Diana Martínez, LSE MSc student in City Design and Social Science, gives the lowdown on her work as a Green Impact Project Assistant, helping to make the Peacock Theatre at LSE more sustainable. She has discovered a building that is energy-efficient, and which is cutting its water consumption with some unusual toilets…
I am interested in issues related to sustainability. For this reason, last term I decided to explore the different projects related to sustainability at LSE and to support one of them.
One of the projects that caught my attention was Green Impact. Green Impact is an environmental accreditation and award scheme run by the National Union of Students in more than 60 universities and colleges and 100 student unions across the UK, as well as a growing range of other public sector organisations including local authorities and NHS trusts. The aim is that staff and students are working to embed sustainable behaviour in their departments.
How does it work?
Green Impact focusing on supporting people to take simple actions to make small environmental changes in their workplace, and rewarding them for their efforts. Teams from departments across the organisation compete against each other. It follows an annual cycle, and at the end of each year, they are audited to receive awards for their efforts and their performance and might achieve a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum standard. At LSE, each team has a student Green Impact Project Assistant (‘GIPA’)to provide support with coordinating and completing the tasks. I am supporting this project and was assigned as a GIPA to the Peacock Theatre team.
Some tasks of the Green Impact Project Assistant
My tasks as a project assistant include:
- Motivating Green Impact team members.
- Helping write a departmental ‘green newsletter’.
- Putting up posters.
- Conducting online research on issues and initiatives that arose from team meetings.
- Uploading evidence to the online workbook.
At the beginning of December 2014 I was visiting and talking with the Green Impact team leader at the Peacock Theatre about the activities of the project. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the job that the team had already done to make the theatre more sustainable. Looking at some information about the building, one can see its capacity is enormous, with a hall that can host nearly 1000 people. Despite being a rather old building (built in 1960), the theatre scores well on energy use, and is fairly energy-efficient when compared with other buildings of a similar age in London. Its energy efficiency certificate gives it a ‘B’ rating, which is above average for buildings of this type. The theatre achieved this level after some tremendous improvements over the last couple of years.
Reducing water use at the Peacock Theatre
One of the questions that I asked the project leader was about the measures to save water. The theatre is in daily use for plays and other performances, lectures, conferences, LSE open days and more. This constant use implies very high water consumption, especially in toilets.
The Peacock Theatre refurbished its toilets in 2013 in order to be more sustainable.
LSE worked together with Propelair. This is a British company that has revolutionised the toilet with a 1.5 litre flush, using 84% less water than a standard toilet. Moreover, it uses 80% less carbon. The main benefit of the new toilet according to the company is its water saving capacity.
An average household with a nine-litre toilet flushes around 110 litres of water down the pan every day. Toilets in offices, schools and public conveniences account for an ever-greater proportion of total water use. Despite these water usage levels there has been little innovation in toilet functionality for many years.
In addition to superior performance and significant environmental benefits, replacing an old toilet by an air-flushed toilet makes economic sense as water bills can be reduced by several hundred pounds per year, depending on usage. Moreover, as the air-flushed toilet is recharged faster than a classical toilet, it can be used more frequently, which implies a saving in toilet space in commercial buildings. This is particularly significant in buildings that are used by large crowds in short intense periods, such as the Peacock Theatre .
The table below shows the annual savings which could be achieved based on the type of property, the number of flushes per day and the region of the country:
|Litres per flush saved||7.5||7.5||7.5||7.5|
|Flushes per day||50||95||10||20|
|Litres of water saved per annum||97,500||185,250||24,750||49,500|
|Thames Water area||£194||£368||£49||£98|
|South West Water area||£511||£971||£130||£259|
How does an air-flushed toilet work?
The diagram below shows how Propelair toilets work. Propelair patented a new method using displaced air, called POWA™ technology, Propelair®, that produces a powerful, high-performance flush. The mechanism uses a small amount of flush water, which is forced out of the bowl using air pressure. This is similar to the kind of toilets one encounters on aeroplanes.
This term at the Peacock Theatre
I am very excited and motivated to continue supporting the Green Impact Team at the Peacock Theatre, to help them achieve their goals in the coming term. I am sure I will learn a lot from the innovative approaches they have taken so far. And I hope we can further reduce the impact of the LSE infrastructure on our environment.
About the author
Diana Martínez Torres is an LSE Masters student in City Design and Social Science. She is convinced that sustainable mobility influences the quality of life of people, and transforms cities into more human, equitable and liveable places. Diana’s website is http://citiesforus.com, and she can be found on twitter: @CitiesForUs.