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When businesses address their workplace carbon emissions they often look at expensive projects, such as replacement heating and air conditioning systems or improving insulation.
What is often overlooked is the company’s day to day occupancy of the building and how efficiently they’re using the space, which is what drives their eventual use of the HVAC systems.
Low Carbon Workplace (LCW), part of the Carbon Trust and the UK’s only carbon based landlord, has developed a unique method to create a Whole Building Carbon Regime. A recent report – cutting workplace carbon, not competitiveness – outlines measures for the carbon regime.
Create a carbon league table across all premises
Collate information about company premises . This should include the properties’ Display Energy Certificates (DECs), the buildings’ orientation and their occupancy. Balance these against the notional carbon emissions derived from energy consumption; for example, a building with high occupancy may be more efficient, or a south facing building may need less heating.
Examine space utilisation from a carbon-only perspective
Conduct a space utilisation study from a carbon point of view, ensuring a member of staff walks each office floor every 30 minutes for a couple of weeks. The study will give very different results in terms of space efficiency than those based on financial needs, including how meeting rooms are used and which teams are co-located.
It’s vital to keep these studies based wholly on carbon emissions without taking HR or operations into account.
Link carbon to personal energy consumption
Many offices use a third of their peak energy use overnight when there are only a handful of employees on site. A LCW study has found that employees have on average 10 electrical items plugged in, including PCs, fans and mobile phone chargers. Significant carbon emission reductions can often be made through simply asking employee to turn off or unplug the items they use every day before leaving.
Co-ordinating improvements by MACC priority
In order to understand which measures will bring the best results, use a marginal abatement cost curve (MACC). This is a complicated calculation which plots the capital cost per year per kilogram of CO2 saved alongside the number of years over which a measure will pay for itself financially.
It’s important to perform MACC studies based on premises, as both occupancy and location can change the priorities.
But MACC considerations should not be seen as an overriding technical solution. A new lift could take decades to pay off under MACC criteria, but the effect a new lift could have on morale is a different matter.
Use enhanced benchmarks alongside DECs
DECs calculate a building’s emissions per square foot and then rate that building against others of a similar type. This means offices with a low occupancy could have a higher DEC rating simply because they use less energy even though that usage may be wasteful.
A number of benchmarks are being developed to address these issues, including LCW’s low carbon workplace standard which measures CO2 emissions per person per year. Employ enhanced benchmarks to give a more rounded view of office carbon emissions.
Embed communication within carbon management schemes
It is vital that full stakeholder engagement is employed as part of a carbon management scheme, including landlords.
Establish a governance structure with landlords and other external suppliers: sign a memorandum of understanding and agree KPIs for both parties to work towards.
However keeping momentum is equally important to ensure all stakeholders are kept fully informed and involved in the progress on a regular basis.
John Alker, director of policy at the UK Green Building Council said “[Carbon emissions are] as much about how a building is managed and occupied as it is about technical solutions, because energy savings of 5 to 30% can be made through simple no and low cost changes.
“But to find these savings we need much better information about energy use in the first place, we need a common methodology for measuring it and we need partnership between landlords and tenants.”
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