With commercial property lettings forecast to pick up and upward pressure on energy prices, energy efficiency will be a key consideration for property owners and managers in 2014.
ABBE, an awarding body for the built environment, has put together five tips for people responsible for the energy performance of commercial property.
Get the right information
Energy use in non-domestic buildings accounts for around 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. Many energy efficiency measures are cost-neutral or even provide a net financial benefit to businesses, yet the energy use of commercial premises has stayed roughly constant over the last two decades. Having access to the right information can be an obstacle – busy building managers may not always know where to get advice to make improvements.
A great place to start is the Recommendation Report that accompanies your business’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Copies of EPCs and the accompanying recommendations can be accessed online via the Non-Domestic Energy Performance Register – you can look up the EPC of any commercial building using the postcode. All non-domestic buildings require an EPC prepared by a suitably qualified individual at least every ten years, or when the property is let or sold.
Look at the potential
Non-domestic buildings tend to be bigger than domestic properties, so the potential aggregate effect of improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s commercial property stock is huge. A qualified energy assessor will be able to identify the potential energy efficiencies that can be made to your business, and the approximate payback timescales. Short-term measures such as identifying and repairing air leakages or installing energy efficient water systems, such as point of use hot water, may pay back the initial outlay cost very quickly in terms of reduced energy bills.
The Green Deal
The government’s Green Deal scheme can help with financing improvements to the energy efficiency of qualifying businesses.
Under the Green Deal, an accredited advisor will prepare an assessment of the energy efficiency or any microgeneration measures that can be made to save money on your business’s energy bills. If you decide to go ahead with any proposed improvements, finance may be provided by a Green Deal Provider, which is repaid in installments via your utility bill. Under the terms of the scheme, the assessor will only make recommendations that are expected to deliver energy savings that are equal or greater than the costs of any repayments.
Look at how you use it
The way in which a building is used is critical to its energy consumption; a manufacturing operation will be far more energy-intensive than office space. For this reason, energy assessors consider the way in which premises are used when making ratings and recommendations.
How the building is operated and occupied can have a huge impact on energy consumption. Installing occupancy sensors to lighting in corridors and communal areas and enabling power management features in office equipment can help to conserve energy. Make sure that lights and equipment are turned off when not in use or at night, or invest in programmable sensors to do this for you automatically.
If you’re considering a refurbishment, it may be a good time to look at the way in which space is used, and whether the layout can be adjusted to maximize use of heat and light. Most people are creatures of habit and no-one likes being made to change desk, particularly if the aim is to reduce the overall workspace, but if you can combine the moves with improvements to heating, lighting and ventilation that improve the comfort of workstations you should be able to get staff buy-in.
Generate your own energy
Installing photovoltaic solar panels is a long-term investment, but one that can provide a consistent return, particularly when considered as a hedge against rising future energy prices. There are a number of options available for generating your own power from commercial property, including solar water heating, building mounted wind turbines and for larger organizations installing a combined heat and power engine, which use natural gas to generate electricity, using the heat produced as a by product to heat the building.