Monday, 11 March 2013

Tips on saving energy in office buildings

I went to Ecobuild last week and there were some interesting seminars including one on saving energy in commercial buildings - where are the the low hanging fruit? One of the speakers was Karen Dell from DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) telling us about the energy saving measures they have installed in their own headquarters in London. They have reduced their energy use by 50% since 2008. Now granted they must have been in a pretty bad place to start with but I doubt they are alone in this. The last office I worked in could definitely use this sort of advice.

There is some detail about costs and payback times which I missed on the day; you can find some of it in the DECC Carbon Management Plan though that is a little out of date. What I can say is all the measures Karen described had a payback in less than 5 years. Here is a list:

Heating and Cooling
  • Avoid heating and cooling at the same time. DECC now heats to 20C and cools only above 24C. Most people can adapt between those temperatures very well.
  • Don't keep the server room cooler than it needs to be: 27C  is fine. (This is consistent with the latest advice from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.) Clearly, computers are more adaptable than people.
  • Install weather compensating controls in the heating systems (so they only come on when they need to, to be ready in time for the start of the day).
  • Take advantage of cool mornings to pre-chill the A/C in summer.
  • Turn off the heating and A/C out of hours (except of course for the server rooms). For people working late, such as security, you can provide an electric instant water heater in a toilet.
  • Employ a keen building manager to keep an eye on your systems and make sure they are well maintained. If they are not functioning well you will see it in your bills.
  • Install presence sensors to activate lighting. Have a separate program for out of hours activation so security does not turn everything on when they patrol
  • Invest in LEDs for areas which need 24 hour lighting

The other speakers had good tips too. Paul Francis from RICS pointed out the importance of a no-blame culture for running energy saving projects - as with any other project really. Thinkers and doers do not always communicate well and anything that helps join them together will pay dividends. Also, to motivate people to get involved it is a good idea to translate savings into things that people care about. For a school you might say: turning the lights out when you leave the room will enable us to buy some number of books. For the army you might measure savings in units of  body armour.

He also had a good tip for tall buildings
  • Look at how often the lifts are used. Rotate some lifts out of operation in quiet periods.
Nick Cullen from Hoare Lea had some horror stories to tell, from cleaners draining the heating system by using handy taps in the ceiling of the underground car park (cost £10,000 to refill system) to leaking oil over a building facade when a generator was upgraded by staff who did not have a good plan of the complicated plumbing system (cost £1,000,000). His tips include:
  • Keep it simple - complex systems can take months or even years to diagnose faults
  • Don't believe any meter readings without checking they make sense.  Something like 3% of meters are installed measuring the wrong thing or the right thing but the wrong way round.
  • Make sure all controls are clearly labelled so that building users can understand them, not just the engineers. (For example 'Plant Override' is not a good label for a switch to turn lights on out of hours)
  • Encourage user engagement with good communications and feedback

I will look at some devices that caught my attention for home use in another post.


  1. Those are some useful energy saving tips I'll have to mention to HR. Thanks for posting!

  2. Energie besparen op kantoor:
    Als bedrijven denken aan energie besparen, dan vergeten ze vaak te kijken naar welk soort verlichting er wordt gebruikt. Ze kunnen namelijk door het plaatsen van LED verlichting zeer veel energie besparen op een passieve manier. Hiervoor hoeven de medewerkers niet te worden ge├»nstrueerd. Daarbij komt een aanvullend voordeel dat de levensduur van LED lampen veel langer is dan de traditionele TL-buizen. Als de overheid energie besparen toch hoog op de agenda wil zetten, dan zou dit een mooie subsidie optie zijn. Helaas worden de meeste van deze lampen in China geproduceerd, dus daarom is er geen actieve lobby om er ook echt werk van te maken. We gaan als Europa de Chinezen toch niet steunen… Althans dat is wat meneer de Gugt denkt als je leest wat hij wil doen met de importheffing op zonnepanelen. Hierover hebben we al eerder bericht, dus dat gaan we niet nogmaals doen.

    Bedrijven die een parkeergarage hebben, kunnen buiten LED verlichting ook bewegingssensoren plaatsen. Als er beweging in de garage is schakelen de lampen aan en na verloop van tijd zonder beweging kunnen deze uitschakelen.

    Hoge gebouwen
    Heeft een organisatie een kantoorpand met meerdere verdiepingen dan is het een idee om hierop cilindervormige turbines te plaatsen. De politie in Rotterdam had deze ook op het pand aan de Boezembocht. Zag er high-tech uit, maar tijdens de verbouwing van het pand zijn ze hopelijk tijdelijk verwijdert.

    Anders vergaderen
    Energie verbruik in vergaderruimten kan worden beperkt door staande te vergaderen. Hierdoor gaan vergaderingen minder lang duren. Dit heeft een neveneffect dat de productiviteit van de medewerkers toeneemt. Ze zullen sneller terug op de werkplek aanwezig zijn, zonder dat er nog langdradig wordt doorgekletst in een gemakkelijke, luie, vergaderzetel. Overigens spelen leveranciers van bureaumeubilair hier goed op in. Zij zorgen dat de vergaderzetels comfortabel zijn, zonder dat de gebruiker dit in de gaten heeft.


  3. As a small business owner I understand the rising costs of equipment especially for air conditioning. It has been more and more difficult to stay comfortable when temperatures are sweltering hot. Therefore, I've been looking for more ways to cut down on costs and be environmentally conscious as well. These alternative supplemental cooling and heating options will definitely help me achieve my business goals without dishing out the extra money. Thanks!