Top 5 Energy Tips For A Leaner Greener Workplace

Prism has conducted hundreds of energy audits for colleges, universities, schools, hospitals, financial institutions and office buildings since opening their doors in 1990.

Top 5 Energy Tips

  • Be bright about lighting.
  • Get HVAC ontrack.
  • Operate and purchase office equipment with an eye on energy savings.
  • Monitor and evaluate your energy and utility costs.
  • Employee buy-in key to success.

In the course of those audits, which ranged in scope from a basic energy assessment at a 5,000 square foot bank branch to a detailed energy audit for a property manager of several million square feet of downtown office space, Prism has identified certain key energy savings opportunities at workplace buildings. By looking for these opportunities in their own workplaces, businesses of any size can enjoy significant energy savings and achieve real reductions in their impact on the natural environment - with little or no sacrifice to building comfort.

"Especially in this weak economy, we all need to make sure we are spending as little as possible to comfortably heat, cool, light and power our workplaces, " explains Robert Greenwald P.Eng., MBA, and President of Prism. "And in the process, when we keep our eyes peeled for energy saving opportunities, we're also doing our part to shrink our carbon footprints and safeguard the environment. Hopefully, businesses will find these tips a good starting point to launch their own energy savings initiatives."

Prism offers the following tips to building owners, property and facility managers, tenants, and anyone else who wishes to lean and green their workplaces. Tenants who do not own their own office space or are not individually metered, though less likely to share in the cost savings, are encouraged to speak to their landlords about these recommendations and let them know the value they place on an energy efficient and environmentally sustainable workplace:

1. Be bright about lighting

At the Burnaby Campus of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Prism helped reduce electricity costs related to lighting by $188,000 per year. By having Prism audit their operations and implement a complete lighting system retrofit, BCIT was able to cut electricity consumption by 11% (i). That project included installation of electronic ballasts, compact ?uorescent lamps, LED exit signs and occupancy sensors to ensure that lights automatically turned off when space was unoccupied. However, regardless of the size of your operations, being conscious of how lights are used and aware of the latest available lighting technology can make a big difference to the bottom line. For example, simply lowering or turning off lights when daylight is available can significantly reduce consumption. By replacing incandescent lighting with LED pot lights or induction lighting (which is four times as efficient and lasts over 40 times longer than incandescent bulbs) in lobbies and atriums, electricity consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be substantially decreased. In every case, visual comfort must be balanced against aesthetics and operating costs.

2. Get HVAC on track

With optimal use of the control systems for a workspace's heating, ventilation and air conditioning ("HVAC") equipment, significant energy savings can be realized. Building operators can be trained to adjust room temperature set points to balance comfort with efficiency. As well, proper use of controls can allow for holiday and weekend shut down. Settings can also be used to make sure that workspaces are warmed up slowly and in advance to avoid costly spikes in energy usage at the beginning of a winter work week. All of these programmable settings can allow for manual operator override. Also, the use of variable speed drive (VSD) pumps and fans in HVAC systems can add to the savings. While the size of a pump or fan for HVAC systems is typically chosen based on peak demand (e.g. during the hot summer months), VSD pumps and fans allow for slower pump and fan speeds during low demand periods. A 10% reduction in pump speed and ?ow can translate into a 17% reduction in energy consumption. When a local property management firm hired Prism to conduct energy audits at 13 of their Lower Mainland office buildings, Prism identified potential annual savings of over $85,000 by simply upgrading HVAC controls and educating operators on the optimal use of control systems.

3. Operate and purchase office equipment with an eye on energy savings

Too often during audits, Prism finds that office computers' power-saving or "sleep" settings are not properly set or not used at all. Other times, the IT department insists on employees leaving computers on to run updates overnight. By teaching employees to properly use the sleep settings and by challenging IT to come up with alternative solutions (e.g. running the updates on weekends only), computers can be shut down, or at least put to sleep, when not in use overnight, on weekends and over holidays. While the energy savings ROI of replacing an old copier or dishwasher with a new energy efficient one may be too long to justify an immediate purchase, when a unit reaches the end of its useful life, make sure that it is replaced with the most energy efficient model available within your budget, that meets your office's needs. When Vancity, Canada's largest credit union, was looking for help developing an energy policy, their Facilities Management Department hired Prism. The resulting plan set a course of action based on sound conservation and energy management practices, application of new energy-efficient technologies, and employee education and training. The policy's equipment purchasing guidelines (as well as lighting, HVAC, and water-conservation strategies) assisted Vancity in achieving their stated goal of "carbon neutrality by 2010" a full 2 years ahead of schedule on December 31st, 2007.

4. Monitor and evaluate your energy and utility costs

When Prism monitored Air Canada's utility costs for their facilities across Canada, they discovered billing errors in the amount of $464,000 at their Richmond facility, which was then refunded by the utility(ii). As well, by monitoring a business' energy bills, a pattern of usage can be seen. The HVAC controls can then be set for optimal efficiency and comfort during peak and low demand periods. Due to the large potential savings afforded by monitoring clients' energy and utility costs, Prism has developed specialized on-line tools to allow clients to monitor, target and report against their energy and utility consumption. Also, by monitoring the savings achieved by their energy efficiency measures, businesses can keep an eye on their progress as they look for additional savings opportunities.

5. Employee buy-in key to success

Through their years of experience, Prism has learned that unless employees have "bought into" the initiative, efforts at greening and leaning a workplace will not produce optimal results. Even the newest, most efficient energy-saving technology can be easily overridden by employees who are not invested in the program. In order to create and maintain a culture of energy efficiency, employees must be properly trained, made aware and reminded of the goals of and purpose behind the initiative. With that in mind, Prism has been delivering energy management training of behalf of Natural Resources Canada for over 10 years including their "Energy Monitoring" and "Spot the Energy Saving Opportunities" workshops. Prism has also developed an online energy management course for Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) building operators in BC.

"It's been our experience that once employees are properly trained and feel they are critical to a program's success, many of them become highly motivated to find new ways to improve and build on the results achieved. That enthusiasm can generate remarkable energy savings," adds Greenwald.