Making sure that your office uses as little energy as possible is the right thing to do for the environment. However, energy savings can also translate to cash savings and to better branding for your organization — which is why it’s such a good idea to monitor energy use.
With the advance of AI and other technical tools, a lot of building management jobs that used to be handled by people can now be handled by technology. As we discussed in a previous post, these tools can help monitor energy use and even work to minimize it remotely.
So, if you don’t have anyone on staff whose job responsibilities include consistently monitoring office energy use, this is good news. You might be able to make up for a lack of personal attention with the right kind of tools or infrastructure.
However, technology can’t do it all when it comes to energy savings. You’ll still won’t be able to really maximize your office’s energy efficiency without the right combination of both technology and people.
Let’s break down which jobs are best for which tools and people.
Tech: Smart Office Tech Tools to Minimize Energy
As we wrote in our post 7 Features to Look for In Facility Management Software, software that was designed to help manage buildings may come equipped with an energy management system that can measure how resources like electricity, heat, and water are used throughout the facility.
With that data, the software can also forecast future use and give managers the insights they need to make necessary changes. Some systems can even track waste creation and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Smart” devices (those connected to the internet) can also be put on timers and “communicate” with other devices to adjust automatically for factors like building occupancy and even employee preference.
For more on the trend toward smart buildings, check out our articles on Industry 4.0 and the “Internet of Things.”
Even if you don’t invest in the full online building management system, you can invest in simpler tools to save energy. For example, you could install motion-activated or timed lights, or invest in “plug load controllers” that can control all the electric components in a single workstation (such as computer monitors and task lights). These devices use a motion sensor with a plug load surge suppressor to shut down equipment in an unoccupied office or cubicle.
Tech: Energy-Saving Office Infrastructure
Beyond equipment and software that monitors how energy is used and turns off things like lights and heat automatically, there are infrastructure upgrades that can make a big difference in how much energy is used in your office — and many of them are relatively simple to make.
Here are just a few energy-saving infrastructure upgrades to consider:
- Low-energy lightbulbs – This one is a pretty basic energy savings accommodation, but it’s worth mentioning in case you haven’t made the switch yet. CFL bulbs use a fraction of the electricity that incandescent bulbs do, and it’s easy to replace them.
- Hot water in the water cooler – The energy required to keep boiling hot water hot so that people can use it at a moment’s notice might not actually be a great benefit compared to the energy savings, especially in hotter months when people may not be as keen on hot drinks.
- Low-energy appliances and machines – It may be a good move to invest in more energy-efficient copiers, printers, and A/V equipment. Breakroom appliances outside of the water cooler, such as the refrigerator, the microwave, the coffee maker and even the vending machine can also be upgraded to appliances with ENERGY STAR approval.
Humans: Energy Efficient Office Design
A big part of the human role in office energy efficiency has to do with analyzing the data and suggestions that come from your building management software, then making the necessary big-picture changes in infrastructure and technology that can further minimize energy use over time.
However, there are other ways that employees or consultants can minimize energy use without any technology at all. Consider these office energy-saving tactics:
- Make better use of natural light – Natural light has a lot of benefits in the office. It’s a natural mood booster, which can go on to improve retention and productivity. It can reduce eye strain. And studies have shown that working near a window can help employees sleep better at night, increasing the odds that employees will arrive at work the next day refreshed and energized. Finally, of course, making the best use of natural light also means that you can reduce the electrical energy that would have been spent lighting a space. Increasing access to natural light doesn’t have to require hiring a contractor to put in new windows. In some cases, increasing natural light may be as simple as rearranging partitions and cubicle walls, or making the best lit areas of the building more accessible for more employees and activity types.
- Block direct light in hotter months – Strategic use of shades and blinds to filter direct light may have a significant cooling effect during the warmest times of the year and keep your HVAC bills lower. Some offices may also be able to cool down rooms by installing awnings over doors — which can also have the added benefit of reducing some of the water that gets tracked in on rainy days.
- Minimize drafts – In some offices, adding a vestibule (a small, enclosed entry area) can go a long way toward keeping cold air out during the winter months. Again, if you don’t want to hire a contractor, you can find temporary vestibules for sale online that might be a great fit for your entryway during inclement or cold weather.
- Hot desking and remote work – Your office certainly won’t use as much energy if it shrinks its physical footprint. If the transition to remote work for COVID-19 has your employees working from home — or even just working from home more often — pivoting to a different office model that uses less space can be a great way to save energy (and cash) for the long-term.
Humans: Championing Energy Saving (and Branding)
If you want your employees to take the initiative to save energy around the office consistently, it helps if environmental consciousness is part of your office’s core values and brand.
It takes a leader to step up and make commitments to these kinds of energy-saving goals and make sure that they’re part of someone’s defined job description.
Company values define company culture and employee behavior, and they also influence a company’s outward-facing brand.Company values define company culture and employee behavior, and they also influence a company’s outward-facing brand. Click To Tweet
For more on choosing company values, check out this post: The Relationship Between Leadership and Company Values. And for more ideas on sustainability in the office, check out this post: Sustainability Tips for Business: Go Green, Save Money.
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