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16 January 2019
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Turning the lights down low

With FMs in a prime position to steward or assist with workplace energy efficiency initiatives, Adam Leach looks at policy, practice and pay-offs.

Deloitte office building in Amsterdam
Deloitte office building in Amsterdam

04 September 2018 Adam Leach

Landsec, the largest listed property management company of its type in the UK with a portfolio valued at £14.2 billion that includes the Piccadilly Lights and the Bluewater shopping centre, knows better than most how increased efficiency can drive down costs.

The firm recently struck a deal with energy IT firm Utilidex and Mitie to bear down on energy spending across its 23 million square feet of workspace under management.

Combining Utilidex’s energy management technology and sensors with Mitie’s energy charging and markets expertise, bill validation and supplier management, the technology enables all Landsec’s energy use to be monitored and altered to cut waste and maximise efficiency – and settle all electricity and gas bills within 30 minutes.

“With access to powerful tools, the Utilidex Hub will provide Landsec with full visibility of its energy data, putting them in complete control of their energy costs,” said Richard Lewin, Utilidex’s commercial director.

The deal between the three companies is the latest in a succession of agreements between those using more energy than they need to, and those helping them to reduce it. Engie recently announced it had expanded its FM contract with accountancy firm Grant Thornton to include energy management, with its Engie Assure subdivision guaranteeing that it would cut energy costs by 5 per cent a year using energy efficiency and optimisation measures. The wider FM contract has to date already delivered £2 million worth of savings.

Light bulb moment

On a smaller scale, the University of Bradford has already made big energy savings by adopting technologies such as LED lighting and expanding its building energy management system (BEMS). Despite having predominantly 1960s and 1970s buildings, the institution cut its overall utilities bill by 27 per cent – saving £8 million and winning it the Building Performance Champion award at the CIBSE 2017 awards.

Universities, companies and organisations across the board are waking up to the opportunity for savings offered by optimising energy efficiency. Interest has increased because of a combination of public policy and technological advances that have motivated widespread change.

How FM can shine a light

So what is driving it and how can FMs assist in delivering it?

A combination of increased pressure on governments, companies, and individuals to take action against climate change by eliminating energy waste has been growing over the past few years. And advancements in utility technologies such as smart meters and energy management systems and targets and incentives to maximise efficiency have driven the motivation and understanding of the benefits of altering energy use.

On the technology front, in relation to the workplace, companies such as IBM and Honeywell have developed cloud-based software and apps that enable energy use to be assessed and analysed in real time – identifying instant opportunities for reductions and longer-term trends to show alternative ways of working that make large and sustained savings.

Meanwhile, the infrastructure consuming the energy has evolved to enable the savings to be delivered. The overall scope for making improvements operates not as a collection of individual items, but more an overall ecosystem that combines the software, sensors and infrastructure into one – from more efficient alternatives such as LED lighting to the attachment of sensors and monitoring equipment to everything from printers to office heating systems. However, uptake remains lower than it needs to be if the overall aims are to be achieved.

Amsterdam’s The Edge, mainly occupied by accountancy firm Deloitte, has shown what is possible with its 98.4 per cent BREEAM rating and bespoke mobile app that caters both heating and light to occupants’ preferences as they move around it. But such ambitious endeavours are only available to a well-financed few. In a survey published last year, the Electrical Contractors Association found that more than six in 10 respondents had no plans to evaluate and install connected technology in their buildings, indicating that there’s a significant way to go in communicating its benefits. Of those who did plan to adopt the technology, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) saw BEMS as a key area where the technology would be installed.

For more widespread and sustained change to be made, the market must move to embrace the potential new technologies and ways of working through policy and regulation. Fortunately, there are signs of this beginning to take hold.

MEES motivation

The MEES regulations, which came into force in April, are designed to make sure that all landlords bring their buildings up to a minimum Environmental Performance Certificate rating of E, with those falling short with ratings of F or G facing a fine of up to £150,000, an inability to re-let, and a range of other risks such as diminished marketability in the long term. 

The regulations contain a number of exemptions. For example, where the tenancy runs for six months or less, or the building does not require an EPC. But by 2020 MEES regulations will cover all rental properties across the UK and therefore serve as a strong guiding force to property owners and office managers to ensure compliance, and in many cases, capitalise on it as a chance to go beyond and maximise energy efficiency.

The measures have come under criticism from some quarters for not going far enough and of being poorly communicated – much of the sector appeared unaware of the need for action ahead of the deadline and others expected a low chance of enforcement. But their existence can at least be seen as a starting point on which to build, and could well continue to evolve.

In a recent report from the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) Carbon Management & Sustainable Buildings Working Group that surveyed members’ views, the policy was found to neither “command the confidence” of the energy management industry, nor business energy consumers. But, despite the criticisms, the report outlined a straightforward route 

Directive in focus

Manchester-based energy systems and lighting provider Vickers has welcomed the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EU) 2018/844 that recently came into being. 

The Directive introduces measures to accelerate the rate of building renovation towards more energy efficient systems, and is set to strengthen the energy performance of new buildings; making them overall much smarter. EU countries will have to transpose the new elements of the Directive into national law within 20 months.

“The revised Directive impacts on us now and in the future, until Brexit is clarified,” says Chris Pearson, Vickers MD.

“As such, we will see the installation of more and more building automation and control systems, as well as devices that regulate temperature at room level.”

“The importance of the revised Directive cannot be underestimated. Currently, about 35% of the EU’s buildings are over 50 years old and almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient. With an estimate of just 0.4-1.2% of building stock being renovated each year, there is enormous scope for energy efficiency gains.”

The Directive stipulates that EU countries will have to establish stronger long-term renovation strategies aimed at decarbonising national building stocks by 2050, while the health and well-being of building users is to be promoted through an increased consideration of air quality and ventilation. E-mobility will also be supported by introducing minimum requirements for car parks over a certain size and other minimum infrastructure for smaller buildings to turning it into a robust and potentially transformative policy.

Among its suggestions, it called for a reduction in the period of EPC validity to five years, the setting of a long-term trajectory for MEES with all non-domestic buildings requiring a rating of C or above by 2030 (enhancing the incentive for property owners to invest greater sums at first action), and toughening up enforcement of the regulation. With these changes, the MEES regulations and related policy could really start to motivate change.

“Pragmatic ways forward to get energy efficiency moving again do exist and can be implemented if the will and determination is there,” said Sunil Shah, chair of the working group and managing director of Acclaro Advisory.

Heat recovery

While the government is using policies such as MEES to act as a stick to motivate action from landlords on energy efficiency, it is also taking a carrot approach with the wider industry to highlight the opportunities and invest in the solutions.

In addition to committing to reducing carbon emissions across the public estate by 43 per cent by 2019 to 2020, it has identified increasing energy efficiency across industry as a key focus.

As part of this, it has committed £18 million in funding for the Industrial Heat Recovery Support programme, which is inviting applications from companies looking to invest in heat recovery technology to harness the power of heat that would otherwise be lost.

The initiative will build on previous programmes to promote and demonstrate emerging technologies, which have enabled projects such as Free Running Buildings in Leeds to develop low-energy ventilation technology and Hull University to develop a high-efficiency, low-carbon heating system for public buildings in Yorkshire.

Consciousness-raising FMs

Aside from government action, industry bodies and pressure groups are also providing more support and promoting the need for business to focus on 

energy efficiency.

In a report published last year Smart Energy GB and the Carbon Trust offered a range of tips to business on how to engage employees in maximising energy efficiency.

Having worked on staff engagement programmes with Hilton Hotels, Islington Council and Adnams brewery, the groups explained that “higher awareness of energy efficiency could lead to greater engagement with workplace-based, energy-saving campaigns”.

FMs in organisations both large and small have a significant sphere of influence to help inspire lasting change – from running staff engagement programmes such as those outlined by Smart Energy GB and the Carbon Trust to working with suppliers to ensure that the energy consumption or efficiency of products is factored into the procurement process, and even consulting with the office owner over the long-term plan for energy efficiency.

From CSR to helping contribute to national targets on carbon reduction, there are a range of benefits and incentives to act, but standing strongest among them is the fact that, in general, all deliver financial savings as well.  

Emma Potter