You don’t need to own an eye-catching green building to be concerned about your property’s energy use footprint. Soaring utility bills, tight margins, and pressure from shareholders, tenants, and regulators have owners and operators of all types of commercial buildings scrambling to develop smart energy management strategies for their properties.
Wondering where to start? Here are four strategies to help your company control overheads, reduce emissions, and meet stakeholder expectations.
Stepping Up: Four Smart Energy Management Strategies
As global energy prices rise and governments and industry commit to ever-tighter emissions targets, pressure is mounting on commercial building owners and operators to improve the energy performance of their buildings. From hotels to hospitals to call centers, commercial real estate drives the knowledge economy—and accounts for a huge chunk of its energy usage.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), commercial and residential properties consumed 12% of total U.S. energy production in 2021, while commercial properties spent a total of $142 billion on energy costs in 2018. At the same time, a PNNL study found that, on average, 30% of the energy used in U.S. commercial buildings is wasted.
With huge costs (and big potential savings) on the line and an increasing focus on long-term environmental sustainability, smart companies with commercial real estate exposure are developing a range of energy management strategies.
While in many cases the overall aim of these strategies is to improve sustainability and cut costs, specific programs are often driven by key deliverables including:
- Meeting pre-defined energy consumption goals
- Qualifying for incentives offered by utilities, regulators, or local governments
- Attaining key industry certifications
- Meeting the needs identified by the tenants
- Responding to shareholder concerns
- Improving occupancy rates
In most cases, these goals have taken many months to several years to achieve, and are the result of four common types of strategic engagement processes:
1. Develop a Company Energy Culture
As companies have wrestled with how to improve energy efficiency in their facilities it has become increasingly clear that no strategy will succeed with commitment and effort on an individual level. Smart organizations have therefore invested time and effort upfront to understand, improve, and where possible, leverage existing attitudes towards energy use.
Often this means asking complex and sometimes difficult questions like:
- How committed are we as a company to improving energy efficiency?
- Who is driving this process—management or frontline workers?
- Are we concerned more about company profits or environmental sustainability?
- How much pain and disruption are we willing to absorb to achieve particular energy consumption goals?
Embracing the sometimes uncomfortable truths these questions uncover can be challenging, but no workable commercial energy management strategy can succeed without company-wide buy-in and individual commitment.
With broad organizational support, however, your company’s energy culture can become a core part of your corporate identity and a powerful engine for change. Consider working with a qualified strategy or change consultant to help you navigate this process.
2. Measure and Analyze Energy Use
Just as important as organizational change is a strategic understanding of how your company uses energy. For companies that own, operate, or lease commercial property, this will include a comprehensive survey of the energy efficiency of the buildings themselves, as well as the condition, serviceability, and maintenance of plant equipment, monitors, and controls.
In many cases, this will take the form of a building performance report that:
- Assesses how much total energy a building (or campus) uses
- Measures the efficiency of any automated controls or building management systems
- Identifies opportunities for savings or improved performance
- Surveys of this type can be carried out by certified inspectors with LEED or other green building or energy efficiency accreditations. If your facilities use integrated building automation systems (BASs), you might also have access to significant data and data analytics tools to help you understand the energy performance of your property.
3. Repair, Replace, Remediate, and Optimize
A comprehensive energy use or building performance survey will identify issues with immediate, or short-term and longer-term solutions. These immediately addressable and relatively low-cost solutions typically include:
Repair, replace and remediate: Many energy use challenges can be addressed with relatively simple repairs or maintenance of existing facilities by replacing faulty equipment or by improving insulation, ventilation, or power supply. Simply improving weather-stripping and caulking can yield big savings in a large facility.
Optimization of existing systems: In many cases, new technology can optimize performance and extend the life of existing equipment. Conexus, a Pennsylvania-based BAS specialist, uses open-source solutions like Tridium’s Niagara framework to optimize and extend the life of existing “legacy” automation systems until you are ready to upgrade.
4. Strategic Energy Management
At the same time, companies need to develop multi-year strategies to drive lasting improvements in new equipment and processes. Strategic energy management (SEM) plans are designed to build organizational consensus and align stakeholders to support long-term projects that can often involve significant capital outlay.
SEMs can be company-wide initiatives but they can also take the form of regional partnerships within industries or between businesses and local utilities. There are more than 30 programs now in operation across the U.S. from major energy players including National Grid, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas & Electric.
A well-structured SEM provides organizational support and funding for facility or campus-wide BAS upgrades. Get the most out of your SEM capital investment by working with a single, experienced partner like Conexus that can provide an integrated approach to BAS installation, commissioning, maintenance, and upgrading, as well as industry-leading data analytics.
Conexus: Your Strategic Energy Management Partner
Wherever you are on your energy management journey, it’s worth talking to Conexus about your organization’s goals and challenges. A leading supplier of BAS to multiple industries, Conexus has the experience and know-how to optimize the performance of existing equipment and manage the roll-out of complex cutting-edge energy management systems.
Our services include:
- BAS installation and commissioning
- BAS maintenance and upgrading
- Cross-platform, legacy, and multi-vendor device integrations
- System analytics and data visualization
- System hosting, monitoring, and support
Driven by an unwavering commitment to robust, open-source networking, Conexus delivers industry-leading building automation solutions backed by rigorous commissioning protocols developed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Click below to learn how Conexus can help optimize your energy management strategy.