Switch-off campaigns can be a turn-off, Energetics warns

11 Sep 2009Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: CE Daily by James Akinson, Nick Jones, Principal Consultant for Built Environment, Energetics Pty Ltd speaks about the effect and solutions for energy efficiency.

By themselves, switch-off campaigns to save energy can be a turn-off and companies have to be smarter when building staff engagement, according to Energetics principal consultant Nick Jones.

Creating a workplace culture of environmental awareness is crucial to engaging employees in an energy efficiency program, Jones told CE Daily.

But it's important to recognise that staff will have different interests and motivations for taking action on environmental issues, he said.

Energy efficiency is just one of a range of sustainability initiatives that can be used to engage staff, with others including waste management, recycling and water conservation.

"'Switch off' campaigns do exactly what that say, they just switch people off. When trying to engage a wider audience you need to provide motivation across a broad front."
Start with baseload to maximise savings
Jones said that for owner-occupiers who are in charge of the building management system, the starting point for energy efficiency is reducing baseload energy use by ensuring plant and equipment is switched on only during operating hours.

He said plant and equipment will typically use 40% to 60% of total energy in a commercial building.

"The amount of offices we see where plant and equipment's running on into the evenings, on weekends and on public holidays… it should switch on in the morning just before you arrive and off in the evening when you go home."

Once plant and equipment are scheduled to operate only when necessary, it's crucial to make sure they are operating at maximum efficiency.

"A chiller plant for example, this has an optimum range, usually about 80% of full load," he said.
Automate controls
With baseload energy use minimised, Jones said the next step is to automate some controls.

He said significant savings can be made by introducing occupancy sensors to control lighting and air conditioning in rooms that are intermittently occupied, such as conference rooms, toilets and kitchens.
Remove excess lighting
Jones said 'switch-off' messages have their role to play and suggests labelling light switches to encourage staff to turn lights off in unoccupied areas.

He also suggests reducing the number of lights in non-critical parts of the office - simply by taking out the tubes.

Jones said laptops should be introduced where possible because their inbuilt power management systems make them far more efficient than desktop computers.

And he said companies should consider the impact of laptop, mobile and blackberry chargers that are left plugged in after the devices are charged and removed.

If the chargers are left on, "that little transformer is drawing power" even if the device it was charging is off or removed, he said.

"If you've got three or four of them on your desk powering things, that can add up for a large organisation."
Biggest mistake is complacency
Jones said that once energy efficiency gains have been achieved, organisations will often become complacent and bad habits return.

"Generally their focus will shift, and attrition creeps back in, lights get left on, plant efficiency starts to decline," he said.

"It's very much like your motor car if you don't service it - performance will fall off."

He suggests establishing a network of staff members with a particular interest in the environment to act as "energy champions" to ensure there is no single point of failure.

These staff members can carry out regular checks to ensure sensors are working, temperature is at a sensible level, and plant and equipment switches on and off at the correct times.
Sydney building will save $69,000 a year
Jones told CE Daily asset manager Valad Property Group will make energy savings worth $69,000 a year at a Sydney office building on completion of energy efficiency upgrade work currently underway.

Jones said the biggest saving at the 13,460m2 building will flow from chiller and building management system upgrades.

Replacing diesel burners in the boilers with gas burners, and upgrading the podium glazing will deliver additional benefits.

Jones said the building's NABERS energy rating is expected to improve from 2.5 to 4 stars, with a 37% reduction in building-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The upgrade at 227 Elizabeth Street building was partly funded by a $500,000 grant under AusIndustry's Green Building Fund program.

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