BLOG: Tackling Emissions from Office Operations: Start with Usage

Kristin Marin, CUBE programme manager, and Kara Benett, Net Zero Lead at Ampersand Partners, write for UKGBC about tackling energy waste in our office buildings.
Women in an office practicing social distancing

Published on

October 13, 2021

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In the race to a net zero carbon built environment, the first step is energy efficiency. There is a growing abundance of appealing technologies and investment opportunities to deliver efficiency. However, unless in-use energy savings are prioritised the whole pathway is sub-optimal.

Commercial buildings, especially, are highly wasteful when it comes to energy consumption. Space heating alone accounts for 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint. Offices account for 20% of non-domestic buildings in the UK and are the second highest energy consumer after factories. Lighting accounts for 23% of operational emissions in commercial buildings and is the easiest category to decarbonise by switching to proven energy efficient LED lighting. However, when not properly programmed to meet the actual needs of users, the full impact of the investment is diminished. For example, it is not uncommon to see high night and weekend loads, even during COVID when offices have stood empty for months on end.

CUBE competition blog post

According to the UK Climate Change Committee, cutting emissions from commercial buildings is the most difficult of all sectors. However, making an early investment that focuses on energy usage via usage efficiencies and basic building reprogramming, is the first step in the journey and can shave up to 50% of energy use with limited capital expenditure. If building managers and occupiers work together on reprogramming features such as lighting and heating settings, the benefits go beyond energy savings and actually improve occupier well-being and comfort.

Part of this move to energy efficiency also includes getting rid of the excess waste arising from inefficient use of the building. Doing so clarifies the “true” efficiency and energy demands of the buildings, helping businesses identify the areas which need improvement. This changes the business case for the bigger decisions around investments and full building remodelling. As shown in the graph, even after investing in the best available technology that exists out there, you’d still have an extra layer of waste being dragged along the entire journey, limiting the building from seeing the true impact of the investments.

When you start with usage efficiency, there is also an opportunity to transform the tenant-landlord relationships around aligned objectives earlier on. This builds momentum for those bigger decisions to be made further down the line, making conversations around ambitious green leasing more fruitful. This is the reason why CUBE Competition was created by top landlords and technical partners in France and is now launching in the UK.

CUBE competition is the UK’s first competition delivering energy savings in commercial buildings, designed to bring landlords, building managers, and occupiers together and mobilise them to reduce their energy consumption through gamification and behaviour change. This element of collaboration helps demonstrate to other participants what is possible in terms of energy savings, encouraging them to think innovatively. The competition has been running successfully in France for six years and has reduced energy consumption in office buildings by an average of 12% and up to 55% by changing behaviour, without the need for any major investment.

Join CUBE to align landlords, building managers, and occupiers around usage efficiency as the critical step in driving the decarbonisation of the built environment.

This blog was written by Kristin Marin, CUBE programme manager and Kara Benett, Net Zero Lead at Ampersand Partners. The CUBE competition is organised by Ampersand Partners, members of UKGBC. 

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CUBE COMPETITION

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