One of the biggest barriers to achieving real energy savings in commercial buildings is the lack of co-operation between owners and occupiers. Here are 10 tips on how to foster better collaboration.
With commercial buildings responsible for some 18% of UK carbon emission and with only 2% of this stock being replaced annually, there is clearly a heavy burden of responsibility on the property sector to take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions across its existing stock. The opportunity to realise substantial carbon savings exists within many commercial buildings.
The question then has to be asked: ‘Why don’t owners just get on with it?’ For a significant portion of buildings the answer lies in the relationship that exists between owners and occupiers. Their historic adversarial relationship and a general lack of trust between the parties present real barriers. Energy efficiency in buildings has never been a significant business priority, given relatively low fuel prices and the minimal financial impact of compliance with environmental legislation. Owners and occupiers alike generally do not have sufficient time and resources to dedicate to energy efficiency, particularly in a difficult economic climate where survival is so often the name of the game. But even when there is a strong will, one party can only ever achieve so much without the other.
The Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), a collaboration of 16 of the largest property owners in the UK in partnership with the Mayor of London, has prepared 2degrees members with a set of ‘top tips’ to help owners and occupiers of commercial buildings to better engage with each other, working collaboratively to effect positive change and realise substantial carbon and financial savings.
- 1. Sign a green lease – these should not be considered contentious: A green lease is simply a standard lease which includes sensible provisions relating to the environmental aspirations of both owner and occupier as to how they wish to occupy and manage the building they own/occupy. Examples include agreeing to share energy data for corporate reporting and requiring appropriate sub-metering to enable effective, targeted energy reduction initiatives to be put in place. More information and ‘model form’ lease clauses can be found in the BBP 'Green Lease Toolkit'.
- 2. Sign a green Memorandum of Understanding: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a flexible agreement which is not legally binding and which can be entered into at any point during the lease term. It sets out the detail of what both the owner and occupiers would like to achieve in terms of environmental ambitions for the building they own/occupy. Such a document is typically agreed with facilities management or building engineers and includes items such as the owner agreeing to carry out an energy audit, start up and shut down times for air conditioning systems and other plant equipment, developing a sustainable travel plan and waste strategy etc. A ‘model form’ MoU is provided within the BBP 'Green Lease Toolkit'.
- 3. Set up a green building management group: A green building management group is a perfect way for owners and occupiers to share information, review performance data, understand details of how their building is used and agree improvement initiatives/opportunities. For example in just two years, British Land, at its York House headquarters, reduced landlord controlled energy use by 38% and occupier controlled energy use by 11%, saving over £141,000 and benefitting both parties. The proportion of waste recycled also increased to 70%, from 40%, with 98% diverted from landfill. Details on how to set up such groups is provided within the BBP 'Green Building Management Toolkit'.
- 4. Measure and report performance: As in any management process, measurement of impacts and outcomes is critical in order to assess where to focus efforts and to understand the results achieved. Establishing the annual environmental performance level of a building is a minimum requirement. Improvement objectives and targets can then be monitored against this base position. Details on how to measure and report performance is provided within the BBP 'Green Building Management Toolkit'.
- 5. ‘Smart’ automatic meter reading and sub-metering: Automatic meter reading (AMR) and sub-metering is the most effective tool in reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings. AMR systems provide half-hourly energy consumption profiles which allow for the detailed review of how energy is consumed in parts of a building and what reduction opportunities are available. Sub-metering at an occupier level of a multi-tenanted building provides individual energy consumption profiles for each occupier which can be compared with one another and allows those occupiers to assess their own performance. As best-practise, an occupier should request that an owner sub-meters their energy consumption and provides data for energy management and reporting processes. For more information on AMR and sub-metering systems see the BBP 'Better Metering Toolkit'.
- 6. Undertake an energy audit: It’s all well and good measuring energy data, but it then needs to be analysed to identify the most effective reduction opportunities. Owner should carry out an annual energy audit of their building and share the recommendations with the occupiers at a green building management group meeting which will form the basis of any energy reduction plan.
- 7. No cost initiatives first: Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that reducing energy consumption costs money rather than saving money. Using the recommendations from an energy audit, commercial buildings can typically reduce energy use by over 20% with little or no upfront cost. Initiatives include: Setting new plant start-up and run down times to match when the building is occupied, recalibration of the building management system and resetting summer and winter temperature set-points.
- 8. Use your managing agents: Sales and letting agents and managing agents both have a key role to play, providing advice to owners and occupiers alike on the sustainability characteristics and environmental performance of buildings. In multi-tenanted buildings a managing agent is often the main conduit between the owner and occupiers. They can play a vital role in improving the overall environmental performance of a building if environmental KPIs and objectives are set out in their service provisions. Too often, however, this is overlooked by owners. Guidance in how agents can support owners and occupiers can be found in the BBP 'Managing Agents Sustainability Toolkit' and BBP ‘Transactional Agents Sustainability Toolkit’.
- 9. Undertake retrofit works: Undertaking and financing retrofit projects to reduce energy consumption is one of the biggest challenges owners and occupiers of commercial buildings face. Success requires highly motivated ‘champions’ from both parties, a clear and transparent business case, a proposition which benefits both sides and a certain level of trust. This process should benefit from the successes already achieved through implementing no cost initiatives. Further guidance is provided in the BBP 'Low Carbon Retrofit Toolkit'.
- 10. Celebrate achievements: Where positive results are achieved, these should be shared and celebrated by communicating them to staff and to the wider industry to learn from. This will help motivate both owners and occupiers to continue with and build on the work achieved so far, although it’s important to remember that step-change always take time. The BBP have a published a number of best-practise case studies.