New Era of Energy Efficiency: Occupant Involvement
Part 5: Educate Occupants to Get Them to Save Energy
Educate Occupants to Get Them to Save Energy
By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor - October 2012 - Energy Efficiency
The strategy of providing information and leaving it up to the user's better angels is also at play at the properties that Brandywine Realty Trust manages. With a portfolio of over 34.5 million square feet, being able to save $1 per square foot, for example, with energy efficiency strategies is a significant and real number for the company. However, many of their tenants are small to medium in size, with square footages in the 5,000- to 15,000-square-foot range. "So that dollar in savings is real but isn't overly meaningful to them," says Brad A. Molotsky, executive vice president and general counsel, Brandywine Realty Trust.
Instead of mandating strategies, Brandywine provides tenants with energy consumption data, which are loaded into the Energy Star Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool. The firm educates its tenants on what it's costing them to use the energy they use and presents them with the available strategies to minimize those costs, with a no-pressure approach.
In one of their properties, which finished 12th in its category in the 2011 Environmental Protection Agency's national commercial facility energy use reduction competition, Brandywine held ice cream socials to talk about available strategies to cut tenant energy use, such as programmable smart outlets that could be provided free of charge. Few tenants took Brandywine up on the offer, however, as the tenants could not get permission to install the necessary software on their networks.
As plug load comes in third after HVAC and lighting in terms of magnitude of usage in his facilities, when Stan Cichocki, senior property manager at Brandywine, focuses on occupant-related energy efficiency strategies, he looks to make them easy and invisible. "The tenants choose to come here and they want to be comfortable," Cichocki says. If it comes to tweaking a set point for energy savings versus upsetting a tenant, "I'll do my best to save it elsewhere," he says. For example, occupancy sensors are used extensively in Brandywine's facilities, down to the janitor closets. Cichocki is also working on tying the HVAC system to the access card system, so that on Saturdays when the company is required to provide conditioned air, the rooftop units will only kick on if someone actually comes in to work.
In regards to energy efficiency, one thing is clear when it comes to occupants. Trying to bludgeon, threaten, or otherwise coerce people into making energy efficient choices is not sustainable in the long term. Neither can it be a one-sided strategy. "The thing about tenant engagement programs is they need several factors in order to function effectively," Mazur-Stommen says. "They require buy-in and commitment — particularly from the top down. You also need peer champions, people situated in the environment, who speak the same language, share the same values to lead people into these behavioral changes."