Simple Ways to Increase Your Building’s Sustainability

October 27, 2017

According to the US Energy Information Administration, commercial buildings account for nearly 20% of US energy consumption and 12% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of newly constructed buildings are outfitted with energy-saving features and technology that could reduce their energy use by up to 30%. The good news for these commercial building owners is that it is not too late to upgrade their existing systems.  

With water and sewage rates and taxes skyrocketing in cities throughout the country, water and energy efficiency improvements are great investments with strong ROI. Small changes can create significant cost savings and reductions in water and energy consumption.

It is understandable that many building owners and facility managers are reluctant to change. Identifying the best projects to invest in and knowing when and where to make those investments can be a difficult decision. We have provided 4 simple tips to improve your existing building’s overall utility consumption efficiency.

Start with an Inspection

Before implementing upgrades in your building, you must understand your current operating status and where it can be improved upon. Begin by an operational inspection. You can benchmark your water and energy usage to see if there are avenues for improvement by comparing to the accepted standard. This first step is easy, budget-friendly, and can provide immediate savings as well as provide you with a clear outline for where your building needs improvements.

You will be happy to find out that you do not need to start from a blank canvas to improve your building’s sustainability. There are programs that are already in place (Energy Star, LEED) that can give you quality information and standard guidelines without the need for a full certification.

Begin With Small Wins

If you have just started a plan to improve your sustainability, start small. There are several projects and improvements that require little financial backing as well as minimal time and effort. You can install timers and occupancy sensors to ensure your water and lighting systems are only being utilized when they are needed. By implementing these small successful initiatives, you can grow the confidence and gain wider support for upgrades that demand a heavier investment.

One of the first things you should look into is commissioning your buildings current systems. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) found that the average operating costs of a commissioned building range from 8% to 20% below that of a non-commissioned building. They also went on to say, “BOMA cost data for office buildings suggests that building commissions can result in energy savings of 20 to 50% and maintenance savings of 15 to 35%.”

Commercial buildings typically do not experience many operational and occupancy changes that test the energy systems, and as a result the peak performance of their systems can be lost. By commissioning your building you will see both operational cost savings as well as improved comfort of the building’s occupants. When your energy systems are working more consistently and efficiently, the number of related complaints from your occupants will decrease. For an apartment building, this means happier tenants. For an office building, this means happier employees and customers.

Effective Use of Technology

We are fortunate to have such advanced technology at our fingertips. The use of technology becomes increasingly beneficial when it comes to energy savings and upgrades.

According to energy.gov, “Technical analysis has shown that heat pumps have the technical potential to save up to 50% of the energy used by conventional HVAC technologies in residential buildings…we are also pursuing non-vapor compression technologies, which have the potential to replace or be integrated with conventional vapor compression technologies, can provide 50% reductions in energy consumption, and have a low to zero global warming potential (GWP).”

Above is just one potential of technology when it comes to HVAC, Water Heating and Appliances; introduce these modern technologies in your lighting, sensor, controls, and windows and your energy savings can keep soaring.

Clean energy is becoming increasingly more available and affordable. A report from the Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that solar will become the cheapest source to produce power in many countries over the next 15 years. The installation costs of solar power is expected to drop up to 60% making it more affordable than coal and natural gas power in many areas of the country. Experts from the Bloomberg New Energy Finance also stated, “By 2040, 15% of the world’s electricity will come from solar panels…each year, people and businesses will invest nearly $135 billion into solar energy infrastructure.” The benefits associated with solar along with the increased affordability make it a smart investment opportunity for you and your building. By investing in a small amount in solar power, you can assure your building won’t stop operating if the power goes down.

Considering that more than half of all commercial buildings in use today were built before 1970, the utilization of new technology is vital to increase the sustainability and efficiency of the existing systems.  

Work, Sleep and Feel Better

According to a new Harvard study, “The key to working better, sleeping better, and feeling better could be rooted in the design, maintenance, and operation of the buildings where we spend the majority of our time.” There is more that comes from improving your building’s sustainability than just the financial and environmental gains.

The study conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHGE) and SUNY Upstate Medical showed that cognitive function scores were higher in those in Green building conditions versus those in Conventional building conditions. Everything from Crisis Response to Information Usage was significantly higher in those in the Green buildings. They concluded that office workers who were exposed to CO2 and VOCs at the levels found in conventional office buildings had lower cognitive scores than those who were exposed to the levels of those compounds found in the Green buildings. You can read the full study report here.

Don’t get stuck in the mindset that your current building’s sustainability and energy efficiency can’t be improved upon. By starting with an assessment, making small wins and effectively utilizing technology, you can achieve immediate results and improved satisfaction. You will save money, increase your building’s energy efficiency, lower maintenance costs, help protect the environment, and improve the health of those who live and work in your building.

Contact DRF Water Heating Solutions to discuss your personal needs and have one of our experts guide you every step of the way to a more sustainable future.