How much water does Australian industry use?

How are industries reducing their water consumption?

 

The United Nations World Water Day is held on March 22nd. Its focus: bringing to attention the importance of freshwater and its sustainable management. Each year revolves around a specific aspect of water, and this year, the theme is wastewater.

Wastewater is a result of consumption – water that has been used as part of commercial, industrial or residential processes. In general, wastewater is no longer potable or safe to introduce back into the environment, which reduces the total amount of freshwater available.

Australia is a nation that depends on its water resources. In 2014-2015, we consumed over 17,000 gigalitres (GL) across all sectors – the equivalent of 35 Sydney Harbours, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). For reference, 1 GL is equivalent to 1 billion litres.

At Locker Group, we want to celebrate the responsible use of resources in industry. So how are different industries reducing the amount of water they use?

Reducing water consumption is important for sustainability.Reducing water consumption is important for sustainability.

Conserving water in mining

According to the ABS, the mining industry consumed over 700 GL of water in 2014-2015. This is partly due to the number of vital roles water plays in the processing of minerals and the prevention of toxins entering the environment. However, this doesn’t meant that there aren’t innovative ways for mines to reduce their consumption and discharge as much as possible.

Mines can utilise nature in the form of wetlands to ‘purify’ wastewater.

Mining Facts highlights some of the active and passive ways to treat water so that it gets recycled and doesn’t go to waste. Active treatments, such as filtration or chemical treatment to remove contaminants are common methods. Passively, mines can utilise nature in the form of wetlands to ‘purify’ wastewater – filtering water to the point where it can be reincorporated into the environment. Other solutions include using bacteria to remove harmful toxins from water, allowing it to be recycled more easily, as outlined in the Australian Trade Commission’s Urban and Industrial Water report.

On the other hand, not all water used in mines is hazardous. Using something as simple as screens or grating to catch surface runoff on floors and walkways can contribute to the reduction of water used in mines.

Reducing runoff in agriculture

By far, the industry that uses the most water in Australia is agriculture. In 2014-2015, this sector used over 10,000 GL, according to the ABS. However, despite accounting for the vast majority of freshwater use (60 per cent), the agricultural industry is also leading the charge in reducing the water it consumes. Lauren Binns, Director of Environment and Agriculture Statistical Delivery and Communication, explains.

“The largest decrease in water consumption was in the agriculture industry. Ongoing dry conditions across the eastern states meant farmers used less water for irrigation, so consumption was down 10 per cent to 10,410 GL in 2014-15. This followed an 8 per cent decrease in the previous year,” said Ms Binns.

Preventing runoff from irrigation is crucial to reducing the amount of water that gets wasted.

According to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, most of the water used in agriculture goes towards the irrigation of crops. Preventing runoff from irrigation is crucial to reducing the amount of water that gets wasted. As in farming, this runoff often contains an excess of nutrients and particulates that, if introduced to rivers and streams, can contaminate fresh water supplies.

Strategies such as using screens or mesh are options to reducing matter in wastewater, whilst diverting its flow into retention ponds where it can be reused for irrigation is an effective way to curtail the total volume used.

The outlook is positive. Australia decreased its consumption of water by 7 per cent in 2014-2015, a trend supported across the majority of Australian sectors, reports the ABS.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

How are drones changing the construction process?

4 ways drones have improved the construction industry

 

Drones seem to be everywhere these days. From delivering packages, scaring birds away from airports – even to racing them – these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have proven their versatility and worth as an emerging technology.

UAVs have also revolutionised the construction industry in a number of predictable (and surprising) ways. At Locker Group, we’re excited to see how construction projects can benefit from the implementation of drones to provide innovate solutions.

1. Land surveying

In remote or wild areas, often the biggest hurdle in construction is simply surveying the land. Traditionally, the only method to accurately gauge an area was to do so on foot – an expensive and arduous task. Getting up in the air back then required physically putting a person up there, and the problems that come from manning light aircraft came with it. When drones arrived on the scene, everything changed and became a lot quicker and cheaper.

Drones allow surveyors to access and gain insight of property they would otherwise be unable to attain. Being able to accurately analyse an area, regardless of terrain, is a huge time and money saver in the overall process.

2. Safety of workers

UAVs provide an opportunity to monitor workers and their environment to ensure that everything is safe and up to regulation. It’s easier to routinely monitor a site via a UAV than it is to visit in person, and their ability to constantly record whatever they see provides a valuable record of a construction site in the event of an accident or mishap.

Drones provide a unique point of view in the construction industry.Drones provide a unique point of view in the construction industry.

3. Showing progress to clients

Traditionally, balancing a complicated and time-consuming construction project with the needs of the clients has been less than simple. Not only is a construction site unsuitable for tours, often clients are located a significant distance from where a project is taking place.

UAVs can be used to bridge this gap by providing an unobtrusive way to regularly feed clients and customers regular videos and images of a project without the need to don hard hats and steel-capped boots. What’s more, these “tours” can be done in real time with the option of live video streaming in order to improve the dialogue between clients and contractors.

For example, architecture projects using drones to show clients how their building fits in with the wider environment can help them decide which external facade best suits the surroundings.

4. Communicating between multiple sites

A building project has more than just one site, and a construction company usually has more than one project in the works. Successful contractors often aren’t able to stay on-site 24/7 and must rely on others to relay progress back to them.

When it comes down to it, drones aim to provide greater efficiency in the construction process.

With the use of UAVs providing a second, or even third pair of eyes, contractors, designers and architects no longer have to rely solely on others to ensure the job is progressing to plan. In mining construction, Rio Tinto’s aviation manager, Kevan Reeve, explained that drones have helped them bridge the gap between surveyors in remote locations.

“We have got our operations centre here in Perth that’s bringing that information in, and we are using the drones to increase our ability to get that information.” he said to ABC news.

When it comes down to it, drones aim to provide greater efficiency in the construction process – whether that be in the form of making sites more accessible for clients, or by improving communication between contractors and inspectors.Those efficiencies, in turn, translate to crucial savings on what are otherwise expensive projects. The construction industry in Australia alone is worth over $100 billion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so reducing costs where applicable is key.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

What makes a facade truly unique?

What to look for in a facade?

 

What’s in a good facade? A well done one can transform the outside of a building, giving a tired exterior a facelift or simply bringing an old building into the modern age.

Facades do more than look pretty. There are serious savings to be made in your energy expenditure bill, and by selecting ones that combat solar glare without impacting employees’ ability to see outside, productivity can be increased too.

At Locker Group, we offer a range of innovative facade designs that suit numerous applications. Below, we’ve outlined three different products, highlighting what makes them stand out solutions for any facade application.

Atmosphere

While natural lighting is good, there is such a thing as too much. Trying to work with the sun in your eyes or on your computer screen can put a halt to the productivity of even the most earnest employee. This is where Atmosphere’s perforated panels step in.

This new addition to the facade market has been specifically designed to combat solar glare yet allow workers a clear view of the space outside. Atmosphere achieves this thanks to folded steel panels that are versatile enough to meet any need. With different sized perforations on the top and bottom face, the panels simultaneously reduce the amount of solar radiation entering an office while maximising vision outside.

Reducing the amount of sunlight (and therefore heat) serves a double purpose. With less radiation entering the interior, less energy is required to cool the building. During period of peak sunlight, such as the height of summer, this can translate to serious energy savings. Simply installing Atmosphere to the exterior of a building reduces the amount of solar radiation hitting the glass by around 70 per cent. For a typical building, this can account for as much as a 40 per cent reduction in energy costs.

Pic Perf, a creative and versatile facade option.Pic Perf, a creative and versatile facade option.

Pic Perf

Your office is often the face of your company, so when it’s time for a makeover, Pic Perf is the way to go. Suddenly, a blank wall is transformed into a work of art overnight.

Pic Perf is a technique that adds a design to an existing facade such as Atmosphere. It carries the illusion of a single wall of art, creating an image from hundreds and thousands of punched holes, while still carrying out its regular functions as a facade. Despite looking like a solid wall from a distance, the perforated metal sheets retain air flow, vision and shade protection. As it combines the benefits of Atmosphere, using Pic Perf will see similar reductions in energy expenditure. It even works well as internal features.

Customisable to internal or external application with any image to suit, it’s an addition that’s designed to leave an impact.

Expanded metal

Rounding off the list is expanded metal. Designed for the prevention of the harsh glare of sunlight, this robust facade has a multitude of uses. Some of the applications suited for this product include:

  • Car park enclosures
  • Security screening
  • Plant screens
  • Balustrade panels
  • Privacy screens

In an external application, expanded metal gives an industrial look to the outside of a building when viewed up close, yet appear lightweight and open from afar.

The function and versatility of metal facades is an effective and economic option for the renovation of a building’s exterior. At Locker Group, we like to work closely with architects and designers to come up with creative solutions to construction requirements, whether the aim is to increase productivity by combating the sun, or to turn a building’s exterior into a giant logo.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

Are conveyor belts the best transport option?

Materials handling and efficiency: conveyor belts or dump trucks?

 

Most minerals travel a long distance from their point of extraction to their point of processing. Traditionally, trucks and other diesel engines have been the preferred mode of transport, but with rising petrol costs, maintenance and environmental impact, trucks have become an inefficient and costly option.

Alternatively, the use of conveyor belt systems is becoming a popular option for long-distance materials handling. Mines all over the world, including the Fabrica Mine in Minas Gerais State, Brazil have investigated the use of such systems for materials handling and found that conveyors hold a number of advantages over traditional modes of transportation.

Diesel is an inefficient and costly transport option.Diesel transportation is no longer the most efficient option.

Conveyor belts versus trucks: a question of energy efficiency

Mines have long sought to provide a balance between supplying essential non-renewable materials and lessening the environmental impact of getting them. Extraction of minerals is an energy-intensive process that currently relies heavily on fossil fuels. Advancements in technologies that aim to lessen the energy cost and resulting carbon footprint have the potential to dramatically lessen the impact mining has on the environment.

Conveyor belts have the potential to operate at 98 per cent energy efficiency and contribute much less to the energy cost of material handling.

According to a 2007 US Department of Energy study entitled “Mining Industry Energy Bandwidth”, diesel equipment is less efficient than electric equipment. Diesel transportation, such as service trucks, bulk trucks and rear-dump trucks, is highly energy intensive and accounts for 87 per cent of total energy consumed in materials handling. What’s more, according to the study, diesel transportation can only operate at a maximum 63 per cent efficiency rate.

On the other hand, electrical equipment such as conveyor belts have the potential to operate at 98 per cent energy efficiency and contribute much less to the energy cost of material handling. The added advantage is that electric systems do not generate exhaust fumes, which further lessens the environmental impact of materials handling.

Advantages of conveyors

The Fabrica Mine case study found that conveyor belt technology proved to be an effective and low-cost method of transportation. While they initially come with a high cost of investment and are less flexible than trucks, conveyor systems offer a number of distinct advantages:

  • Ability to transport over long distances.
  • Continuous production.
  • High capacity.
  • Lower environmental impact.
  • Low operation and maintenance costs.

Additionally, according to the book Evolutionary and Revolutionary Technologies for Mining (2002), in certain scenarios transport by conveyor belt systems allows for extra processing such as physical separation, prior to the material reaching the processing mills. This integration of processing and transport can further improve upon the efficiency of the system.

At Locker Group, our conveyor systems of woven wire, rolmat, spiral, plastic and plastic hybrid belts suit any conveyor application. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.

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