Sustainable office energy reduction: the fastest way to reduce costs

With rising office energy costs impacting all types of business, attention is turning to the best way to achieve short term savings. Dovetailing energy consumption measurement with employee based action shows the way ahead.

Based on information from Catalyst Commercial, as at the end of September 2022 the current trend line for the wholesale gas price (450p per therm) is now over 9 times higher than the equivalent in October 2021 (50p per therm). While skyrocketing consumer energy bills have made headlines, the impact energy price rises are having on commercial users, landlords and occupiers of property is only just beginning to show up in higher running costs.

UK Wholesale Gas Prices Chart - Winter 2023

So what choice and options do employers and facilities management companies have when it comes to reducing costs? 

Whilst many will quite rightly seize the opportunity to promote a Net Zero policy, it’s not the only choice available. Indeed, moving to renewable energy is perhaps too much of a long term aim to reduce bills immediately, whereas using less energy in the buildings that are in use today has much more scope for short term savings. 

The team at SAV Systems show this succinctly as an inverted pyramid, where using less energy and using energy more efficiently hold the keys to success.

Sustainable office energy reduction

When it comes to short term savings, there are six simple ways to raise awareness on business office energy consumption – whether that is heat, light, cooling or water consumption:

  1. Monitor your energy consumption and understand how much it costs according to your contract. According to a GOV.UK energy saving guide you can reduce your monthly heating bill up to 8% for every 1°C you reduce the average temperature.
  2. Assign responsibility for your energy management program to a particular job role or working group. Remember the old adage that what gets measured gets managed.
  3. Focus on low or no cost measures. Many behavioural changes – that your employees can take – require little or no financial investment. 
  4. Reduce heating/cooling/lighting costs when the offices are empty – for example if your thermostats can be adjusted by room or activity levels, set them to 19 to 21°C where people are working, reducing to 16°C in any room when nobody is on site, and use motion detectors to automatically reduce lighting levels when office spaces are not being used.
  5. Keep your building equipment and systems in good working order to reduce the risk of equipment failure – just one leaking toilet can waste by XXX litres per day.
  6. Engage your employees to take action – turn ideas to save energy into a game with prizes for those teams that modify their behaviour. Recognise the advocates to inspire others and share the rewards from saving money with those that make change happen.

The role that staff play

A key tenet of being able to realise savings is to make employees more consciously aware of both energy consumption as well as energy waste. There is a lot more you can do beyond just communication posters in the office or information on the company intranet. It’s all about changing behaviours – one tiny change at a time.

Behavioural change apps like Ailuna raise to front of mind the simple steps that individuals can take – both in the office or at home. Whether it is switching the lights off, saving water or turning the heating down, these are all habits that are good for the individual (at home), good for the business (in the office) and ultimately good for the planet. It is when these habits become second nature – being consciously competent – that the greatest results can be achieved.

Measuring the changes

In order to realise the savings from reduced energy consumption and waste, it’s a key requirement to have an office building measurement system that is able to report and track usage, so that changes in occupant behaviour can be translated into direct savings. Products like EnergiRaven from SAV Systems provide the tools to be able to account for these changes.

Once you have line of sight on sustainable office energy reduction and the direct correlation to financial spend, then you have the insight that can be fed into the cultural awareness and education programmes that drive employee habit forming change. Put simply, you can’t do one without the other.

What form might these employee programmes take?

What Ailuna can do is create a series of challenges – called actions – that employees choose to take. They focus on a single action at a time, and do this same task repeatedly over a period of time (up to 30 days) until a new habit is formed. Along the way they get support from the community of colleagues who have either mastered the action – acting as mentors – or others who are currently taking the action where peer group support is provided.

The collective outcome across a cohort of employees is to make change stick. Tools like leader boards, badges for action completion and peer group recognition all reinforce the collective sense of achievement. And even better than this is that you can make it fun – by creating team and site based competitions – whether that is recognising the lowest square foot energy consumption by building, or by recognising the team who has achieved the great improvements month on month. Mix and match the games and tactics to keep everyone engaged.

What we know from other studies into human behaviour is the simple act of informing someone where they lie in a league table can act as a catalyst to take action. In the world of personal exercise and the desire to stay healthy, fitbit type gadgets use tracking and algorithms to monitor everything from the number of steps taken to how many calories are burned. By providing this data instantaneously, and allowing it to be shared, these tools do more than inform. They reinforce, motivate and reward by turning exercise into a game.

Think of training employee habits around energy usage as inputs and then the financial results as outputs will surely happen.

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