News has surfaced after a recent white paper by The New Building Institute and Ecotope, an energy consulting firm, that commercial office tenants can have a greater impact on their energy costs than previously believed. More so, indicates the research, than initial building design.
Technical Director of the NBI, Mark Frankel, stated that what we once thought about building design and operative performance is not necessarily correct. “In fact, a significant percentage of building energy use is driven directly by operational and occupant habits that are completely independent of building design."
The study used a typical mid-size office property of 53,625 sf, analyzing 28 building systems. That building was then placed in 16 distinct "weather" cities (e.g. Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, Fairbanks) to gauge the impact of surrounding climate. To measure user and operator impact, the study included "occupant density, schedule, plug and portable equipment loads, maintenance habits and operational practices."
According to the paper, best practices in major construction systems, like envelope, lighting and ventilation, can increase energy performance by around 40 percent. When poorly implemented, these same systems can increase usage by 90 percent of optimal performance. Since this is most often the case, tenants need to rely on themselves to improve energy conservation.
The use of submetering was found as one of the best ways for tenants to understand their impact on a building and create better use programs. Energy use dashboards under the full control of individual tenants also helped create a much more efficient building environment.
This white paper, which can be downloaded at newbuildings.org/sensitivity-analysis, is a worthwhile read for facility managers and other real estate decision makers.