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Footprint Reductions... ...and More

15 January 2009

More efficient use of working and meeting space is now high on the corporate agenda. By linking occupancy
to a carbon footprint calculation demonstrates the real ‘cost’ to the occupier of poor space planning and facility use. Simon Willcox explains how reducing space utilisation and carbon footprints go hand in hand

IN THE 2008 FAULTY TOWERS RESEARCH ON SUSTAINABLE buildings, Gensler reported that British business aims to reduce property related energy consumption by 12 per cent over the next five years. Businesses are, according to the report, estimating that this figure currently represent about 5 per cent of their company’s annual turnover. No wonder then that those responsible for energy consumption in commercial property are being placed under pressure to look at environmental management in new and different ways. It is obviously not just about the corporate responsibility agenda, but ever more pertinently about saving cost, an ever important consideration during these difficult economic times.

Perhaps the most talked about strategy is to review the use of space, making sure that the organisation is using it efficiently and effectively for the business. It is not a difficult equation to make: the less space you use the less energy will be consumed. In the Guide to Sustainability researched by Building Sustainability, it is estimated that a third of the possible reduction in energy use can be achieved through maximising the use of space.

The more radical attempts to reduce space utilisation with hot desking and hoteling are as much about culture change as they are about use of space. They require a relatively long term plan to be successful and the collaboration of the core business manager, human resources, as well as facilities management. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has implemented ‘Workspace’, a flexible working strategy that has negated the
need to procure additional workspace and removing the need to heat and cool a third building.

Workplace management systems such as Resource Scheduler provide the necessary support for both quantifying space utilisation as well as enabling the change management process as the systems are user-friendly, and the process of booking desks and meeting rooms is painless.

There is a real argument for ‘biting the bullet’ and initiating this type of change. PeopleCube is partnering with the BT Workstyle programme for that very reason. BT Workstyle advises organisations on the use of space and estimates that it is possible to increase the use of space by 30 per cent, or if you turn that on it’s head, desk space is being under utilised by 30 per cent. If you include under utilised meeting space this figure moves closer to 46 per cent.

Meeting rooms are a good example of spaces that are regularly shared but aren’t considered ‘owned’ by anyone. Monitoring usage can be considered a benefit to the organisation as a whole. Most organisations have a system for room booking. Both physical and virtual systems are on the market. Varying in sophistication, they are not just effective in their primary use of scheduling space more efficiently, but can be a highly systemised data gathering tool for looking at demand for space usage over a specified period of time. For an FM the reports that are generated by systems such as Resource Scheduler can provide a real insight into how much space is being used, when it is being used and with what sort of regularity.

With a system that monitors room usage a decision can be made to mothball a room that isn’t used or turn it into storage space. Immediate benefits come from energy saving. By linking the use of the room to the building management system it is possible to programme lighting and heating to coincide with room use. The impact on savings is considerable with some organisations reporting a significant reduction in energy use as rooms that are not in use are neither lit nor temperature controlled.

This is not new but the next step is innovative. Intelligently programmed software such as PeopleCube’s Resource Scheduler that not only links with control systems but prompts users to book the most efficient meeting rooms for their needs. For example, a room that has already been used during the day is more efficient to heat than an untreated room that has not been used. This enables temperature control to be maintained at a constant level. The same would apply for users trying to book larger rooms than they require. By allowing the system to recommend the most efficient resource the use of energy is managed in line with the actual needs of the users and it doesn’t require a person to manage the process.

The next logical step is to make energy usage both measurable and visible. It is human nature to care about what you can see. If people know the level of energy they are consuming it should make it more likely they will feel responsible for that usage and consider making it their responsibility to reduce what they use.

As well as being able to link to building control systems, new space management systems are now able to link with a carbon tracker. Footrprint Tracker is a software product from Building Sustainability designed to support this. The link to the Carbon Tracker system then connects that data to energy consumption and presents the information in a user digestible format. Energy usage can to be attributed to teams and areas within the building and FMs can, with the necessary information, demonstrate where savings can be made. Clearly benchmarking energy use in equivalent types of space in different parts of a building or even across buildings can help to pinpoint areas for change and therefore reducing costs.

A dashboard can be both informative and engaging to ensure that the information is appropriate. It is about providing relevant information that raises awareness. By providing end users with the ability to set their own “comfort” preferences when booking resources, new space management systems can further promote energy savings by showing individuals the impact of the decisions they make. All of which leads us to the innovation of tomorrow.

Peoplecube is developing space management software programmes that focus on individual responsibility and awareness. Application programming interfaces (API) will be at the heart of innovation as this will enable building and space management systems to interface with a host of business systems including personal devices and therefore build awareness with individuals as well as account for their personal preferences. In terms of environmental management this will not only enable people to take responsibility for controlling the energy they use, but will also allow FMs to control how people use the building.

The Bullring in Birmingham has switched to an LED energy efficient lighting solution working with Philips Lighting Solutions, Weblight and MITIE. The old cold cathode lighting system has been replaced with Philips eW® Cove Powercore delivers a high quality white light primarily to illuminate the areas around the main escalators, toilets and lifts as well as decorative shaped facets recessed into the ceiling voids of the main walkways. At the main entrances there are LED City Wing streetlighting luminaires and in St Martins Square, which hosts events throughout the year, LEDs in the window boxes and fountains add a sense of theatre and colour that changes. By using LEDs about 85% less energy is needed for lighting saving the Bullring about £34,000 savings a year in running costs and 251 tonnes of CO2 emissions plus lower maintenance costs. (www.philips.com)

CP Electronics has introduced a new Online Energy Calculator to its website to provide an invaluable tool for calculating savings in specific installations. The simple to use tool will calculate the financial savings that can be achieved by using energy saving lighting controls such as time lag switches and PIR Detectors. Just go to www.cpelectronics.co.uk, select the product you are interested in and then work out how much you will save at your premises by clicking on the potential energy savings icon.

Online and home shopping retailer, Shop Direct Group, is using used Plogg plug-in wireless energy meters from Energy Optimisers (www.energyoptimisersdirect.co.uk) to achieve electricity savings worth £500 per year for each of the 10 refrigerators at its new HQ in Speke, Liverpool. The move has also reduced CO2 emissions by 22 tonnes annually. Plogg can monitor the energy consumption of individual appliances over time. Shop Direct monitoring of power consumption found that its fridges were consuming a lot of power in the evening, at night and at weekends.

● Simon Willcox is Product Development Manager, Europe at PeopleCube www.peoplecube.com


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