The ultimate dive to get water consumption on track

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Purpose of the project

Water consumption across our portfolio can vary greatly. In 2014 our most water efficient shopping centre consumed 12 times less water per visit compared to our least efficient centre. While this performance range can partly be explained by physical differences, such as geographic location, outdoor irrigated areas and water intensive equipment such as cooling towers, other factors including inefficient equipment and operational procedures also play a significant part. Such factors make it difficult to compare performance between shopping centres and identify the causes of inefficiencies. We needed to create an ongoing initiative to tackle this challenge!! 


The result was a tool to calculate the optimal water consumption in our shopping centres called Dive project. The tool functions by calculating the expected water usage of a shopping centre by, in essence, creating a virtual shopping centre where water needs are assessed based on a variety of factors.
Dive project estimates each shopping centre’s water needs taking into account factors such as local climate, usage patterns, equipment efficiency, landscape characteristics, occupancy and visitor numbers. The tool estimates the centres theoretical consumption based on its main water systems including cooling towers, WC’s and irrigated areas.
The tool allows for enhanced water management by identifying the least efficient systems for both individual assets and operational routines. It then estimates the expected environmental and financial benefits of changing water systems and operational routines to be more efficient. Dive project identifies quick wins, medium-term and longer-term investments which could be taken to improve water management further. Targets are then set for each site according to the inefficiencies that have been revealed.
To overcome the organisational challenges identified above, shopping centre teams were involved in all stages of the project, from identifying the main water systems and variables that influence their consumption to the sharing of best practices. Engagement tools such as webinars and training sessions were organised to share knowledge, quick wins and results across geographies, with follow up meetings to check the status of implementation measures. 


Taking on board the findings of an initial audit of 16 shopping centres located in Portugal, Brazil, Germany and Italy, Dive project has identified annual savings of more than 192,000 from improvement measures that are either implemented or in the conclusion phase. The average payback for these measures is just five months. Furthermore, they are expected to save 38,000m3 of water.
The tool has unveiled some surprising results. The performance of our most water intensive shopping centres is aligned with the theoretical ideal identified by the tool, while we have found several inefficiencies at our better performing assets. As a result, we have been able to identify where to act first and where to target our investments to ensure the greatest financial and water savings.
Furthermore, Dive project has been invaluable from a stakeholder engagement and employee training perspective, pointing out environmental and economic benefits of changing water systems and routines to allow for successful implementation. Training sessions for operations managers and maintenance teams have been held in all countries and individual reports have been sent to 41 centres.


Our Business Strategy encompasses a focus on a set of sustainability priorities with the aim of creating a virtuous circle whereby we address the primary sustainability risks facing our operations in order to safeguard our continued capacity to do business. One of the priorities has been the investigation on “ways” to reduce the environmental impact of our shopping centres as part of our long-term focus on Safe People and Eco-Efficiency. As an example, over the last two years we have developed the Bright and Dive projects, theoretical modelling tools that enable us to calculate shopping centres’ optimal energy and water consumption respectively in order to compare this with their real energy and water usage.

Sonae Sierra