MT Expert - Innovation: Make your office eco-friendly (on a budget)

If money were no object, you'd be hard pressed to find a business that doesn't want to reduce its carbon footprint. Robbie Thompson from eco-consultants RES Inbuilt explains how to be green without a large capital outlay.

by Robbie Thompson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

In this day and age, most organisations recognise that they have a responsibility to sustain the environment around them. Couple that with issues such as rising energy costs and carbon taxation and it’s a no-brainer. 

The good news is that in order to become green there are host of options that don’t automatically mean you have to erect a wind turbine on your roof.  In fact, often the best approach is what we call 'reduce first'.  This doesn’t mean knocking down your building and starting afresh; it means targeting inefficiency and dealing with the low hanging fruit. 

It involves looking at your building, looking at your building systems and looking to identify where energy is being wasted. Importantly, it’s asking the right questions: Is the heating on when the building isn’t occupied? Is the air conditioning on in January? Are empty rooms being lit? Are windows being left open? Have your cooling fans been serviced recently? The questions you should be asking are very simple and the solutions are often more so.

As with everything in business the key to energy efficiency is stakeholder buy-in. In this case your stakeholders are your employees and your facilities management team. If your stakeholders see green as a bureaucratic waste of time then no amount of expenditure will help you towards your aims.

We have found engaging with employees and the facilities team is a vital part of the greening process. Unsurprisingly, it is often your employees who can tell you what’s wrong with the building and more often than not the best way of fixing it. Running internal workshops will get your employees involved, getting that vital buy-in and even encouraging them to drive the whole process.

Significant energy consumption benefits can be achieved by including additional training for those operating HVAC and Lighting systems, with a focus on reducing waste. This allows all occupants to understand how the building should work and provides staff with a level of ownership and understanding of the building and its control systems. An important thing to remember is that, done properly, this will improve the building’s comfort, cut energy bills and should never be a burden.
Once the easy things have been done, a business can normally identify additional reductions in operational energy use by improving upon the existing building fabric and services. This is especially true of businesses that have not undergone any improvements in the last 15-20 years. Again simple questions will highlight what needs to be done: Are the boilers sized correctly? Do the walls have cavity wall insulation? Is the air conditioning old and inefficient? Can the lighting be improved?

The green issue has been espoused by the Government, which has provided mechanisms to encourage eco-business within its Green Deal. Recent proposals from The Department of Energy and Climate Change dictate that non-domestic customers could be offered no upfront cost options for energy efficiency improvements. This will also help reduce overheads from energy fuel costs as well as meeting CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme obligations.

Of course, when it comes to sustainability, there is no magic bullet or 'one size fits all' approach. Requirements can change depending on who owns the building, the type of building, who occupies it and how much energy is used. But a 'reduce first' approach is normally the most cost-effective model. Try it out and let me know how it goes in the Comment box.

Robbie Thompson is a sustainable design consultant at RES Inbuilt

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