Quantcast

7 Easy Ways to Make Buildings Energy Efficient

Business

If commercial and government buildings are empty for most of the year, why do they consume so much energy?

A report from Greensense, an Australian sustainability software developer, estimates that buildings in its country are vacant for about 72 percent of a year, between off hours and holidays. Still, those buildings consume about 55 percent of their annual electricity use during those periods. The report indicates that figures are about the same in the U.S.

Buildings account for 40 percent of total energy use in the U.S., which is more than the transportation and industrial sectors, according to the report.

"In many cases, this has meant more than $100,000 a year spent powering an empty building," said Will Turbet of Greensense.

Graphic credit: Greensense

The report suggests that analysis of data is the easiest way for building owners and tenants to make properties greener. The three main energy suckers during a building's off hours are heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting and plugged-in appliances. Those three account for 75 percent of usage.

Since HVAC and lighting systems are often centralized, plugs should be the main focus and starting point for those seeking efficiency. It most likely will come down to a change in behavioral patterns.

Graphic credit: Greensense

"For the most part, as building users we give little thought to how our daily choices impact energy efficiency, yet we’ve seen time and time again that, by increasing occupants’ awareness and providing feedback in a relevant, actionable way, it’s possible to realize significant savings," the report reads.

Here are a few tips and questions building operators should ask themselves:

  • What’s our biggest out of hours opportunity? Is our main energy user plug loads, lighting, HVAC or maybe the server room? 
  • If plug loads (most likely), what are the biggest offenders? 
  • Are there any devices that are left on but not used at night? Can we upgrade, use a power saving mode or simply turn them off?
  • Armed with this information, which building occupants and champions should we engage to see the biggest results?
  • What data will people need to be aware of and how can we provide it in an engaging way?
  • What other relevant information can we provide to educate and motivate people? Remember to always frame any data you’re sharing in a way that your staff can easily understand and relate to. 
  • How else can we encourage behavior change? e.g. an energy saving competition or a tie-in with an event such as Earth Hour or the Global Corporate Challenge.

Graphic credit: Greensense

"There will likely be a number of (often competing) project options, whether it’s covering the building in solar panels or turning up the set point on the [air conditioning]," the report reads. "While many of these projects will have merit, a number will present significant obstacles such as upfront cost (solar panels) or push back from building occupants (air conditioning tweaks).

"By starting your energy saving quest by focusing on out of hours use[d], you remove most of these barriers."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Watchfield Solar Park in England. RTPeat / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Simon Evans

During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

Read More Show Less
A demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian flag during protests against the end of subsidies to gasoline and diesel on Oct. 9 in Quito, Ecuador. Jorge Ivan Castaneira Jaramillo / Getty Images

The night before Indigenous Peoples' Day, an Indigenous-led movement in Ecuador won a major victory.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Protesters block the road outside Mansion House in London during an XR climate change protest. Gareth Fuller / PA Images via Getty Images

One week into Extinction Rebellion's planned two weeks of International Rebellion to demand action on the climate crisis, the London police have banned the group from the city.

Read More Show Less
Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

Read More Show Less
Pexels
  • Mice exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor developed lung cancer within a year.
  • More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
  • Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.

A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Demonstrators with The Animal Welfare Institute hold a rally to save the vaquita, the world's smallest and most endangered porpoise, outside the Mexican Embassy in DC on July 5, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
Air conditioners, like these in a residential and restaurant area of Singapore city, could put a massive strain on electricity grids during more intense heatwaves. Taro Hama @ e-kamakura / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

Read More Show Less