How Retail Businesses Can Fund Sustainability Projects

In a challenging economic environment for retail businesses sustainability improvements can provide a much-needed boost to their bottom line.

For most retailers, energy costs from lighting, heating and cooling combine for a major portion of their operating costs. By reducing energy and materials use, as well as the amount of waste sent to landfill, retail businesses can significantly cut operating costs and improve sustainability.

Upgrading lighting is the single most effective way to reduce energy usage and can provide savings by as much as 85 percent, while regular maintenance on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment is the best way to ensure the efficiency of a retailer’s operations.

Despite opportunities to improve retail sustainability, the costs of upgrading lighting systems or committing to maintenance programs can be a significant financial burden. To overcome this challenge, however, retail environments can apply for funding through federal or state government initiatives aimed at curtailing energy usage.

The Australian Government Clean Energy Regulator’s Emissions Reduction Fund offers incentives for the retail sector to adopt new practices and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The scheme promotes the use of new practices and technologies that will reduce GHG emissions and improve energy efficiency for the business.

The Victorian Government offers the Energy Saver Incentive, which aims to help businesses cut power bills and reduce GHG emissions by providing access to discounted energy efficient products and services.

In News South Wales, the Sustainability Advantage program assists retail businesses to improve environmental performance, reduce costs and improve reputation. More than 500 participants are saving a combined $85 million a year through the program.

The NSW Government also offers the Energy Saver program, which helps retail businesses target, prioritise and implement energy efficiency opportunities. The program assists with costs of up to 50 percent off the cost of an energy audit and $10,000 to assist with technical expertise to support the implementation of a project.

Queensland’s ecoBiz program provides businesses with access to complementary tools and events to improve their energy performance. The program provides support to help track energy, water and waste usage, and measure the savings that result from implementing changes through the program.

For South Australian retail businesses, the Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES) provides support for reducing energy usage and improving overall sustainability. The SA Government scheme provides incentives for retailers to save energy through establishing energy efficiency and audit targets.

In the ACT, the ACTSmart Business Energy and Water Program offers rebates that help businesses lower running costs by reducing water and energy usage. The rebates help businesses upgrade to more energy and water efficient equipment, including lighting, heating or cooling, and toilets or tapware.

New Zealand’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) helps fund energy audits to allow retail businesses to identify energy and cost-saving opportunities. Funding can be sourced for audits of a number of technology systems, including compressed air, pumping and fans, process heating and refrigeration.

Each of these schemes is accepting applications, which can be completed on their respective websites. Programmed is available to work with you to apply for, and invest the funds on, energy and sustainable initiatives that improve a business’s bottom line, while also reducing their environmental impact.

Providing consulting and implementation services, the Programmed team provides unbiased, vendor independent solutions to improve energy and sustainability outcomes in retail environments. If you are interested in discussing solutions that improve sustainability, contact Programmed now.

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Sustainability Victoria’s Business Grants – Boosting Productivity

Applications are now open for Sustainability Victoria’s energy assessment grants. An energy assessment can help your business boost productivity and save money by providing valuable insights as well as the right advice.

Sustainability Victoria

The scope of an energy assessment may include:

  • Investigating the usage of all types of energy consumed and energy using equipment within a building, facility or process
  • Identifying the energy usage of all major heating and cooling applications and its percentage against total energy use
  • Identifying cost-effective measures to improve the efficiency of energy use
  • Estimating the potential energy savings, indicative budget costs and payback periods for each recommended action
  • Reviewing energy management strategies, including monitoring systems and evaluation process

Right now, Victorian government grants are available to help small and medium sized businesses get the right information on ways to improve energy efficiency. This programme provides energy assessment grants exclusively for small and medium sized Victorian businesses to identify and undertake energy efficiency improvements.

Depending on the assessment type you choose, businesses receive up to $6000. You will achieve a solid understanding of your energy use, identify how to best use your energy load, access incentives of up to $3000 to implement efficiency improvements, receive valuable input on what equipment/upgrades will serve you best, reduce overall energy costs and achieve reduced maintenance costs.

Programmed Electrical Technologies is a long standing partner and preferred service provider with Sustainability Victoria. Our audits/assessments have equipped customers with the right information and delivered results. For example, we recently rolled out a similar assessment (and subsequent solutions) at 114 William Street, Melbourne leading to outstanding improvements in:

  • The building’s energy consumption
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Air quality
  • Reactive maintenance costs
  • The property’s NABERS rating which led to a considerable growth in the building’s valuation, according their own management

Click here to find out more about this great project.

Keen to find out more? Click here to find out more about the grant and application process. The grant has a fixed pool of funds so we advise that you get in quick!

Discover how you can undertake an energy assessment now and get a better understanding of energy saving avenues through a quick chat with our team.

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Living Out Safety, Even When We Keep Up Appearances

“It’s us who will be up there so we make sure there are going to be no mistakes.” – Rhys Wight, Programmed Site Foreman

Ingham's Safety

Ingham’s is Australia and New Zealand’s largest integrated poultry producer. Their feedmill down at Clyde, Victoria have been a Programmed customer for almost two decades. Beginning as a painting customer, they now engage Programmed for their grounds and corporate imaging needs as well.

Encouraged by the strength of their relationship with us and the work we have done, particularly in helping them protect and maintain their machinery and equipment at the establishment, Ingham’s recently engaged us to restore and refurbish their tanks at the 40-year old Clyde plant.

These latest painting works included painting a cluster of tanks which are 23 metres high, and the Programmed Travel Tower, operated by Branko Majhen, was brought out to safely complete this. The work also needed a team of Twin Rope Access Painters which included Foreman Rhys Wight, Robert Stewart and Robert Schimmelpfennig. The twin rope access team work in the places where the boom cannot reach. Sometimes these are very difficult to access, but for a trained and drilled team, it’s all in a day’s work.

The height of the works required strict risk management, which the team closely followed throughout ensuring all aspects of risk assessments and pre-start job safety analyses were diligently conducted, including briefings on a daily basis. The type and scope of the works qualified the job for the Programmed High Risk Register which notifies high risk work to others in the business, including the State HSEQ manager. Upon visiting the site during works, VIC State HSEQ manager, Lex Emrose, found the team operating at their Programmed Zero Harm best.

Truly, the teams have taken safety to heart, and do so with pride. It’s even written in their Pre-start Job Safety Analysis. In the words of site foreman, Rhys Wight, “It’s us who will be up there so we make sure there are going to be no mistakes”. They not only repeat this mantra, they also live it out, exhibiting this with work based on solid foundations of risk assessment and records, training and practice rescues.

Branco demonstrable pride in his work is evident too. His 40-plus years’ service includes over 20 years operating the Programmed Travel Tower. He maintains this in A1 condition, regularly breaking out the on-board pressure washer to keep the boom and truck clean – a job he proudly states takes him two hours to complete.

Alan Burrell, Programmed’s South East Branch Manager, has carefully looked after and built the relationship with Ingham’s over the past 8 years. He regularly reviews the work his team has done with Ingham’s to ensure the customer is continually satisfied, and also makes sure Ingham’s recognises the Programmed Difference his team delivers, especially in the area of safety.

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Educating A Sustainable Future At Our Schools

The sustainability of schools has become a key consideration for principals, teachers, parents and students. So how can they make improvements to their sustainability performance?

Sustainability Education

Educational premises use a significant amount of energy and water, making the sustainability of schools, universities and other learning facilities an ongoing challenge.

According to the Victorian Government, schools under its management account for a large percentage of its energy usage, with annual costs reaching close to $40 million.

In Australia, there are incentives for schools and universities to reduce energy consumption. Principals, parents, teachers and students increasingly want to promote sustainability, with energy efficient practices a key part of new models being introduced in curriculums.

There are a number of ways a school or university can save money by improving their energy, water and waste efficiency. For starters, monitoring energy use and developing action plans to improve energy efficiency will have real benefits for principals and property managers.

Despite the opportunities to reduce costs, generating capital to fund these initiatives can often be the biggest challenge in the way of improving environmental performance.

To help with this process there are national and state-level programs and services that have been set up to guide decision makers through the process of securing funding and implementing improvements.

At a national level, the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) is a partnership between the Federal Government and Australia’s states and territories that seeks to support schools and their communities to become more sustainable.

AuSSI engages the educational community in a whole-of-school approach by exploring sustainability through real-life learning experiences and identifying improvements in a school’s management of resources and facilities, including energy, waste, water and landscape design.

The program also helps to address the financial issues that can be a burden for principals aiming to implement new sustainability initiatives, and it links with other state-based programs that help provide access to funding.

For example, the ResourceSmart Schools initiative in Victoria helps principals and administrators embed sustainability into everything they do, including into operations that determine energy usage.

The Victorian Government committed $1 million to continue the delivery of ResourceSmart Schools in 2015-16. The commitment enabled delivery partners and networks to support schools to reduce energy, waste and water usage.

The Australian Government’s Capital Grants Program for Non-government Schools offers financial help to improve infrastructure for schools that may not otherwise have access to capital resources.

Through these programs and services, education facilities can make applications for funding and grants to improve the sustainability of their schools. Each of these schemes is accepting applications, which can be completed on their respective websites.

Programmed provides both sustainability consulting and implementation services, with a focus on developing personalised solutions that have been designed to deliver improvements to operational performance.

Programmed is available to work with your organisation in applying for funding and also assists with project financing. This process involves structuring a repayment program that uses energy and maintenance cost savings to offset the payments, reducing the need to raise or use operating capital.

If you are interested in discussing solutions that improve sustainability, contact Programmed now.

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6 Summer Gardening Tips

Our grounds team have a great deal of experience providing grounds maintenance and landscaping services. We share their summer gardening tips here.

Summer Gardening Blog

We have now arrived in summer leaving a cool and wet spring behind us. Although, there hasn’t been many hot days you may find your lawn at home has some sections that are starting to change to a more pale green as those species start to seed or die off. You may also notice that the kikuyu and couch grasses are starting to get greener and grow quite quickly now.

6 Summer Gardening Tips:

  • It is time to get things ready for summer. Limit planting except where you can ensure a good supply of water and you can also use some water saving techniques. If you are planting consider using water retention crystals in the planting hole.
  • Always water in new plants deeply to remove air pockets and reduce transplant shock. Try using a seaweed tonic mixed into your water at this stage. Existing plants should be watered in the cool of the evening to allow maximum time for the water to soak in.
  • Ensure your gardens and pots are mulched well. Pebbles are good for pots as they also give some weight to the container making it less likely to blow over. Choose paler stones which will reflect heat.
  • Consider shading more tender plants and moving pots to cooler and shady areas on extreme heat days. There are pot stands with wheels that can make moving items easier, or perhaps use a trolley.
  • By now it may be too late to undertake a lawn renovation, but the application of a good liquid wetting agent will assist in water penetration to extend the life of your lawn in summer conditions. This will mean that benefits from any rainfall (or irrigation if you have the ability to do) will be maximised.  There are some on the market that incorporate seaweed extracts to give the soils a bit of a boost also.  It is also best for the lawn to mow on a high setting to encourage stronger root growth and plant vigour.
  • Summer can certainly be the time that weeds can get away from us.  Sometimes we are on holiday and so cannot get the time to remove them when they appear. If there are summer storms or gardens are irrigated, the warmer summer conditions will certainly mean that weeds will germinate and grow quickly.  Consider asking a relative or friend to keep an eye on your garden.  Mulch gardens well, and remove weeds prior to seeding to reduce the weed seed stock in the soils.  Or maybe just have an enjoyable holiday away, and have a ‘backyard blitz’ organised for your return.  Make a day of it, take some before and after pictures, have a barbeque afterwards and survey your transformed garden.

Updated from our original post in December 2013.

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Laying It On Pink

With the help and expertise of Programmed’s landscaping team, The National Gallery of Victoria are playing host to one of the coolest spots in Melbourne this summer.


The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia. The gallery parades a wide range of international and local artist collections including exhibitions, programs and events free for all to share in. This spring, the NGV Architecture Commission opened their 2nd annual competition inviting architects to consider innovative ways to bring playfulness to the NGV’s Grollo Equiset Garden.

Melbourne-based M@ STUDIO Architects’ reinvention of the suburban car wash won the competition, and Programmed was privileged enough to bring this bright, colourful concept to life.

It wasn’t the first time though we were doing this, and our Corporate Imaging team had earlier delivered a similarly unique, award winning architectural installation in 2015 at the NGV. This time around, it was our Landscaping team who trooped down to once again work the Programmed magic.

Entitled, ‘Haven’t you always wanted…?’ this year’s installation is an evocative structure consisting of fluorescent lighting, a lightweight steel body, layered cricket netting, a translucent polycarbonate roof and bright pink turf.

The blushing turf was most important, being the display’s groundwork, and included five lanes of bright pink turf complete with rubberised humps and road markings. Beneath the turf, our team also provided drainage and soil works to accommodate the diffuser mists that recreated the experience of being at a car wash. Completing this, is a glittering ‘car wash’ sign that illuminates the area after dark.

Laying it on pink for the NGV’s Spring/Summer exhibition definitely ranks as one of our more fun, light-hearted projects. And an immensely satisfying one because we had to work within tight timeframes and a really compact space while making sure the display wasn’t washed away by the very wet and unpredictable Melbourne weather.

The space and car wash is open to the public and will be used for events, talks, live music performances and more before it is taken down in April 2017. If you are able to, why not take a walk on the pink side of life these holidays and get up close with Programmed’s handiwork. While you’re there, do take a photo and send it in to us.

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Considerations for Commercial Landscapes

Be it apartment or office buildings, hotels or business parks, well-maintained commercial landscapes are a definite plus. As any property owner or professional strata manager will tell you, a good looking vista boosts perceptions, heightens property value and provides great satisfaction to tenants and owners alike. After all, who wouldn’t like to live or work where the grass is indeed greener?

Commercial Landscaping

Keeping up appearances, landscaping-wise that is, is also a scene that changes in accordance to the times. Commercial landscapes are not immune, and in fact face additional challenges in terms of keeping in step with not just what’s in, but also staying apace with maintenance needs and capabilities.

When implementing or updating your property’s landscape, how do you assess if your preferences are right for you and suited to its setting?

Each property’s setting, occupants and owner preferences are different. When making such landscaping-related decisions, it will be of great help to know the answers for the most pressing questions. Do you have a strong preference towards having a low maintenance garden? Do you want a native garden? What kind of grass would you like, or would you just prefer artificial (or even no grass at all!)? Are you able to maintain the foliage and health of the plants or landscaped area? Is there have reliable water access throughout the property?

Design and aesthetic considerations include the inclusion of water features on site, like a pond for example. What types of trees do you prefer to have and are they fit for purpose? Should the plants be ones that flower? Small, large or no hedges? What about the occupants at the property: could they potentially be allergic to certain plants? Is there sufficient awareness that certain plants, though common and a great favourite among many, such as Lilly Pilly, ones tending to attract pests?

Put simply, it is crucial to have a clear vision of your landscaping needs before proceeding to create a stunning landscape conducive to all. This means melding visual needs with the needs of both occupants and owners, as well as ensuring landscaping design, irrigation and plant choices best fit the environment.

Astutely, many commercial properties have chosen to outsource landscaping maintenance nowadays, seeing value in their ability to uphold present day standards, meet needs and derive an overall improved outcome. The specialist input from professionals, not just in grounds care and planning, but importantly in the decision making with regards to structure, plant choice and environment has often yielded benefits and results beyond the reach of even the most avid of everyday gardeners, and in a much shorter time.

Is your existing landscape adding value to your property? Or would you like to find out if the existing garden design, trees or plant choices are best suited commercially to your setting? Get all your questions answered. From simple fact finding to full-scale upgrades, Programmed is ready to help. Ask a question now.

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Feeling Good, Doing Good: The Role of Superior Sports Turf in Positive Education

Sports are key facilitators of Positive Education for their ability to strengthen relationships, build positive emotions, enhance personal resilience, promote mindfulness and encourage a healthy lifestyle. That’s why more and more schools are today placing greater emphasis on getting their sports facilities, turfed areas and ovals into great shape. These not only sets a school apart, but its students too.

Superior Sports Turf in Positive Education

Show off the prowess of your school’s sporting capabilities with turf and grounds that impress on sight. It demonstrates an all-around focus on education and personal development so students can feel good and do well. It doesn’t matter if you have a small oval or one geared towards hosting competitions of international standards. What counts is making them equally exceptional to play on.

Health and durability of the surfaces are aspects frequently topping the maintenance priority list, but there are other areas schools can look into with regards to great sports grounds.

The key to making your sports fields fantastic lies in the ability to tailor and scale your turf maintenance to meet your needs.  This means a focus that goes beyond just task-based activities. A better approach would be a holistic view, one that takes into consideration maintenance as well as your sporting calendar, the seasons and the relevant sports played then, and even, how to make your sporting fields important income generators.

Let’s examine these individually:

1.       Sporting Calendar, Events and Activities

Looking after your sports turf means forward planning. Proper turf maintenance will ensure your grounds are best presented at key moments. The last thing you want is a poor looking playing field on event days. Rather, show off impeccable sporting grounds to awe visitors and impress parents when hosting interschool sports carnivals. Achieve this with planning and management – not just maintenance – that takes into consideration fertilisation to optimise health and thickness in anticipation of events; the evening out of surfaces prior to events (also minimising risk of on-field injuries); drainage and irrigation so ovals and fields are not soggy nor muddy.

Additionally, incorporate key preparation activities such as line marking for fields and athletic tracks into the maintenance timeline, and protect your fields with post-event restoration works to minimise damage from the additional footfall.

2.       Seasons and Seasonal Sports

Often the window of change from one sporting season to another, say footy to cricket, is very small. Within a matter of days, schools will have to remove goal posts, mark up fields and prepare the wickets. With proper planning, maintenance and management, you would have prepared the resources so the changeover can be quickly implemented, and the relevant turfed areas prepared with equal speed.

3.       Income generation

Who wouldn’t enjoy increased cash flow? Many schools now view their sports fields as income-generating assets, hiring these out to third parties and sporting groups. To be able to do this, schools will need to meet the standards and expectations of these third party stakeholders by bringing the quality and presentation of their turf and sporting areas up to a higher level capable of hosting games and competitions, one where even these external parties would be proud to call their home ground.

Proper management, foresight and long-term planning. These will result in sports fields with continued healthy surfaces, underpinned by growth strategies able to deliver turf that is perennially lush, green and strong. Early identification of fungus or diseases are also key, as is the ability to take corrective measures early on so these don’t become full-grown problems. Discreet practices such as traffic management to keep students from treading on fields ahead of key sporting events, but still not impacting daily use are also turf management secrets for achieving luscious green ovals. As is of course, a good dose of tender loving care.

What do you really want for your sporting grounds? Programmed has horticulturists who are also avid sports people. We combine our passion for grounds and the game to bring you superior results. See what we can do for your sporting turf in this downloadable brochure or chat to us today, because positive results matter.

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[Free Checklist] Cut expensive hidden costs with properly planned maintenance

Our free checklist for maintenance budgeting has been a useful resource for many schools, helping to eliminate unplanned repair costs and stave off expensive hidden costs.

Cut hidden costs

Making property maintenance a priority in school budgets and planning almost seems a given. Why? Because it ensures your school is always well-presented.

However with the pressures of running a school, looking after enrolments and being certain your curriculum delivers excellence, it’s often hard to ensure every detail of repair and maintenance.

Yet, it’s the peeling paint, uneven turf patches and broken windows or doors that people notice first.

Make sure you’re never in that situation with this template that helps you ensure that no area of maintenance is overlooked. It’s easy to use and comprehensive, listing both common areas for maintenance as well as those that are sometimes missed. A column for estimated costs means you can plan and budget accordingly, so you avoid expensive or unforeseen costs.

Make certain everything is covered, and guarantee yourself of a school that always makes a great first impression.

Maintenance Budget Checklist



















(Click on the checklist above or here to download a copy )

Need help costing maintenance listed on the checklist? Of perhaps you’re not sure how to implement maintenance in a short time or in a way that fits your budget. Programmed makes maintenance simple. We have the expertise, resources and labour to complete jobs in a short amount of time, and can even help with funding for immediate results but without the upfront costs.

Find out more by dropping us a line or calling us. You could also fill out the checklist and send it to us. We’ll provide you a solution enabling you to complete work upfront, and amortise costs over time.

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IoT In Your School – Putting A Complete FM Solution At Your Fingertips [Infographic]

The Internet of Things (IoT) is putting power in the hands of educators, school administrators and principals. It places all aspects of education and school management within easy reach, and is a conduit able to simplify systems, reduce carbon footprint and cut costs. Get on board with the shift in education facility management infrastructure and see how you can manage school operations with just one touch.  

This infographic illustrates how the IoT can help you manage your school with better dexterity. IoT has the agility to help you combine efficiencies across school infrastructure as well as education delivery (see our various blogs and infographic on these).

IOT School Facilities_Infographic

Want to create the change that is IoT? We make the implementation process simple and can answer your questions, however basic or complex. If IoT is on your agenda, or even if you are just thinking about it, we can help you. Speak to us today to see what solutions we can help you with.

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