22 Oct 5 Ways to Reduce Office Building Energy Costs(Last Updated On: April 26, 2016)
Winter weather can really play havoc. For business owners, the weather can impact their business performance because winter storms affect potential customers and employees. However, another large business expense is energy costs. As the temperature drops, then the office requires more heat to keep everyone warm.
In fact, there are some studies that detail how important energy costs are on the bottom line.
“When it comes to energy costs, [taking action] makes savings here makes enormous sense for business overall…the Carbon Trust has said that just a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption equates to increasing sales by around 5 percent, and not many business owners would sniff at that!”
For business owners that manage their office buildings, then there are some simple ways to help control winter energy costs.
The first thing facilities managers should review are the do-it-yourself (DIY) actions to keep the warm air inside the building.
To start, as Sure Close outlines, treat the office entrance like your own house. This means doing some simple things, like:
- Keep the doors closed.
- Close the blinds at night.
- Insulate the pipes and hot water tanks.
- Install radiator foils.
There is a lot of traffic in office buildings. This poses some minor problems to facilities managers and owners looking to keep the warm air inside. Employees need to leave the building throughout the day, therefore, the more the door is open, the more air flow will occur and allow cold air to enter the office. Many of the action items help keep the hot air inside (particularly at night when there is not much activity). For example, if the windows have blinds, then make sure they are lowered at night because the extra layer of protection reduces the draft.
Another simple task concerns building pipes and radiators. The insulation and radiator foils are particularly important if these items touch external walls. When in contact with an exterior wall, then cold wall will leach the heat out of the room. Radiator foils help reflect the heat back into the room.
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate
In real estate, the professional saying is location, location, location. In facilities, then the saying should be insulate, insulate, insulate.
In business, the saying cash is king always rings true. So, when looking at reducing energy costs, improper insulation is like watching your hard earned cash float out the front door.
The stats are quite alarming as 60% of heat loss occurs through building fabric.
What is building fabric? Simply, the materials that protect the building from the outside. Of the roughly 60% of heat loss that floats out of the building, this is the estimated breakdown of the culprits:
- 25% via windows.
- 20-25% via roof.
- 10% via walls.
- 10% via floors.
The best part of insulation is it works year round. If owners take the time to insulate during the winter, then the cold air will stay inside during the summer as well.
Understand and Control the Building Airflow and Air Quality
Similar to insulation, business owners should understand the building and office airflow. Owners should work with facility managers to control the airflow and air quality because it will improve the general environment for employees.
First, seek to understand what creates the airflow in the building. The major activities that generate airflow within a building are:
- human activities – the movement of your employees really impact the airflow.
- ventilation systems – be mindful that dirty systems move contaminated air throughout the building that impacts the office air quality.
- natural and/or chimney effects – air flow determined by design, such as building shape, size, stairwells, elevator shafts, etc. are the dominant force behind the office airflow.
- temperature changes – air pressure from temperature changes, along with weather conditions (such as wind, rain, snow) impact the building airflow.
For more information and details on the causes of airflow and how it impacts the building, then check out Inspectapedia.
Depending on the building size, then facilities managers may want to consider installing a revolving door. Slate provided some investigative reporting, in conjunction with an MIT study, to understand how, and if, revolving doors worked. The answer, yes.
“According to their calculations, the swinging door allowed as much as eight times more air to pass through the building than the revolving door. Applying average Boston weather to their equations, the MIT team found that if everyone used the revolving doors, it would save more than 75,000 kilowatt-hours of energy—about 1.5 percent of the total required to heat and cool the building.”
The article also provides some suggestions to help persuade people to actually use the revolving doors as well. Just as nicely with a “please use the revolving door” sign.
“Here’s the good news: The research team found that in another building on campus—one where a simple and polite sign had long been posted before researchers started tracking door usage—revolving-door use was higher than anywhere else on campus, even after those signs were taken down. And the MIT team also noticed that there appeared to be a snowball effect—once one person used a revolving door, other people often followed, particularly since it required less force to push through.”
Deal with Issues Immediately
Although it is human nature to put off many tasks that do not have an immediate impact, it is important to deal with any issues immediately.
In fact, with building maintenance (just like home ownership), a proactive approach works best. For business owners, particularly, if you serve customers on-site, then any building issues has a huge negative effect for your company. Preventative maintenance works to spot potential issues before they strike.
Spiral Utilities, a professional building and utility management firm, notes that an annual check up works best. Most businesses have a busy season, so select a date (or month) that has some significance that is not during your busy season. For example, an accounting firm might want to focus on building maintenance during the summer because it follows tax season. Find a time where you can dedicate some time working with facility managers and/or contractors.
Managing an office building takes some considerable amount of costs. In addition to general expenses, building and facilities managers may need to compete for limited resources within an organization (depending on the size of the building and company).
Like all decisions, managers need to weigh the pros and cons of making certain upgrades and investments (such as the long term pay back period). In general,working to stop air drafts and leaks a good first step. This will impact the heating and cooling expenses, along with improving the temperature and atmosphere for your co-workers. After all, nobody likes working in a drafty work area.
For a general overview of how various priorities may impact overall costs, then Inspectapedia provides the following guidance.
- Stop Drafts and Air Leaks – concentrate on leaky windows and doors. Individually, these leaks may be small, but cumulatively, they will add up to large amounts of air loss.
Insulate Attics – as discussed in Insulate, Insulate, Insulate, hot air rises and tends to vacate the building via an “up and out” method, so targeting the top level is a good first step.
- Update Windows – particularly if the current windows are old, new windows (following an energy checkup to ensure they are the problem) should have a faster payback then replacing the entire window unit.
- Insulate Walls – following the roof and any leaky windows, move on to the next largest conduit of air leaks (also include basements and crawl spaces, as applicable).
- Review Heating and Cooling System – to keep energy costs under control year round, then conduct a performance review of the current heating and cooling system to manage the building throughout the year.
Running a business is pretty hard (we know!), so it is important to spend your time on matters that impact your business. The last thing you want to worry about is an office building issue because it distracts you from your employees and customers. Luckily, at SolvIt, you are our customers and we would be happy to answer any questions about building maintenance. Contact SolvIt today and ask about our energy checkup to understand the airflow in your building.