Organisations could be doing much more to cut CO2 emissions and save costs during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to data from energy data company Carbon Intelligence.
The consultant has been tracking and analysing energy use by 300 buildings during this period.
Covering the commercial office, retail and hotel sectors, the smart building analytics highlight the final week of March when the first lockdown orders were issued – providing a full picture of average energy consumption including ventilation, air conditioning, IT equipment and plant rooms.
Using remote monitoring and minute-by-minute data reporting, its sustainability experts found only a 16 per cent average reduction in building energy use. They found the worst-performing 10 per cent of buildings achieved only a 3 per cent reduction in energy use, despite the government requiring people to work from home, avoid unnecessary travel and socially distance themselves from others.
In contrast, the top 10 per cent of buildings achieved 54 per cent reduction – saving £4,200 a week of energy savings for each large office building and 5,600kg CO2e/week of carbon emissions – equivalent to four London-to-New York return flights.
Other key findings include single-occupier buildings achieving on average higher emission reductions than multiple-occupier buildings, as there is a greater likelihood of these buildings remaining partly occupied for critical operations. However, buildings with older plants and control systems struggled to cut energy use at all.
Ventilation and heating were the biggest drains on energy across all buildings, covering over half of energy use on average, with some buildings still operating central plant equipment on a standard time schedule despite there being no occupants. Buildings with a skeleton staff also fared poorly, as employees were often working across multiple floors.
Cian Duggan, founder and chief innovation officer at Carbon Intelligence said: “The Covid-19 crisis has put enormous pressure on businesses to reduce costs whilst ensuring health and safety compliance. We've seen smart building technologies help facility teams remotely manage assets, improving visibility and control over building performance when it matters most.
“In the longer term this control will also help businesses meet their carbon reduction goals and improve indoor air quality for building occupants, and with at least another three weeks in lockdown organisations still have time to make changes and generate substantial savings.”
Top tips for businesses to save costs and cut building emissions during the lockdown:
For occupied building areas:
• Maintain adequate ventilation, avoid recirculation and deactivate any thermal wheel heat recovery units
• Minimise draughts by holding off terminal unit fans if HVAC design allows for this
• Maintain humidity levels at 40-60% RH.
• Consider heating/cooling low occupancy areas with standalone units rather than central HVAC plant.
For unoccupied building areas:
• Consider reducing the central plant to a minimum daily runtime.
• Avoid scheduling equipment to run during times of high energy prices – for example, during distribution use of system charges (DuOS) red bands, when electricity costs are effectively doubled.
• Use a wider deadband, for heating and cooling, which prevents the thermostat from activating heat and cooling in rapid succession, provided that fabric protection is not compromised.
• Weather compensated set points and hold-offs for heating and cooling plant.
• Check that any unused lighting, computers, printers, TVs and other plug loads are switched off, to reduce baseload energy waste.