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The power of technology in future energy management

Nigel-Crunden-Office-Depot-006By Nigel Crunden, business specialist, Office Depot

The Brexit vote has propelled cost-leadership to the top of the business agenda once again, and for many FMs, improving energy management could drive significant savings. Although in times of business uncertainty, the urge to reduce investment can be strong, the implementation of new software systems and technology, as well as simple lighting and heating features can prove extremely effective in facilitating waste reduction. With good-quality data in hand, business leaders can go about driving real behavioural change among staff, replacing inefficient equipment and re-engaging with the green agenda.

Access to data
The implementation of business management software is instrumental in empowering FMs to make informed decisions and promote increased energy efficiency. For those overseeing large sites, the Business Management Suite (BMS) offers detailed reports of overall energy usage, as well as providing a breakdown of which areas of the site or devices are using the most power. The system can be accessed and controlled remotely, allowing any unexpected spikes in usage to be controlled before they have a significant financial effect.

Facilities managers in charge of smaller sites may find that automatic meter readers (AMRs) represent a more suitable, low budget alternative – providing a more regular overview of gas and electricity usage, which can be accessed in real-time. This data collection means that any devices, divisions or individual teams that are guzzling excessive amounts of energy can be identified and action taken to educate staff, identify the reason for such usage, or where applicable, to replace or repair inefficient equipment.

Reducing the capacity for waste
Automation and automated technology systems provide an excellent opportunity for FMs to reduce the capacity for waste, removing the need for employees to turn off obsolete equipment. This could involve activating in-built ‘sleep’ settings, which turn off electronics after a period of inactivity, or lighting which is controlled by motion capture technology. In addition, solar monitors installed by windows can record levels of natural light and deactivate unnecessary electronic fixtures, while sensors fitted to windows can be programmed to cut off the room’s air conditioning when opened to prevent inefficient energy consumption.

It is vital that all staff members understand how the business’ heating and cooling systems operate, to prevent misuse and to ensure that both don’t work against each other. For example, in most workplaces or facilities, there should be a ‘dead-zone’ between 19-24 degrees Celsius where no heating or cooling is required. Also, FMs should create a ‘map’ outlining which thermostats control which zones, to avoid any confusion. These simple measures can have a considerable impact on consumption – lowering temperatures by one degree can reduce heating bills by up to 10 per cent.

Driving behaviour change
While the implementation of waste reduction systems can drive significant efficiencies, fully streamlining energy usage requires the co-operation and buy-in of staff. The best way to achieve this is through communication, training and the sharing of data – in the absence of receiving a monthly bill, employees often feel detached from business energy consumption. Circulating energy usage to staff on a regular basis, as well as setting goals for future usage and updates on how much the firm has reduced its carbon footprint will keep this at front of mind and motivate best practice.

With many businesses feeling the pinch post-Brexit vote, a focus on improving energy management provides an excellent opportunity for FMs to drive substantial cost-savings. Although the solutions required may involve an initial investment, these software systems and automated controls, alongside employee training and effective communication with staff will soon begin to positively affect the business’ bottom line. Driving efficiencies in this way will not only realign businesses with the green agenda, but also promote the preservation of profit margins and allow funds to be invested into other areas such as skills acquisition, recruitment or research and development.

 

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