Embracing Energy Management to Control Costs & Consumption

Energy use in the UK dropped between 2019 and 2020 due to enforced nationwide lockdowns. But, following that, consumption has risen substantially. Oil use in the services sector alone raised by 5.2% to 20.7 million tonnes as buildings welcomed back occupants.

Following a 54% increase in energy bill spending between April 2021 and 2022, energy consumption has become a concern for most facility managers. Without sufficient control and tracking of how energy is used, building costs can spiral.

Rising energy bills cost

Source: commonslibrary.parliament.uk

As well as rising costs, facility managers need to consider how efficiently they’re using their energy as building and construction industries accelerate towards ‘greener’ projects. Meeting greener environmental targets is also a top trigger when it comes to meeting the expectations of occupants.

The unwanted contribution of greenhouse gas emissions is a concern too, with residential and commercial buildings accounting for 40% of U.S. – and 36% of EU – carbon dioxide emissions.

6 Tips to Reduce Building Energy Consumption & Costs

1. Choose the Right Tariff

Tariffs are a top consideration for reducing energy costs, following a routine energy audit. Tariffs are typically offered at fixed or variable rates and can depend on several factors such as;

  • Business type
  • Location
  • Size
  • Sector/Industry

It’s recommended to review your energy tariff costs every month and keep a close eye on charges to your bill, particularly if you’re on a variable rate.

Also, consider the time of day you consume your energy. For instance, if you’re using 20% of your electricity in off-peak hours (typically between 10 am and 8 pm) a day-night tariff would be most cost-effective.

Electricity consumption for non-domestic buildings

Source: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk

2. Utilise Your Space

Optimising your space not only improves employee productivity, but it’s also a clever way to reduce your energy consumption. One way is to utilise natural light. By combining room and floor layouts with optimal window placements, the need for electric lighting is limited.

Another consideration is to group occupants closer together, as opposed to having workstations placed sporadically over multiple rooms and floors. This allows heating, cooling, appliances, and lighting to be used in fewer areas.

3. Regular Maintenance Equals Greater Efficiency

Regular maintenance is an effective way to ensure appliances and energy-reliant units are working efficiently. In 2018 nearly 45% of unscheduled equipment downtime was due to ageing infrastructure.

As an example, consider a heating unit that has been functioning for 10 years. During those 10 years, without regular maintenance checks, pipe insulation would have degraded. Resulting in regular heat loss and less efficient heating.

Strategies, such as preventive maintenance and PPM, help to combat the effect of equipment ageing. This, in turn, reduces repair and breakdown costs and ensures equipment is running at its most energy efficient.

4. Don’t Hold Back on Insulation

Insulation is an effective low-cost solution for reducing energy consumption, particularly for heating. By insulating roofs, walls, heating pipes, and installing double-glazing windows you can drastically reduce heat loss.

 Asset Type % of Energy Wasted
 Air compressor 80%
 Pump 45%
 Fan 35%
 HVAC unit 22%
 Motor 15%

5. Consider High-Energy Efficiency Appliances

Choosing to use only high-energy efficient appliances throughout a building consciously makes you aware of how much energy consumption can be reduced. The major areas of energy consumption in a building are heating, ventilation, and air conditioning – making up 35% – so it’s important to ensure your HVAC systems are as energy-efficient as possible.

Also consider the energy efficiency output for:

  • Printers
  • Refrigerators/Freezers
  • Kettles
  • Toilets & taps

Also, try to replace all lighting with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Switching out just one 100-watt incandescent bulb for an LED bulb can save £15 per bulb per year. Businesses can potentially decrease their energy consumption by up to 80% by using LED light bulbs alone.

6. Track Consumption In a Building Management System

Arguably, the easiest way to track how energy is being used throughout your facility is with a building energy management system or CAFM Software. These tools allow facility managers to combine energy bills with consumption reports to monitor and control their usage. A sophisticated system enables FMs to:

  • Easily generate energy audit reports
  • View and compare monthly energy bills
  • Know what appliances are the most energy efficient
  • See where the most energy is being consumed (between floors, rooms, buildings, and sites)
  • Assign custom energy ratings to assets

Of course, you can track energy spending on notepads or spreadsheets, but it will require a lot of manual work when it comes to tracking the energy consumption of rooms and appliances. Whereas smart devices and energy trackers can work in real-time with data collection tools. 66% of global organisations identify energy management as the prime business driver for smart buildings.

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Why Costs, Sustainability & Well-Being Are Driving Energy Management

Three key factors are driving the need for energy management in modern working environments;

  1. The need to reduce costs
  2. A responsibility to reduce carbon footprint and create greener buildings
  3. To meet the demands of environmentally-conscious employees and occupants

The Need to Reduce Costs

For the most part, energy costs are out of a building owner’s control. Oil, gas, and electricity prices will regularly fluctuate which can cause irregular and unexpected energy bills. To combat this, facility managers need to be able to spot patterns in both their energy consumption and payments through regular audits.

Since January 2021, the price of the cheapest energy tariffs in the UK has doubled. Now, depending on the size, a business’s annual energy bill ranges from £4,837 to £14,124.

Average annual energy bill per business size

A quick way to calculate your current energy consumption costs would be to use an energy consumption calculator.

A Responsibility to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

In 2019, buildings were responsible for 17% of the UK’s total direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). This was mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels for heating and electricity for lighting and appliances.

Edward Taylor-Robinson, Head of Estates at National Museums Liverpool (NML), spoke on the Comparesoft Facilities Management Podcast about how he and his team have managed to reduce their NML’s energy costs by 30% using techniques such as decarbonisation:

“In this period of time, we’re looking at the energy crisis and sustainability environmental environmentalism. So, we are looking at the decarbonisation of the estate. So, we’ve had a decarbonisation plan drafted, which will form part of our maintenance plan.”

Decarbonisation and the use of low-carbon power generation are increasing among building owners, with the UK government scheme aiming to reduce emissions from public sector buildings by 75% by 2037.

Meet the Environmental Demands of Employees

Whether you manage an office, school, hospital, or manufacturing plant, keeping occupants and employees happy is among the top priorities for a facility manager. There are multiple ways to achieve this, such as granting access to amenities, offering a healthy workplace environment, and optimising room and floor space.

Now, though, employees will look into how environmentally friendly a building is and what is being done to promote a greener environment. In the UK, around 65 per cent note that occupant demand for greener and more sustainable buildings has risen over the past 12 months.

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An Energy Management Checklist for Facility Managers

Equipped with a building energy management system, you can begin to track and monitor the consumption of your facility’s energy by following these steps:

☐ Measure current energy usage

Start to track tariffs, bills, additional payments to energy suppliers, where energy is being used the most, and when energy is being used.

☐ Look for patterns & upticks

Track and audit your energy consumption monthly and identify upticks in energy usage. By doing so, you can understand emerging patterns – such as weather patterns related to heating/cooling systems and seasonal changes meaning more lights being switched on.

☐ Analyse your data

See where energy is being used the most (what floor, room, site, or building) and what appliances are costing the most to run. This could mean maintenance is required on appliances to increase their efficiency output.

☐ Set targets and KPIs

Identify where you intend to reduce energy costs and offset carbon emissions.

☐ Action energy-saving processes

Start to implement the energy-saving measures that you have identified. Replace inefficient assets and appliances, switch tariffs, and deploy smart tracking devices.