 million investment in heating and lighting upgrades.Each fitting is LED, reducing the consumption of electricity by around 27 per cent. Bulb life is 17 years, further significantly reducing the carbon footprint associated with maintenance. Each fitting can be reduced in output to allow reduced levels for cleaning and non-event activity.
The new heating system fitted to halls 1 and 2 has seen six gas-fired burners replaced with two new, energy efficient units. This allows for the same space to be heated by far less gas burned.Hall 3 is utilising three diesel fired heaters, all with the latest engine ensuring their performance is at the top end of industry guides.
Image: Manchester Central's Herb Garden.
This was first published in the January issue of EN. Any comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org