On any given day, many of your FM tasks are focused on conserving energy. Whether it’s scrutinizing utility bills, making adjustments in the BAS, or championing for efficient retrofits, saving kilowatts never falls off your to-do list. But you may have overlooked one of the most important factors for energy performance – your occupants.
The relationship facility managers have with tenants can be a wary one at best, fraught with skirmishes over space heaters, thermostat settings, and light levels. But with the growing impact of plug loads, building owners need to recognize that human behavior can make or break an efficiency program.
Consider how the vast majority of your building’s energy use is determined by occupant needs, from operating hours and lighting to heating and cooling. You might also have little to no control over the proliferation of computers, printers, desk lamps, and mobile devices that have become standard in any office or classroom setting.
“Plug loads can represent anywhere from 15 to 50% of a building’s energy use and are one of the fastest growing end uses of energy,” says Jaxon Love, sustainability program manager for Shorenstein Properties. “If you’re not looking at plug loads and developing a strategy to manage them, you’ve got a major blind spot in your overall energy efficiency program.”
Energy competitions unite occupants and facilities management as they work toward a common goal. Not only will plug loads become more manageable, but the nature of these challenges will engender a positive experience that can infect all aspects of your business model.
“Successfully engaging occupants as part of a performance team offers many advantages to the building owner,” says Alison Liaboe, director of communications and research for Ecova, an energy and sustainability management firm. “This includes reducing turnover, minimizing the cost of building operations, and increasing tenant referrals. A better performing building also benefits workers by improving their health and productivity.”
Nagging occupants to turn off equipment has never resulted in sustained energy savings – make them an extension of your FM team instead. By engaging tenants with fun and creative programs, property managers can turn passive employees into energy champions.
The only loser is your utility bill.