In the facilities management and commercial real estate sectors, the disconnect between building owners and tenants can slow the switch to energy efficiency. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star® program, a significant portion of a building’s energy use is under the direct or indirect control of the occupants.
For example, a building’s plug load (the power used by appliances and equipment plugged into outlets) is typically 30% and is directly controlled by occupants.
Since even the best energy efficiency programs will fail without the commitment of all stakeholders, building owners can ensure success by sharing their knowledge and their goals with tenants, creating enthusiasm and awareness that will benefit all.
Here are eight valuable ways the EPA recommends for getting tenants actively engaged in energy efficiency programs.
- Be open and transparent by letting tenants know what you are doing to improve energy efficiency and what your goals are. Information like a building’s total energy use, Energy Star score, or real-time or recent energy use information provides tenants facts to use now and going forward.
One company in the Energy Star program used scorecard posters updated each month to track a building’s progress toward energy use goals. Another provided a web portal for sub-metered tenants to access their energy-use data and identify ways to reduce consumption. A third firm provides an annual report on a building’s efficiency including energy, renewable energy, water, and waste streams.
- Leverage Energy Star, which is among the most well-known energy saving programs in the United States Eighty percent of Americans recognize the brand on everything from appliances to entire buildings. The EPA’s program offers tip sheets, posters and interactive tools as well as guidance and templates that are free for the downloading and can be co-branded with company logos.
- Increase tenant awareness by developing site-specific things they can do to reduce energy use and show how those steps contribute to the overall building efficiency. Be sure to address each tenant’s primary concerns and customize the information to fit by including such things as per-square-foot energy costs and how reductions will impact a building’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, reminders to turn off overhead lighting in unoccupied rooms, installing energy efficient light bulbs, and maximizing natural light can grease the wheel and get tenants thinking about other ways they can reduce their use. Another great idea is to send out seasonal blast emails, such as during the Christmas holidays, when building use may be less than normal and drawing attention to energy efficiency can really pay off.
- Assess tenant-specific use of space to identify ways to reduce energy use. Many commercial real estate companies provide this information by creating manuals and web-based tools that tally occupancy schedules, equipment run-time schedules, operational sequences, and preventative maintenance to name a few of the factors that might be considered.
- Partnering with tenants also empowers them to become active players. Knowledgeable building owners can work collaboratively with occupants to establish performance goals, create joint tenant/owner management committees, and encourage the flow of new ideas through “green teams” and other employee-oriented programs.
- Build enthusiasm with incentives. Once tenants know the game plan, incentives like rewards of food, cash or prizes, and opportunities to be recognized can keep the momentum building and engage employees at every level.
- Help build camaraderie and establish energy efficiency as a company-wide goal with competitions. Energy efficiency competitions can pit department against department, floor against floor, or property against property, and offer prizes and other incentives to the winners.
- Above all else, communication is the key to success. The EPA recommends creating a tenant communications plan and budget that utilizes all of the above steps and ideas to stay in touch, on track and consistently save energy.