10 Steps to Effective Workplace Energy Efficiency 

By Katherine Tweed on Green Tech Enterprise:  Energy efficiency is often called the low-hanging fruit of a clean-energy economy. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu likes to say it’s not just hanging, it’s rotting on the ground.

The easy pickings are apparently not that easy, though. Energy efficiency programs have picked up speed in the past few years with concerns about the bottom line and/or sustainability, but those programs often come in fits and starts.

To look for more comprehensive solutions, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) evaluated five energy efficiency programs in large workplaces to find some of what it takes to make reductions using behavior programs, rather than just retrofits.

The report examined five case studies: “Green the Capitol” in the U.S. House of Representatives; a behavior campaign at a Canadian provincial government building; “Conservation Action!” at BC Hydro; “TLC – Care to Conserve” at the University Health Network at University of Toronto; and “Tenant Energy Management Program” at the Empire State Building.

It’s worth noting upfront that four of the five facilities studied are institutions where the tenant also owns the building. Although navigating the tenant/owner relationship to achieve energy savings is more difficult, it is not impossible. With the proliferation of energy benchmarking, owners of large buildings in many cities and states are examining their energy use and looking to team up with tenants on energy efficiency.

But whatever is being done is far short of what could be accomplished. Commercial energy use is growing faster than the transportation, residential or industrial sectors.

According to anther recent report from ACEEE, “The Long-Term Energy Efficiency Potential: What the Evidence Suggests,” heating and cooling loads in new construction could be reduced 70 percent to 90 percent by 2050 with improvements in building shells. Even building shell retrofits with the latest technology could save up to 40 percent in energy.

But buildings have long life spans, and money for capital improvements is hard to come across these days. In lieu of a retrofit with the most advanced technologies, cutting energy and greening the workplace is possible (beyond replacing light bulbs). Here are 10 findings from the ACEEE.

1.     Lead From the Top. Upper management must not only take ownership of the program, but must also set the tone for the entire project. It means that upper management has to involve stakeholders in the organization early and come up with a clear plan. In the case of the Empire State Building, the Rocky Mountain Institute, which was one of the program participants, noted that project prep time could have been shortened through better coordination.  Read more

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