With October being Energy Awareness Month, energy efficiency and sustainability are top of mind for commercial building owners and property managers. As demonstrated by the many articles and posts — such as this info graphic — found in the media this month, there is a wide range of things that can be done to help with your energy management programs.
There are simple tasks you can implement – such as switching to CFL light bulbs, using smart power strips, changing cleaning and maintenance schedules, and more. And there are more sophisticated energy solutions available as well — such as installing automated controls, improving your technical building infrastructure, and leasing your rooftop or land to solar developers, to name a few.
One thing you might not know, however, is how much control occupants directly and indirectly have over your building’s energy use. According to ENERGY STAR, between 60% and 80% of the energy used in most office buildings is consumed by tenants within their spaces. And, plug loads typically total 30% of building energy use.
With this in mind, tenants can be a great untapped resource for improving energy efficiency. Educating them and changing their behavior can be key to the success of your energy management programs.
To help you engage your building occupants in your energy management plans and make them more effective, here are some simple, proven strategies you can explore:
- Be Open — Transparency is critical for tenant participation. Share your plans and goals with them. Also, provide them with timely, current energy information. Some ideas include:
- Provide a web portal they can access to track their energy usage profile and data
- Display building scorecards
- Create newsletters, email blasts, or other regular communications that keep tenants current with the progress towards the goals
- Raise Awareness — Improving tenants’ understanding of their energy use and the impact of their actions can go a long way. Increase their general energy awareness and provide them with specific steps and actions to follow. Examples include:
- Create educational programs and informational letter campaigns and email blasts
- Display building signage, such as light switch covers that remind tenants to turn off the lights
- Develop a web-based resource portal
- Assess Current Practices — Determine your tenants’ current energy use and identify opportunities for improvements. For example:
- Perform Tenant Sustainability Assessments to determine as-is state
- Provide plans and checklists so tenants know what they can work on and improve
- Create a Sustainability Improvement Manual for tenants
- Empower — Allow your tenants to take an active role in improving the efficiency of their building. Examples include:
- Create a joint tenant/owner/management council and collectively establish performance goals
- Nurture energy champions among the tenants
- Welcome tenant ideas and encourage them to participate and make suggestions
- Incentivize — Be sure and express what you are trying to achieve and the tenants’ role in accomplishing it. Offer rewards (food, cash, prizes) and recognition for their participation. Ideas include:
- Sponsor Lunch & Learns, Bagel Breakfasts, or Ice Cream Socials to educate, inform, and encourage innovation and idea sharing
- Give plaques or trophies for tenants who participate in surveys or complete projects
- Create friendly competitions
- Communicate — Create an all occupant communication plan, establish a dedicated budget to host events and create materials, and connect with tenants in ways that have the most impact. For example:
- Host events, display posters and info in the building lobby, or offer building tours
- Regularly contact tenants with reminders, tips, and updates
- Promote and celebrate successes
- Leverage Energy Star — ENERGY STAR is recognized by 80% of Americans, and is a respected authority on energy efficiency. They have many ready-to-use tools, templates, and materials you can leverage including:
- Tenant benefits letters
- Office posters and materials you can co-brand
- Certifications, competitions, and awards
For more on this and other ways you can improve your energy efficiency, check out the ENERGY STAR website.