The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Foundation House, provides services to advance the health, wellbeing and human rights of people of refugee backgrounds in Victoria who have experienced torture or other traumatic events in their country of origin or while fleeing those countries. The not for profit organisation is funded by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, charitable organisations and donations from private individuals.
Although Foundation House has several locations in Victoria, the head office in Brunswick is the only one with a secure, long term lease, which makes it easier for them to make longer term investments (such as solar) on the building.
Foundation House Finance Manager, Manny Bonnici was keen to find ways to save the organisation money. When he noticed that other local not for profits were installing solar on their roofs he was curious to find out how these projects were funded and what the savings might be. Upon speaking to the manager of Milparinka, another nearby not for profit service, Manny learned of the grant that they had received to help with the upfront cost of the solar, from Powershop and facilitated by the Australian Energy Foundation (AEF).
Manny contacted the team at AEF to find out more. Within two to three months of contacting AEF, Foundation House were proud to be installing 62.92kW (233 panels), which should reduce CO2 emissions by 45,010 kg per year and save around $13,050 each year off their electricity bills. AEF were able to assist Foundation House in getting three obligation free solar quotes from tried and tested solar suppliers on the commercial panel for AEF’s Positive Charge program. They also assisted Foundation House in making sense of the quotes in order to select the best one for them.
Although the incentive to undertake the project had originally been to make financial savings, Manny Bonnici was thrilled with the response from staff. “I got some great emails, expressing gratitude and happiness that we had decided to install solar,” Manny told us. “Emails that said things like ‘This warms my heart’ and ‘Thank you for doing this for the planet’. I don’t usually get responses like that in response to finance emails!”
The solar power will cover a lot of Foundation House’s daytime use, such as computers, lighting, kitchen equipment and heating and cooling. Foundation House plan to take some additional measures, such as managing the timing of their electric air conditioning and hot water, in order to maximise their usage of the solar generated electricity.
In addition to installing solar, Foundation House has taken several other steps toward more sustainable business practice. They have installed LED lighting in two of their five locations. Thanks to assistance from Moreland City Council’s Light$mart program, in conjunction with AEF, Foundation House were able to get a rebate from council to assist with the upfront costs of LED lighting at their Brunswick location. At the Brunswick site they have also implemented composting and recycling, as well as installing rainwater tanks to keep their beautiful gardens healthy year-round.
The social impacts of sustainability was something that the working group lead by Manny Bonnici along with Paul Leary, HR / Agency Operations Manager, Luke Neeson, IT Manager and Eric Livingstone, Client Business Information & Data Analyst have also been pleased with. The staff have been proud of the action and by taking small measures, such as having the rain water tanks that keep the garden alive, staff and visitors are able to interact with nature and achieve a sense of pride in their environment. The garden also provides a space for people to get together, which improves social cohesion.
Thousands of people come through the doors of Foundation House each year to receive support and they will be able to see the solar panels and tanks and make use of the gardens. There are two other not for profit organisations in the immediate area of Foundation House that have installed solar which is a great sustainability outcome. Hopefully seeing the solar will encourage others to take action toward more sustainable living and working.
If you are interested in getting solar or LED lights for your community organisation or business contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about Foundation House visit: http://www.foundationhouse.org.au