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M&S buys into sustainable future

Manchester-based energy-management company NCS has been working with Marks and Spencer for more than seven years, and recently has been working to achieve its energy-saving targets under Plan A.

Although the retailer is building several new sustainable learning stores which are highly energy-and carbon-efficient, the older stores in its estate also need to be addressed in order for M&S to meet its carbon reduction targets.

Over the past four years NCS has completed around 200 projects with the retailer nationwide. In this time, M&S has reduced its energy use by 23 per cent across its estate.

“We are approved contractors for M&S and sit on their technical evaluation forum for products and solutions,” says NCS managing director Chris Norburn.

“As part of that we get given a budget each year to save energy against return on investment and carbon savings criteria to assist the M&S Plan A initiative, which is to reduce its energy consumption by 25 per cent for 2012 and 35 per cent by 2015 [from 2007],” he says.

One such store is Barton Square in the Trafford Centre, Manchester, where NCS implemented a range of measures to decrease the store’s energy consumption and carbon emissions as part of a five-week project.

“We go in and look at everything from the gas and water to the electrics and refrigeration to find ways to reduce the energy consumption.

“We then go back to the customer with our proposals, which have a cost and saving against each initiative. They can then choose which initiatives to implement,” says Mr Norburn.

At the Barton Square store these initiatives include:

  • An energy-efficient lighting redesign, which included the implementation of presence and lux controls;
  • Intelligent lighting controls based on the NCS Engenia Platform, which includes automated stocking and trading levels with links to both the remote monitoring centre and the sites burglar alarm system;
  • Upgrades to the building management systems to ensure all HVAC systems are fully optimised and compensated to provide the most efficient operating settings;
  • Efficient hand-driers and push and sensor-controlled taps fitted to all staff and customer sinks;
  • Re-commission of the solar thermal system which had been de-commissioned due to fault within the unit.

The project was run with full CDM requirements and incorporated WEEE directive. The project had a designated project manager and commissioning team who completed the final handover to the store and its regional management teams.

“We fitted lighting control systems including our own design called the Engenia platform which is linked to the burglar alarm system; when the system is armed and no-one is in the store, it automatically turns everything off, when people come in the morning it allows a percentage of the lighting to come on, then the rest of the lighting will turn on 10 minutes before sales period starts,” Mr Norburn says.

One of the most important aspects of the work NCS does for M&S is connecting store systems to a central bureau in Scotland.

“All the systems have to be remotely connected by their intranet back to the bureau in Scotland, where they can be monitored and controlled so we fit the entire IT infrastructure too,” says Mr Norburn.

The team also runs kick-start meetings at the beginning of works and handover meetings at the end to ensure the store is used to its maximum capabilities.

Quick and clean

When retrofitting and upgrading stores across the M&S estate, the greatest challenge for NCS is the logistics of working around an open store, and having minimal impact on the customers.

“The biggest challenge always with M&S is we have to do a lot of work at night because we can’t have any impact on sales,” says Mr Norburn.

“We provide security for the store if we need to, and make sure we deliver quickly but also cleanly; each morning we make sure we’ve cleaned up and there’s no mess so the customer does not know you’ve been there.”

Organising the logistics for an often short but intensive project requires a dedicated project manager, who can schedule the deliveries and programme of works so it all runs smoothly.

“We have to make sure everything is delivered within the programme works, we can’t have something turn up four weeks after we started because we’ll be nearly finished.

“A project manager also makes sure when we do the lighting controls we do the lighting retrofit at the same time; it’s all about project management,” says Mr Norburn.

Projects such as the Barton Square retrofit are about finding ways to get the energy savings required without affecting essential services.

“M&S has a specification guide that we must adhere to; they have certain criteria for lighting levels on the shop floor, the temperature in the food hall, scheduling and so on.

“We also have to make sure the work we do does not have a detrimental effect anywhere else, so it’s vital we know all the systems on site before beginning work,” explains Mr Norburn.

To assess the success of the measures installed across the M&S sites, both the client and NCS monitor them so they can make adjustments and learn which initiatives were most successful.

“We monitor the energy usage through online data for the first 12 months for each site post-install, and then if anything does lapse we can go back,” he says.

Green targets

At the M&S Barton Square store the team had energy-saving targets of 28 per cent savings, and after 13 months they are maintaining
27 per cent savings and the return on investment period for the scheme is running at 3.1 years.

When considering payback times for installations, each is considered on its own individual merits. “When we go to M&S with the proposals, they will look at it in terms of how much carbon they’ll be saving but they also need to consider return on investment.

Typically that is around three years, but they will consider anything over that if it saves a lot of carbon,” says Mr Norburn.

The five contractors on M&S’s technical evaluation board meet around once a month to give feedback on successful projects and learn from one another.

“Any good initiatives out there that are proven are shared across the group. It’s an open book forum; the five contractors have worked together for many years and although we compete in the outside world, working for M&S we are one team,” he says.

It seems to be working. M&S head of energy management Mervyn Bowden says: “NCS is a valued partner and has played a key part in reducing our energy consumption.”


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