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Energy management has become a hot topic within facilities management over the last decade or so. We’ve started to rethink the role office buildings play when it comes to sustainability, and with climate catastrophe just decades away, new strategies for saving the planet – as well as reducing energy costs – are urgently sought after.
Smart buildings boasting high-tech solutions for energy management are fast becoming necessary when it comes to new office construction, but most businesses aren’t blessed with the advantages of automated heating, lighting and so on.
Facilities managers therefore have a huge role to play when it comes to promoting intelligent energy management. That’s why it’s important for them to understand a) the importance of energy efficiency and sustainability, and b) the small changes they can make to improve it.
A comprehensive audit of your energy consumption is probably the first step. This can help you identify where your energy usage is inefficient, and therefore where there’s room for improvement. Small (and medium-sized) businesses in the UK can actually apply for a free energy audit via the Carbon Trust.
The second step is to upgrade inefficient office equipment. According to the Carbon Trust, proper management of old monitors, heating systems and printers can reduce your office’s energy consumption by as much as 70%. It’s also vital to ensure equipment is properly maintained to prevent breakdowns, overheating and obstructions to filters and fans – this prevents unexpected costs down the line, but also ensures your equipment is working efficiently.
Reducing Energy Bills
You probably notice a significant increase in energy costs over the winter, when heating and lighting are used more frequently. These are huge drains of resources, but they don’t need to be – there are simple and cost-effective tools you can use to reduce costs and save energy.
For instance, inefficient tungsten lightbulbs can be replaced with energy-efficient LEDs. Retrofitting a building’s entire lighting system may be expensive, but you’ll make demonstrable long-term savings. A smart meter can help too, by remotely sending meter readings to your energy supplier.
You can make an even bigger change by installing sensors or smart lighting systems. Modern, high-tech offices will come with these as standard, but a smaller office might benefit from sensors that switch off lights when someone enters a room. At the very least, you can educate your staff about energy usage, encouraging them to turn lights off in unoccupied rooms.
Heating costs, too, can be reduced. Your building probably contains ceiling insulation already, but there’s no harm in upgrading as new, smarter insulation is developed. Furthermore, window blinds, draught-proof wall cavities and triple-glazed windows are all simple solutions to heat loss.
Investing in a smart thermostat – again, a staple of smart offices – makes a huge difference by automating temperature regulation over the course of a day. This way, you can ensure your heating systems are only being used when they’re really needed, cutting heating bills and reducing energy wastage.
Education is Half the Battle
These simple solutions only really work if your employees are on board. It’s all well and good installing LED lighting, but if your colleagues are consistently leaving lights on during daytime or in unoccupied rooms, or keeping monitors and laptops switched on overnight, then your work will have been for nothing.
An awareness campaign is the first step towards encouraging cultural change and promoting good practice among your employees.
You can marry it to sustainability initiatives that encourage your employees to make small changes to their workplace habits, such as a recycling programme and efforts to cut down on paper – perhaps by restricting printer usage. This can make an enormous difference to your company’s environmental impact, but it’s good for your brand reputation, too.