It’s no surprise that commercial buildings focused on efficient energy use can save tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. But there is more to this story than simple cost savings.
Becoming more energy efficient impacts long-term sustainability and the quality of the environment we’re leaving for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. By focusing now on reducing demand on the current power grid, we create capacity for continued economic growth and expansion that will inevitably increase demand in the future. We also reduce CO2 emissions (20% of which are directly related to building usage) and create a more sustainable environment.
Buildings in the US account for approximately 40% of the nation’s energy usage. So, commercial building owners and facility managers are in a prime position to make a difference. While the following smart strategies will lead to immediate and long-term cost savings by improving energy efficiency and reducing usage, they also impact a more important bottom line: the sustained health of our environment.
1. Perform an Energy Audit
Performing an energy audit is a logical first step in the process of reducing energy costs and improving energy efficiency for your Chicago area facility.
An energy audit looks at past energy usage statistics and compares them to estimates of optimal performance for your unique building. The difference between these two figures can serve as a goal for improving the efficiency and usage patterns of the entire facility.
The report from an energy audit also includes a prioritized list of proposed action steps to help owners reach recommended energy goals. These action steps often include very minor and inexpensive steps to make a noticeable, immediate impact (such as replacing standard showerheads with low-flow heads), as well as more complex and expensive opportunities (such as major system equipment replacements or upgrades) that will produce a return on investment over a longer period.
The inspections and research that go into the audit can help identify otherwise overlooked “low hanging fruit” facility managers can implement, such as changes in employee behavior, adjustments to automated controls, and energy education for all employees, tenants, and in-house maintenance staff.
Energy audits can also provide the basis for long-range financial strategies that can make more extensive capital expenditures, like major building improvements and mechanical system upgrades, a strategic investment rather than an unexpected expense.
2. Educate tenants and employees about energy conservation
While most of us are conscious of our energy usage at home - where we’re personally responsible for paying the utility bill - we tend to be less careful at work, leaving the company to foot the bill for wasteful energy usage that could easily be avoided.
This isn’t done maliciously, but rather stems from an “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon because energy costs isn’t something often discussed at the office. Smart commercial building owners will make sure it becomes a regular subject of conversation. After all, improved compliance to standard energy saving efforts can mean a reduction of tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs.
Some examples of simple actions employees and tenants can take to reduce the building’s overall energy costs are:
- Turn computers off at the end of the day
- Turn off and unplug any personal electronics kept at the desk when not in use
- Take the stairs when possible (and it’s healthier too!)
- Agree to reasonable limits on thermostat adjustment (if they have access at all)
- Notify building maintenance immediately of leaky faucets, running toilets, or any other needed repair
- Raise blinds during the day (especially in the winter) to take advantage of natural heat and light
- Keep blinds or shades partially drawn during the summer to reduce the amount of natural heat that enters
- Ensure that the last employee in the office turns off all lights when he/she leaves
3. Create an energy savings plan and prioritize action items
As noted above, an energy audit will provide a prioritized list of action items for overall energy cost reduction, but many of the items on the list may be too large and expensive to immediately implement.
That doesn’t mean owners and facility managers should do nothing while they plan for large expenditures.
Start with small items that are simple, inexpensive, and quick - like some of those listed above. Even reducing the heating temperature or raising the cooling temperature by one degree building-wide can make a noticeable difference and it can be done right now, taking just a few seconds. In most cases, affecting real change in energy usage and cost is just a matter of establishing new, smarter habits and implementing minor changes to current procedures or technology.
As you begin to make changes and see energy costs go down, consider reinvesting a portion of these savings in planned maintenance and strategic replacement of key building system components. This practice not only keeps large systems like commercial HVAC running at optimal levels, it brings in more energy efficient options to improve emissions and the environmental footprint made by corporations.
Contact us to schedule an energy audit for your Chicago area facility and learn more about cost savings measures for your building, or download our ebook to learn more about the cost benefit of planned maintenance.