Sodexo – Sodexo ‘Clears the Air’ with Innovative HVAC Program

Summary statement about the project

Sodexo, global leader in quality of life services, improves living environments for residents of the mining portfolios it manages. This involves delving deeply into what affects the most valued of commodities: Air.

In January 2019, Sodexo introduced a specialised Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Improvement Program to investigate and improve Indoor Air Quality and Asset Management.

This contributed to the wellbeing of tenants impacted by the ~29,000 HVAC Systems spread across a portfolio spanning more than 3,250 residential houses and ~18,000 accommodation rooms and related central facilities across six townships and ~20 remote villages across Western Australia’s Pilbara Region.

Description of project or framework addressing the assessment criteria

  • Use of Best Practice Asset Management Principles

Operating and maintaining an extensive portfolio of residential and commercial properties across a geographically large and remote area in Australia, Sodexo has recognised they manage many aging assets which are still being used.

The extreme nature of the ambient environment due to dust, heat and high humidity can cause issues with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), mould, occupant discomfort, condensation, high operating costs, and asset failure.

There was a clear need to ensure the infrastructure supporting IAQ was being appropriately managed for the environment in which the assets operated, including an understanding of where assets sat in their lifecycle.

A remediation and replacement strategy was developed.

The project closed the gap in knowledge, asset condition, and reliability, and led to secondary benefits.

  • Degree of originality and ingenuity of solution

In 2019, Sodexo launched a specialised HVAC Improvement Program to investigate and improve Indoor Air Quality and Asset Management across the IFMS portfolio.

This involved undertaking an environmental scan and assessing a range of HVAC assets that were more than 30 years old.

Under manufacturers’ specifications, these had reached end-of-life capability, resulting in reduced operating parameters which could cause a decrease in air quality.

It was also identified there had been a notable increase in failure events at the time of year peak performance was required from HVAC systems. Since implementation of this program, Sodexo has seen a 38% reduction in failure events being raised against HVAC systems.

  • Program and project management

A dedicated team of technicians commenced with an asset servicing and assessment campaign to understand the HVAC System landscape.

This allowed tailored Asset Management Plans to be drafted for Package HVAC Systems and assets which impacted IAQ the greatest across the IFMS residential housing portfolio. 

Assets were graded in line with the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) guidelines for Asset Condition Assessment, Performance, Data Collection and Management.

Assets and their sub-components were graded between C1 (New/Very Good) and C5 (End of Life/Very Poor). This outlined a roadmap, ensuring the best value for money solution which supported the improved quality of life for residents was developed.

  • Benefit/Value of the project or service to the community or organisation

Strategic remediation and replacement activities have allowed multiple flow on effects which impact the environment and social value.

During the environmental scan undertaken as part HVAC system improvement program, Sodexo identified mould and dust contributors to the negative safety effect of resident’s wellbeing.

This resulted in a need to deliver clear outcomes which reduced exposure risk to these items. Ducting of various ages and condition were identified as part of the team’s assessment.

The program identified ~2,500 assets in the residential housing portfolio, of which 108 Rigid HVAC Units (7% of total assets) were deemed to be in a C5 end-of-life condition and 477 (31%) which were deemed to require remediation.

A specialist company was engaged to remediate identified ducting, which included internally cleaning the ductwork by removing dust, mould and debris, and then undertaking repairs and applying a specialist antimicrobial coating. Remediation of ducting has a further positive effect in that it extends the asset’s life by improving structural integrity and reducing the risk of dust and mould issues reoccurring.

Due to the volume of ducts requiring remediation, the program is being staged by priority over a five-year period.

Replacement of ducting has also improved the energy efficiency of the Package HVAC Systems through a reduction in thermal loss.

Working with stakeholders, the team were able to reduce the number of C5 assets to just 58 at the end of 2020. With a further 60 Ducts committed for replacement, it is forecast that all C5 will eliminated from the residential portfolio during 2021.

To support the rectification activities, Sodexo also developed a user guide for the residents which allows them to contribute to their own wellbeing. The user guide includes expectations around filter cleaning and intervals as well as operating parameters which allow the HVAC System to operate efficiently.

  • Submission

While Package HVAC Systems and Ducting are interconnected, there was a requirement to split the focus to allow appropriate management. Due to the volume, age, and variety of Package HVAC Systems across the portfolio, the strategy was simplified to the most cost-effective approach.

Regular defined proactive service activities were implemented and resulted in moving base asset condition being improved without the need for major intervention.

Package HVAC Systems were also categorised to allow a dedicated refurbishment or replacement strategy to be developed and implemented. This included a working with suppliers to deliver replacement assets which met revised specifications and improved performance.

Despite installing larger capacity Package HVAC Systems which were capable of handling the Pilbara environment, they operate far more efficiently than the units they are replacing and reduce energy consumption while in operation by on average >15%.

The program identified ~2,500 assets in the residential housing portfolio, of which 287 Package HVAC Units (11.5% of total assets) were deemed to be in a C5 end-of-life condition. Working with stakeholders, the team has been able to reduce this number to just 30 at the end of 2020. With a further 52 Package HVAC Systems committed for replacement is forecast that all C5 will eliminated from the residential portfolio and assets rated as C4 will start to be replaced during 2021.

The C4 assets will be refurbished and converted to spare units to assist in the event of an unplanned catastrophic failure.

The program also identified that of ~2,500 assets in the residential housing portfolio, 780 (30%) were utilising R22 gas which has been identified as environmentally damaging and is being phased out prior to an outright ban on its use coming into effect.

This has resulted in a gas conversion program being implemented for units that are still in good operating condition. A newer R427 environmentally friendly gas is being used in place of R22. This resulted in some key components needing replacement due to the different operating pressures and specifications of the R427 gas. Six tonnes of R22 gas will be eliminated through the combined unit replacement and conversion programs.

3. Opinion as contribution made by the nominated team/organisation

What sets Sodexo apart is the company’s unwavering commitment to identify each client’s requirements and provide a tailored solution to plan, integrate and deliver facilities management services.

The subject of air quality in Australia is a relatively new area, however, people are becoming increasingly concerned and better educated about the quality of air they breathe.

Through its substantial experience, Sodexo has recognised the best outcomes are achieved through collaboration. Sodexo formed a specialised team which integrated into the company’s Integrated Facilities Management Services (IFMS) program.

It was a collective and collaborative approach involving and drawing from the key Asset and Building Maintenance teams of Engineering, Reliability, Planning, Scheduling, and Execution as well as stakeholders both internal and external to Sodexo IFMS.

Following the Sodexo Asset Management Framework has allowed the team to gain alignment to ISO 55000 Asset Management Standards that will support a future planned program of work to gain ISO 55000 certification.

4. General comments and supporting evidence

The most notable changes in Asset Maintenance Strategy for Townsites is an evolution and further development in the successful HVAC servicing program undertaken during 2019.

Rolling out from March, the HVAC servicing program recommenced with dedicated teams of technicians. The HVAC servicing team will start a program to retrofit any Package Units still operating with the soon to be banned R22 refrigerant gas to operate on R427a refrigerant.

A notable change is also occurring in the dedicated team undertaking the work. While the 2019 team consisted of six HVAC technicians and six General Hands, during 2020 the General Hands changed to HVAC Apprentices.

The last of the Package AC units identified as being in a C5 condition during the 2019 inspection and servicing program are planned to be replaced in 2021.A review has also been conducted on preventative maintenance strategies that need undertaking on the residential housing portfolio.

These have been aligned into an annual residential property inspection so that a property is to be visited only once per year to conduct essential services and safety inspections. In doing so, tenant impact shall be minimised, and asset integrity will improve.

These services are also being undertaken during the March to November timeframe to reduce the likelihood of unplanned maintenance requirements and inconvenience to tenants during the Pilbara summer cyclone period.

Key activities undertaken during the Annual Residential Property Service include:

  • Electrical Safety Inspection
  • HVAC System Inspection and Service
  • Hot Water Unit Inspection and Service
  • Fixed Kitchen Appliance Inspection
  • Pool Pump and Chemical Dosing System Inspection and Service where installed
  • Alignment of Service with Known repairs

Separate dedicated teams were established to support Package HVAC System replacements and Duct Replacement and Remediations.

Before Remediation                                        After Remediation

Before Remediation                                        After Remediation

Before Replacement

After Replacement

Actual replacement forecast for key assets as an output of the Project.

The program of work has also allowed Sodexo to embed Asset, Maintenance Process and Systems discipline that will ultimately support us in gaining alignment to ISO 55000 Asset Management Standards.

IPWEA grading and Sodexo aligned strategy graphic.

IFMS, Sodexo Asset Management aligned framework.

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