Green Building Updates Benefit Your Bottom Line
Green Building Updates Benefit Your Bottom Line
When green building expert Stephen Todd talks to business owners about office-wide energy-saving measures, feel-good environmental factors rarely enter into the conversation. He knows the green lifestyle won’t necessarily resonate with them. But savings of at least 5 percent on large utility bills will bend the ear of any broker charged with keeping overhead costs in line.
“Very few organizations have any idea about how much energy they should be consuming,” says Todd, whose energy-saving insights can be found at theenergyguy.com. “Most people don’t know how much they should be spending — or saving.”
To start, Todd recommends using Energy Star guidelines as a guide for determining the relative efficiency of a building. Bringing in a third-party resource with expertise in energy efficiency can also be helpful. Establishing a baseline of energy usage is essential as you move forward so you’re able to demonstrate the value of any improvements made.
Reducing your energy costs may be easier and less costly than you think. Here are six simple energy-saving measures that offer a great return on the initial investment:
1. Look to lighting. “Lighting really is the low-hanging fruit,” said Katie Tefford, senior property manager at Reit Management & Research in Minneapolis who is also a member of the Minnesota Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. Tefford recommends T8 fluorescent fixtures in common indoor spaces and LED options for elevators, parking ramps, and outdoor spaces. Occupancy sensors add to the savings and are available for rebates from many utility providers (check with your local provider).
2. Attention to HVAC details. In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance (i.e., cleaning filters and heat-exchange surfaces) on your HVAC systems, Tefford recommends installing variable frequency drives (VFD). If you share office space with other entities, it may be worth talking to building management about this issue, and leading with the potential cost savings for all tenants. VFDs ensure that motors on HVAC and other major building equipment run at peak efficiency. Todd also recommends actually testing to make sure programmable thermostats are working correctly and getting you the desired savings when your building is unoccupied. Testing is as simple as going in during the weekend or office hours and measuring the temperature for accuracy.
3. Rethink your cleaning schedule. Many building managers bring cleaning crews in during off hours so as not to disrupt the workday for regular employees. That comes with a cost as lighting and heating and cooling systems still see heavy use as long as cleaning crews are around. Tefford said case studies have proven that cleaning during regular business hours doesn’t cause the disruption that many think. Many regular workers enjoy the increased responsiveness to problems that comes along with establishing relationships with cleaning crews.
4. Get help from the sun. This measure requires some investment, but many broker/owners will enjoy the energy savings — and increased worker productivity — that come with retrofits to bring more daylight into the building, says Tefford. This can be done through adding skylights, or strategically placed windows. Light-reading sensors and dimmers can also significantly reduce the amount of time lights are on or running at peak capacity.
5. Go retro. While there’s an initial upfront cost, retrocommissioning can bring major savings by ensuring all major mechanical systems are functioning as intended. Many older buildings were constructed before commissioning – the process of testing major mechanical systems to ensure proper functionality – was common practice. Tefford said ideally this would be done as part of a remodel or renovation, when cost efficiencies can be gained if equipment needs to be repaired or replaced, and most energy companies will offer significant rebates when buildings are retrocommissioned.
6. Keep track. Accountability is key to success, so appoint someone in your brokerage to manage and report on energy savings on a regular basis. This could be a member of your building’s maintenance/facilities staff, or another person with interest and expertise in energy savings or building operations. And if you have multiple divisions or buildings, regular reporting can initiate a little healthy competition among offices. It also establishes a baseline for energy usage, giving you a clear picture of how much is really being saved.
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