Now, more than ever, taking steps to minimize energy use is seen as smart business practice and a demonstration of corporate responsibility. There’s no question that taking measures to improve the energy efficiency of a building is a proven strategy to reduce operating costs and increase cash flow.
While many energy efficiency initiatives focus primarily on the upgrading of equipment and energy systems within a building, there's another very important side to the process that is often overlooked: occupant behaviour.
The success of any energy efficiency project is dependent on people as much as it is the technology. When Kambo Energy Solutions Specialists are performing an energy assessment of a building, they record information about many aspects of the building related to energy, but they also go a step further to capture important details about the occupants habits and level of energy-consciousness by noting things such as:
Lights left on in vacant areas
Lights on in areas where daylight would provide sufficient light levels
Plug loads such as computers and monitors left on when not in use
An unreasonable level of space heating and/or cooling
Windows being left open in actively heated or air-conditioned space
An insight into occupant behavior is of great value to building owners and operators who may otherwise not be aware because they are not present in the building themselves. Because we are always most interested in upgrades that will return the highest payback on a low initial investment, occupant habits are especially important because they cost nothing to improve. While we always recommend the appropriate technology to correct some of these issues above (such as installing vacancy sensors for lighting), these controls are only effective if they are successfully adopted by the occupants of the space.
Going beyond the initial energy assessment, an energy monitoring solution provides the highest level of insight. Lights left on overnight or equipment left on over a holiday can mean a big hit to the electrical bill leaving building operators scratching their heads. Energy monitoring highlights especially bad occupant habits that may have otherwise never been discovered.
So, what do building owners do with this information? For smaller buildings with few occupants, sometimes a simple discussion can be effective. For larger buildings with many occupants, Natural Resources Canada recommends creating an Energy Awareness Plan to inform and motivate tenants. Kambo can help develop this, using information captured in our assessment and/or power monitoring to more effectively customize the plan.
While improving occupant behavior alone won’t give you a more efficient building, it is vital in conjunction with the application of new technology to achieving long term reductions in energy consumption. As the energy efficiency industry continues to move rapidly forward, we can’t forget the human element and the importance of communication.