How to save energy and more in office buildings – Colliers’ guide
Huge increases in electricity and gas prices are becoming a fact and are posing a considerable budget challenge for owners of office buildings and property managers for 2023. Such costs in some cases could increase by up to eight times. However, there are ways to optimize them. Experts from Colliers, our strategic partner, Marta Lenarczyk and Marzena Ciurzyńska from the Real Estate Management Department, have prepared a guide which includes good practices that foster savings, both on the part of building owners and tenants.
A project is underway in Warsaw to replace thousands of street lamps — the older light sources will be replaced with LEDs. In addition, the city is implementing a digital management system for each part of public lighting. The cost of this unprecedented undertaking goes in tens of millions of zlotys, but the investment will generate multi-million savings every year. On a per property basis, the amounts saved may not be spectacular, but they will still be worth it. LEDs use up to 70 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. In the current environment, it is also a good practice to turn off decorative lighting. Furthermore, it’s worth opting for a free source of light, like the sun, even if it requires rearranging workstations or replacing interior partitions with glass.
Support from artificial intelligence
The benefits of replacing the lighting, but not only that, can be multiplied if it is properly controlled with an app, for example. The algorithms then turn off unnecessary lighting after working hours and in unused rooms. The network of sensors that smart buildings are equipped with also allows the lighting of common areas, bathrooms and passageways only when it is actually needed.
More and more artificial intelligence solutions are available on the market to help control and optimize operation of the most energy-intensive installations, such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning). Also, machine learning is often an element that can generate additional savings for seemingly well-optimized systems.
Seeking to optimize energy consumption, local governments in many places are considering turning off street lighting during the hours with the least traffic, such as between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Such solution can also be implemented in commercial buildings by giving up on outdoor lighting, luminous advertising and facade illumination after the hours of most frequent use of the building. However, it is important not to violate safety rules in the process.
Air conditioning under control
Few people realize that every time the temperature is raised by one degree, energy consumption increases by 5 percent. Therefore, an important, if not necessary, way to generate savings may be to limit the maximum air temperature in the office space. Also, air handling units require a change in settings, making the supply temperature dependent on the ambient temperature.
For optimal temperature management, it is worth using HVAC systems, which are responsible for efficient exchange of indoor air – including heating, ventilation and cooling. It is also worth planning the operation of equipment – taking into account night periods, but also holidays – when excessive heating of the building is not justified. Major savings can also be generated by simply avoiding unnecessary waste – open building doors mean more spending on cooling in the summer and heating in the winter – and by diligent maintenance of the HVAC equipment. At the very least, basic actions such as cleaning filters (air and water) or ensuring that water systems are fully patched are key.
The digital tools available to managers of modern office properties are also an invaluable aid in monitoring energy consumption – not only on a building-wide basis, but also for individual floors and rooms. Every modern building has its own energy consumption profile. By comparing these characteristics, it is easier to find irregularities in the operation of systems, identify points of excessive wear and gain room for further savings.
In recent years, photovoltaic installations have sprouted up on the roofs of warehouses, shopping malls and even train stations. Rising energy prices further encourage the construction of more farms. The roof of an office high-rise building offers too little space in most cases for investing in photovoltaics to yield tangible benefits right away. However, this does not mean that green energy must be abandoned. Tenants and owners, as well as property managers pursuing an ESG strategy in their businesses, have been looking for RES opportunities for some time now.
Above all, a new look at how we buy energy and what products we use is needed. At Colliers, we have developed several business models through which owners can benefit from green energy, addressing both the need for a low purchase price and to conduct business in accordance with sustainability standards.
Environmentally friendly habits
Measures to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint of commercial real estate are also within the capabilities of office tenants and employees. Promoting environmentally friendly habits, such as turning off lights, switching off appliances from sockets after finishing work, and, above all, avoiding indoor air parameters that are too high in the winter and too low in the summer (i.e. so-called thermal over-comfort), are among the solutions for reducing energy costs. Many companies are also adopting environmentally friendly solutions, working with building owners as well as third parties. Increasingly often, electro-waste collections, waste segregation and campaigns among employees and in the business environment are organized to promote green solutions and healthy lifestyles.
Every office building forms a system in which different groups – the owner, tenants or the external companies supporting them – operate under established rules. In an era of change that we are all experiencing, the key to optimizing costs associated with the consumption of energy and other utilities may lie in the cooperation of all parties. Therefore, it is worthwhile to take a flexible approach to the signed contracts and consider making changes regarding, for example, restrictive provisions on minimum and maximum air temperature in the building depending on the season.
Environmental concerns on the one hand, financial pressures on the other – together they promise far-reaching changes. The commercial real estate market, with the help of managers, is striving to achieve climate neutrality. The latest data and calculations, but also practical knowledge of real estate and its operation, are the basis for creating an ESG strategy for a specific property. Properly implemented, it will help building owners and tenants achieve the neutrality established within the organization or required by European Union law.