Reducing Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings

Buildings provide countless benefits to society, but they also account for significant environmental and health impacts. Commercial buildings in the UK are estimated to be responsible for some 18% of carbon emissions and because of this, there is a heavy burden of responsibility on the property sector to reduce carbon emissions.

When trying to tackle environmental impact, a collaborative approach should be taken where owners and tenants work together to reduce costs and carbon footprint. One method of ensuring all parties participation is the utilisation of a green lease. A green lease is a standard lease that includes provisions regarding the environmental responsibilities of both the owner and occupier towards the building they own/occupy. Examples of provisions include the sharing of data and energy reduction initiatives. British Land, at it’s York House headquarters, reduced landlord controlled energy use by 38% and occupier controlled energy use by 11% through such schemes, saving over £141,000 and benefitting both parties.

Energy usage should be measured because data is required to understand where energy reduction should be targeted. Automatic meter reading systems should be used; they provide half-hourly energy consumption profiles that allow a detailed understanding of how energy is consumed in different parts of a building and what reduction opportunities are available. The use of sub-meters with occupiers of multi-tenanted buildings can provide individual energy consumption profiles for each occupier. Owners should also conduct annual energy audits of their buildings and share their findings and recommendations with the occupiers of the building to help aid in the reduction of energy use.

Often simple yet effective measures can be implemented following energy audits that can save up to 20% with little or no upfront cost. Such initiatives can include recalibrating the building management systems, resetting temperature set points and switching to energy-saving light bulbs. Many organisations make the mistake of thinking that reducing energy consumption costs money rather than saves it.

Managing agents have an important part to play in providing advice to owners and occupiers on the sustainability and environmental performance of buildings. In multi-tenanted commercial buildings, for example, the managing agent is often the middleman between the owner and the occupiers. They play a crucial role in improving the overall environmental performance of the building if environmental KPIs and objectives are outlined in their service provisions. However, too often environmental impact is overlooked by the owners as they deem its importance unworthy of the effort required to change.

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