4 keys to more energy-efficient corporate buildings

4 keys to more energy-efficient corporate buildings

Most companies recognize that smarter use of energy can contribute positively to their bottom line, so they jump on the bandwagon to seek ways to make their buildings more energy efficient.

But there has to be a method to the madness, or they won't succeed, according to a global survey conducted by Johnson Controls.

Johnson provides refrigeration, security and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC) for buildings worldwide and has set up the Institute for Building Efficiency, which analyzes issues and barriers surrounding commercial buildings' energy efficiency.

In her presentation at a One Great Idea session during VERGE DC last week, the institute's director, Jennifer Layke, said that companies need to focus on four key aspects to succeed in energy management.

  1. Set a reduction goal.
  2. Analyze energy data frequently.
  3. Add external or internal personnel to oversee the effort.
  4. Access external financing.

The findings were based on Johnson's energy-efficiency-indicator study, which in 2011 surveyed nearly 4,000 firms spanning North America, Europe, India, China, Brazil, Australia and South Africa.

Three-quarters of the companies surveyed had set a specific energy or carbon reduction goal -- and those also were the ones that reported energy savings, Layke said.

Companies that analyzed energy usage frequently netted more savings compared to those who did sporadic checks.

Meanwhile, those that had implemented smart grid or building technology were two-and-a-half times more likely to review data frequently and, therefore, more likely to succeed in achieving building efficiency.

Appointing someone to spearhead the energy-management effort -- and giving them responsibility for the budget and new initiatives -- was another key factor to success. Companies in the U.S tended to rely on outside consultants for energy management, Layke said, whereas Indian and Chinese firms had in-house personnel heading the effort.

The top financial barrier was overcoming internal budget constraints. Layke said nearly 70 percent of companies had tapped internal budgets, but a good portion of them would look for external financing in the future.

"What this tells us is that we need to add resources that will help us approach budget issues differently in energy-efficiency goals," Layke said. "The way they think of the budget and goals will influence their success."

The study found that companies that pursued all four of the key strategies implemented an average of 13 energy-efficiency measures; firms that did not enacted only a couple of measures each, on average.

Lighting and HVAC improvements were the two top efficiency measures taken by the responding firms.

Technology deployment also varied by region: Renewable energy was more popular in India and China, while smart buildings and smart grid technology topped the list in the U.S.

"When we look at the drivers of energy efficiency, we see that they vary by region," Layke said. "Globally, cost savings and government or utility incentives and rebates were the top drivers of investment. But the cost of technology and the financial picture vary by region and country."

What's next? The majority of survey respondents expect that smart building and lighting technology will see the highest growth in market adoption in the coming decade.

Photo courtesy of eteimaging via Shutterstock.