Queensland Theatre Company: Energy efficiency takes centre stage

Queensland-Theatre-Company-Save-Energy

From its earliest beginnings in the 1970’s the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has been a leading light in Brisbane and Queensland’s cultural landscape.

As a not-for-profit organisation, QTC is always looking for ways to make operations efficient and reduce unnecessary operating costs.

QTC has been based at the iconic Billie Brown Studio space and connecting offices in South Brisbane for over a decade. With no capital expenditure on the building in that time, QTC was uncovering opportunities to save money in building running costs. A timely invitation to a Watt Savers workshop provided an opportunity for QTC to explore sustainable and cost efficient methods to reduce its energy related expenses.

Following the workshop, Executive Director Sue Donnelly signed QTC up as a participant in the Watt Savers program and took advantage of the practical advice, ideas and guidance as well as an onsite energy audit to identify ways to reduce QTC’s ongoing energy costs.

Opportunity

In late 2013, after 12 years of operations in the original South Brisbane location, plans were made to renovate the space and bring the old QTC building into the modern era. Focussing on the dedicated office and meeting areas, the aim of the renovations was to deliver a more open plan and flexible space, allowing more natural light to be captured. This initial action was QTC’s first step towards cutting energy expenditure and adopting more sustainable energy practices.   

At around the same time as the renovations, QTC’s Sue Donnelly was invited to attend a Watt Savers workshop held by Business South Bank. Here she learnt that through simple measures such as taking a closer look at QTC’s lighting set up, significant opportunities for cost reduction and savings could be identified and worked into the existing renovation plans.

A further opportunity for savings lay in the contribution of Watt Savers partner Energex, who through their Positive Payback scheme are providing financial incentives to businesses to reduce the energy usage during peak times. QTC has taken advantage of this funding scheme, enabling them to implement additional energy saving measures parallel to their building renovation. Rather than building extra infrastructure to support a small percentage of peak electrical usage throughout the year, Energex has chosen to financially assist businesses like QTC that are taking measures to reduce their energy expenditure, and in turn reducing the load placed on the current electricity network.

The Experience

Following a Watt Savers Onsite Energy Review, QTC engaged Watt Savers program partner CSR Bradford.  CSR conducted a survey of QTC’s existing lighting infrastructure over the multiple floors of office space, uncovering lighting infrastructure that was well and truly out of date.  A decision was made to embark on an upgrade of one entire floor as part of the renovations. Detailed planning at the beginning of the project meant that time onsite was minimal, with no disruption to staff operations. Any downtime (where power had to be turned off) was undertaken outside of business hours.

The lighting upgrade saw over 260 outdated lights replaced with efficient, modern LED alternatives resulting in a 72% reduction in everyday energy usage.  Additionally, switch configurations were improved in order to allow large areas to be controlled by staff at convenient positions on the floor.  This simple, smart and more efficient zone lighting design is expected to reduce QTC’s energy consumption by over 34,000 kWh.

This investment on just one floor of office space saves QTC the equivalent of one month’s worth of energy costs each year with only a short three year investment pay-back period. For QTC and their audiences, this means that more funding can be targeted to delivering innovative and entertaining theatre experiences.

“With savings like this it is clear that energy efficiency just makes good business sense. Taking out those unnecessary operational expenses means that we can put some more funding towards other projects that benefit audiences locally and in regional Australia, and that really means a lot to us and the communities we touch."

Julian Messer, Operations Manager

Key Outcomes

QTC is now building on the initial improvements made with the help of the Watt Savers program, and is furthering their commitment to a greener workplace.

  • Reconfiguring the lighting was only one part of the process, empowering staff to take control of the lighting in their area and turn off lights at the end of the day was a critical part of successfully reducing energy costs.
  • A staff-led committee meet regularly to identify and undertake environmental improvements for the building as part of an ongoing commitment to improve QTC’s sustainability practices.
  • Some of the savings from the Watt Savers program will be put towards additional projects.

 

"In reading the initial audit, it was very clear that there is not just one area we can improve. There are many opportunities for energy improvement throughout the building, we are very much looking at this as Stage One of a larger energy efficiency project for our building”.

Julian Messer, Operations Manager

Additionally, future changes have the potential to translate to more significant savings, such as improved management of QTC’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. By making small behavioural changes to the timing/duration of usage or modifying temperature settings by just a few degrees, QTC could create savings of thousands of dollars a year.  Maintaining high quality airflow around the office has proven beneficial results on staff productivity but also allows the HVAC units to operate more efficiently, thus, improving performance and reduced maintenance costs.

Visit the Queensland Theatre Company website: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au