By Charlie Green
In the current corporate landscape, businesses and office spaces represent a critical fulcrum of energy consumption, unveiling a compelling dual opportunity for both financial prudence and environmental responsibility. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, commercial and residential sectors together made up nearly 40% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2022, with similar statistics arising in the UK.
This comes at a time when the global business landscape is grappling with the unrelenting wave of inflation. Recent data paints a stark picture: rising costs are relentlessly gnawing at operational budgets, with energy expenses, in particular, witnessing steady growth. This trend isn’t merely a footnote in the annals of finance; it’s a pressing challenge reshaping the operational realities for businesses worldwide.
The challenge at hand isn’t trivial, given the intertwined complexity of economic forces, rising costs, and environmental concerns. The need for robust, effective energy-efficiency solutions has never been more critical. The role of facilities managers has never been more crucial to businesses.
Fortunately, numerous techniques and strategies are readily available to businesses to tackle this challenge head-on:
1. Optimizing Space Utilization For Energy Efficiency
The topic of energy efficiency is not a fresh entrant in the sphere of corporate conversation: It’s a long-standing contender that has continually evolved with the swift advances of technology and shifting workplace dynamics. Effective space management or optimization, a key task for facilities managers to get correct, is one of these integral threads that weave the broad fabric of energy conservation. Not only does it have the potential to significantly reduce a business’s carbon footprint, but it also holds promise for enhanced workforce productivity and well-being.
Let’s illuminate this concept by analyzing the role of natural light in energy efficiency. A comprehensive study by the California Energy Commission elucidated that optimizing the use of daylight in offices can decrease lighting energy usage by up to 40-60%. Businesses that strategically utilize natural light curtail their reliance on artificial light, thereby lessening overall energy consumption. But the gains are not merely confined to the energy aspect: The benefits extend to the realm of human resources as well.
A report from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign underscored that workplaces with windows, supplying ample sunlight, led to a significant boost in the overall well-being and productivity of employees.
A report from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign underscored that workplaces with windows, supplying ample sunlight, led to a significant boost in the overall well-being and productivity of employees. This validates a dual advantage: Energy efficiency on the one hand, and enhanced employee satisfaction on the other.
Another game-changing strategy within space organization is grouping occupants in a manner that localizes energy consumption. Such an approach employs shared lighting and climate control systems to serve clusters of employees rather than individual workspaces, leading to substantial energy savings.
A live testament to the aforementioned strategies is the Edge Building in Amsterdam, a paragon of sustainable architecture. The Edge leverages an intelligent system that directs employees to optimally lit workspaces. This innovative technology harvests daylight to maximum effect, ensuring not just energy efficiency but also fostering a conducive work environment that bolsters employee satisfaction.
2. Harnessing Smart Technology And Sensors To Manage Facilities And Assets
From Amazon’s pioneering Monitron sensors to advanced Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM) tools, businesses now possess the capacity to drastically reduce their energy footprint while streamlining operations and bolstering productivity.
Let’s consider Amazon’s Monitron, a clear exemplar of this transformative shift. This system of sensors and machine learning capabilities represents a generational leap in equipment health monitoring. By identifying early signs of potential failures in machinery, Monitron can curtail wastage stemming from inefficient operation, thereby substantially trimming energy use. This is not a marginal gain: The U.S. Department of Energy states that predictive maintenance technologies can reduce maintenance costs by 25 to 30%, eliminate breakdowns 70 to 75% of the time, and reduce downtime by 35 to 45%.
The potential for energy efficiency extends far beyond simple machinery health. The robust implementation of CAFM tools is another catalyst for considerable energy savings. These powerful software systems offer businesses the ability to schedule, control, and monitor key energy-consuming systems such as HVAC and lighting. Rather than relying on static schedules, these systems dynamically adjust their operation based on actual occupancy, ambient conditions, and specific operational requirements. The result? Dramatic cuts in unnecessary energy consumption, yielding both cost and environmental benefits.
A shining beacon of these smart technologies in practice is the Bank of America Tower in New York. The towering edifice didn’t earn its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification merely for its striking architecture. It achieved this prestigious recognition through the deployment of a comprehensive energy management system that integrates both CAFM and smart sensor technology.
The result was a testament to the power of smart technology in energy conservation. Compared to a typical office building, the Tower achieved a 30% reduction in energy consumption. But the benefits extended beyond the utility bill: the creation of a healthier and more comfortable work environment, leading to increased productivity and reduced absenteeism, demonstrates the additional advantages of such technologies.
3. Implementing Regular Maintenance In Facilities Management
In the world of business, the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” no longer applies. When it comes to energy efficiency, the proactive approach of regular maintenance holds the key to unlocking immense potential savings, both in terms of energy and costs. Businesses are starting to realize that strategic maintenance of their physical assets, from HVAC systems to office equipment, can significantly impact their overall energy consumption and operational efficiency.
Regular maintenance goes beyond preventing sudden breakdowns or disruptions in service. An efficiently maintained system can often perform at a considerably higher level compared to an unmaintained one, reducing its energy consumption and therefore operating cost. A report from the New Buildings Institute indicates that regular maintenance can lead to energy savings of 10-20% in commercial buildings.
Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy points out that something as simple as sealing and insulating HVAC ducts can improve their efficiency by up to 20%. However, this is often overlooked, causing many businesses to miss out on a low-hanging fruit of energy conservation.
Walmart is a prime example of a corporation leveraging the power of regular maintenance for energy efficiency. The retail giant initiated a “Preventive Maintenance Program,” meticulously maintaining store equipment, lighting, and refrigeration systems. The result was a significant improvement in overall energy efficiency and a meaningful reduction in the company’s carbon footprint.
Moving Toward A More Sustainable Future
Natural light helps support wellness, boosts productivity, and can be used to save energy. Read more…
In the face of rising energy costs and the pressing need for sustainability, the imperative of energy efficiency in business operations can’t be understated. By adopting these facilities management strategies discussed, businesses can drastically reduce their operational costs, lessen their environmental impact, and improve the working environment for their employees.
As the world moves toward a more sustainable future, businesses that implement these energy efficiency measures stand to gain not just financial benefits, but also enhance their reputation and attractiveness in an increasingly eco-conscious market. The choice to be energy efficient is not just a smart business move—it’s a commitment to a sustainable future.
Charlie Green is a Senior Research Analyst at Comparesoft.