What does comfort and air quality actually cost you?

Things as simple as simultaneously heating and cooling adjacent spaces leads to waste - and reduced comfort. Only one in five buildings has a control system regulating heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water generation. And still most of these buildings operate at a Class C energy efficiency level. The ones without control systems are worse again, operating at efficiency grades of E, F or G.  

Balancing comfort with energy efficiency is quite a task. But it’s also the way to create healthy and comfortable work environments (and bring occupants back to our buildings). Understanding the energy burn needed to achieve the desired comfort levels is important. So, what does it really take—energy-wise—to maintain a comfortable and healthy space?

Understanding energy consumption for comfort

Comfort in an office space goes beyond setting a thermostat. It involves temperature, humidity, and even air distribution within a space. Achieving and maintaining these conditions comes at an energy cost—and the possibility of energy waste. 

The lion’s share of energy use in office buildings can be attributed to humidity control, ventilation- and HVAC systems. Especially during the colder and warmer months. Are you heating and cooling two adjacent spaces? Does the ventilation system need to work twice as hard after being turned off over the weekend? Then energy is being wasted. And wasted energy equals less comfort, higher cost and more effort to reach your net-zero targets.

The moral of the story? If we want to reach our sustainability, wellness and financial targets, all these systems need to be running like a well-oiled machine - with no room for error. This means not just having a good control system in place, but knowing where energy is being wasted and what action can be taken to make these systems more efficient.

Reducing the operational cost while maintaining high-end spaces

Energy demand is and will always be present. The challenge is not simply about supplying renewable energy, but making the best use of whatever energy is used and avoiding waste. Adjusting to occupancy, usage patterns and outdoor weather conditions is a precision job. It is this lack of insight and understanding that causes many buildings to operate on a Class C level and lower.

Knowing how our buildings and their systems function gives us the insight we need to prevent this wastage while maintaining high-end, comfortable, and healthy spaces. It allows our occupiers to return to comfortable spaces and provides sustainable and financial benefits for our buildings. Achieving net-zero carbon goals while maintaining high comfort and air quality standards is within reach—for those bold enough to take up the challenge.

Ready to get your first insights today? Calculate energy performance, compare to benchmarks and unlock potential savings.

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How sustainable practices pay off in more ways than one

Reducing waste leads to a lower base of energy usage - and that only brings benefits. If you’re in the market for a new house, would you go for a townhouse with a D-BER certification, or would you rather invest in a sustainable A-rated property? Many would most likely choose the A-rated property. There’s less maintenance, little investment and lower risk. 

The same applies to those about to invest in your portfolio. Sustainability is not just a buzzword but a strategic imperative for companies. As we all work towards our net-zero carbon goals, showcasing best-in-class ESG policies is not just a requirement but a competitive advantage. Sustainability isn’t a box to check off; it's a pathway to a portfolio filled with lower-risk investments, a testament to your company's resilience and forward-thinking approach.

And who doesn’t love a low-risk investment?

Sustainable practices to manage reputation and drive innovation

Sustainable business models have become the cornerstone of forward-thinking organisations. Integrating environmental, social, and economic considerations into our everyday operations ensures our success while minimising our impact on the planet. Embracing these sustainable practices helps us manage our reputation, strengthen stakeholder relationships, mitigate risks associated with climate change, and drive innovation. What’s not to like?!

Strong ESG credentials for a broader range of investors

As you’ve probably noticed over the last few years, investors increasingly prioritise sustainability when making investment decisions. It just makes sense in the long run. So, making sure you’re backed with strong ESG credentials will demonstrate your commitment to responsible governance practices that align with investor expectations for long-term value creation. 

Strong sustainability practices lead to increased operational efficiency, decreased regulatory risks and improved brand value, all of which contribute to financial stability. Brilliant stuff, but the cherry on the pie is the fact that a sustainable, low-risk portfolio as such can attract a broader range of investors, including those focused specifically on ESG investments - who actively support companies that prioritise sustainability.

Ready to get your first insights today? Calculate energy performance, compare to benchmarks and unlock potential savings.

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The Performance Gap: bridging the divide between building design and energy consumption

Imagine this scenario: You have just bought yourself the latest Tesla 208 Cd, which is built for speed, endurance, and range with its improved aerodynamics and wider chassis. 

You take it for a spin - assuming you’ll easily get 300 kilometres out of that first battery load. But after a mere 200 kilometres, you find yourself parked on the side of the highway, waiting for road assistance.

Caught in the gap: why our buildings aren't living up to expectations

What went wrong? The answer is easier than you might think. If you use the right driving technique, that Tesla 208 has no problem reaching 300 kilometres with one battery load. If you found yourself pushing it to its max, accelerating at low speeds and, as some say, dogging it - you won’t be able to reach the targetted efficiency levels. 

Adjusting your driving technique will.

The same goes for our buildings. Assumptions about how a building will be used and occupied may not accurately affect real-life scenarios, leading to the well-known Performance Gap. Most importantly, many buildings lack comprehensive monitoring systems that track energy usage on a day-to-day basis. Without this information, it becomes extremely difficult to see where things go wrong, and where the energy use deviates from the expected performance.

Harnessing data to close the Performance Gap

Collecting the most important data your building offers and analysing it against established benchmarks or standards, such as LEED or WELL Building Standard®, can give us valuable insights into how our buildings perform. This fact-driven approach allows for targeted interventions and improvements where necessary.

When we translate all this data into clear information, discover where energy is wasted and take action to improve, we can bridge the divide between predicted and actual energy consumption - closing the Performance Gap and contributing to a more sustainable future.

We believe in what we do...

...and we think that you should, too. But surely, we wouldn’t ask you to take our word for it. That’s why we’ve created a first set of analytics to give insight into your building or facility’s energy performance. With as little as your utility bills and some basic building information, we can show you how your building performs, where you benchmark, and what you might want to aim for.

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Breathing easy: clean air, happy occupiers

Temperature, humidity and other sensors are important to prevent energy waste. But they're just as important to create a healthy indoor environment.

Once upon a time, researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria decided to see what a two-hour exposure to diesel exhaust does to the brain. The result? Temporary decreased functional connectivity in the brain, after exposure to diesel exhaust. On the other end of the spectrum, Finnish technology company Naava wanted to see the effect of plants and green walls in the office space. No less than 43% of the participants made fewer mistakes in the room with green walls, compared to the control room.

The moral of these studies? Don’t let your occupiers breathe diesel exhaust.

But all jokes aside, an unhealthy indoor environment leads to lower productivity, coughs, colds, mental fatigue, headaches, nausea, and so on—issues that companies strive to prevent and avoid. Obviously, the significance of having comfortable, healthy buildings cannot be underestimated. 

Adapting office spaces for the modern occupier

Just like all humans, occupiers in your office spaces or facilities need high-quality oxygen to breathe, and consistent temperature and humidity levels for comfort and overall performance. You wouldn’t be the first left with empty buildings after the pandemic; ready to get occupiers filling those floors again. And the same goes for many employers who are keen to get their employees back to the office. 

But times have changed - and so have the demands from occupiers.

Offering a healthy work environment asks for more than opening a window to get the air circulating. It's all about how the building functions as a whole. That's where monitoring comes into play.

Squirrel on roller skates: navigating indoor environmental performance

Temperature and air quality play a big role in setting an indoor environment up for success. But they’re also wholly dynamic and as unpredictable as a squirrel on roller skates, thanks to their relationship to outdoor conditions and indoor occupancy levels. This means that continuous monitoring with devices in the space is vital to staying on top of our buildings' indoor environmental performance. 

It doesn’t come as a surprise that The International WELL Building Institute recognises the importance of a healthy indoor environment, and established eight concepts for WELL building certification, one of which is Air Quality. 

But simply meeting ventilation standards is not enough. We must also focus on reducing indoor air pollution and ensuring clean air within our buildings. This is where monitoring plays a crucial role. 

From comfort to sustainability

By keeping a constant eye on the humidity levels, variations from desired temperatures, and any potential malfunctions in our HVAC systems, we can ensure that the equipment in our buildings operates at its very best; and optimally performing equipment means optimal air quality. Even better, this enables us to not only evaluate whether our buildings are delivering a healthy indoor environment, but also to determine if the equipment is running efficiently or wasting energy.

So, not only can we provide a healthy indoor environment, but we can also uncover opportunities to save costs and decrease energy consumption, bringing us one step closer to achieving that net-zero goal.

With the right information, you can make easier, faster and more effective decisions about how energy is being used. Make your first improvements within six months.

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The 3 R’s of energy waste: Reduce, Recycle, Report

Recycling is part of our lives from the moment we’re born. Plastic goes into one bin, while green waste goes into another. Old clothes are donated, and shopping bags are reused. Though we might not have been consciously raised with the 3Rs of waste management—Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse—we apply them daily.

And these principles are just as important when it comes to energy and carbon waste in our buildings.

Reduce: minimising energy consumption

Step one in managing energy waste is reducing the amount of energy needed in a building. Surprisingly, even the most efficiently managed and well-designed buildings can waste a significant amount of energy. To tackle this issue, we need two things: reliable data and efficient processes.

A standard like ISO 52120 saves the day by providing building control and system efficiency guidelines. By simply following these guidelines, we can potentially save over 20% on energy, and most of these improvements are low-cost solutions that simply correct operational errors. Cutting back on energy consumption means minimising carbon, reducing the need for alternative technologies like renewable energy and therefore, a lower embodied carbon load for the building. A win-win for everyone involved.

Recycle: reclaiming waste energy

In the same way, we recycle plastic waste in our homes, we can recycle and reclaim some of the energy wasted in our buildings. Once we have the information needed to gain insights into how and when energy is being used, we can explore ways to recycle this wasted energy within our building's operations. 

Let’s use air quality as an example. The modern systems are fully driven by 100% fresh air intake. The more fresh air circulates, the more ‘used’ air must be discarded. A solution as simple as a heat exchanger allows the fresh intake to be warmed or cooled down, using the heat from ‘used’ air - recycling it for a new purpose.

Report: knowledge is power

Just as financial information like budgets helps manage various aspects of a business, accurate and regular reporting on energy usage and operational performance is essential to drive a sustainability program. Making energy waste visible and prioritising it, will impact not just the sustainability goals, but the financial viability of a business as well. 

And it doesn’t have to be hard. As long as we collect the right information, we can contextualise it to better understand and directly share it with relevant stakeholders. Within months, you can see the first minor improvements make major impacts. 

Ready to get your first insights today? Calculate energy performance, compare to benchmarks and unlock potential savings.

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Achieving sustainability goals in a multi-tenant office building

Ever met a child who didn’t want to win a competition, or even just be the best at something they love? That winner-driven mentality has stuck with most adults you see around you - possibly yourself included. Our competitive instincts can be traced back to our early ancestors, who had to compete for food, shelter and everything needed to survive. You could say that the desire to win runs in our DNA.

When we win, we produce more dopamine; the feel-good hormone that makes us believe we’re on top of the world - even if just for a moment. When we feel it once, we want to feel it again.

What does this have to do with our buildings? More than you think. 

Using a community-based approach to sustainability

We all want (and need) sustainable buildings. But even if we implement all the necessary improvements, we partially depend on the cooperative spirit of our occupiers. If they leave the radiators burning hot during the weekends, energy will go wasted, no matter how many renewable resources we have. Multi-let office buildings often have occupiers with varying priorities, energy consumption patterns and operational practices. This diversity is logical and unavoidable, but it can make implementing sustainable practices uniformly throughout the building difficult.

And that’s where that dopamine-triggered desire to win comes in - and how adapting a community-based approach becomes both interesting and possible.

Strategies for success

There are quite a few strategies that will help us achieve sustainability goals in multi-let office buildings. Offering incentives to occupiers actively participating in sustainability initiatives, such as helping them reduce their costs, promoting ESG activities, aligning with their own ESG goals (such as a low-energy office), or sharing their progress in magazines, will offer the needed external motivation. Surely the marketing department will be delighted.

When we implement building monitoring systems that allow us to track individual tenant energy usage and identify waste areas, this information can help everyone discover areas for improvement. Allowing occupiers to compare and benchmark their own energy performance against their neighbours will help to highlight best practices, flag issues, provide much-needed context for their data, and, maybe most motivating, keep their heads in the race. Adding some healthy competition (is KPN leading the Sustainability Challenge this month, or has Adecco taken the lead?) will continue to drive the efforts without too much involvement.

Reaping the benefits of a community-based approach

Feeling part of a larger effort to reduce environmental impact might influence how occupiers feel about their office. And let’s be honest: a sustainable office is a comfortable one. Working as a community towards a Grade-A sustainable building can reduce energy consumption - and increase overall building value in the long run.

Achieving sustainability goals in multi-let office buildings may present challenges, but the benefits outweigh the difficulties. It doesn’t just contribute to a greener future: it also just makes good business sense.

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