Energy Optimisation Resolutions for 2021

A new year presents plenty of opportunities for development, not just for ourselves, but also for the good of the planet. As we go into another quiet spell at the start of 2021, there is an ideal opportunity to implement key operational improvements to buildings.

According to the last UK Government Building Energy Efficiency Survey [1] undertaken in 2016, approximately 67% of energy consumption in commercial assets was used to provide lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water. Therefore, substantial potential for savings could be achieved through basic optimisation of these components.

Often low cost and easily implementable, operational optimisations can have a significant impact without the need for substantial investment. EVORA therefore presents a brief look into the top 5 quick wins for energy optimisation in 2021 – some further new years resolutions if you will.

1. Time for a change

Returning to business as usual at workplaces after an eventful 2020 presents an opportunity for optimising asset timing controls and setting clear standards. Knowing when to start up HVACs or equipment that keeps a building functional can help increase overall efficiency.

Of course, every building is different, and the day-to-day demands can vary massively, but implementing appropriate timings not only cuts unnecessary wastage with reduced hours or lower occupancy, but allows for identification of anomalies when something goes awry. It can even shape future energy use strategies as shown below if communicated to occupants properly.

An example in Figure 1 from Resource Efficient Scotland [2] displays a heating profile for a property where gradually phasing the operations of heating equipment can maintain a suitable temperature throughout the whole day. This is opposed to a continuous block of consumption from open to close. Therefore, savings can be made without impacting on comfort levels by correctly identifying the timings when heating can be switched on and phased out.


Figure 1 – Heating system output and building temperature with phased timings.

Tenant engagement is a powerful tool here as well, and communication with tenants that are reopening in 2021 will be key to an evolving timing control strategy as people head back to their desks, as well as keeping them consistent.

2. Setting goals

An efficient HVAC system provides good temperature and environmental conditions while using the minimum amount of energy to condition a space, however this is just the first step for buildings.

Making sure building set points are clear, well communicated and kept consistent is an important factor, as various building users will have different preferences for optimal temperatures. But to operate efficiently simple consistent set points are key. By engaging tenants and communicating common building set points, any expectations can be managed, and service levels agreed. Consistency in set points also helps support major energy saving actions such as fresh air cooling in the winter.

3. Not so tight

Implementing a temperature ‘dead band’ is another useful tool to help reduce consumption as we return to places of work, as often energy is wasted due to simultaneous heating and cooling systems competing to maintain temperature set points.

A dead band is essentially a ‘comfort zone’ where the system for heating and cooling can be relaxed. For example, a 3-4°C dead band around a setpoint of 20°C produces a temperature zone preventing the HVAC system from bouncing quickly between heating and cooling, meeting the set temperature until a significant change is required. Not only does this reduce the strain on HVAC equipment, but also keeps occupants happy and increase energy savings. It also has the added benefit of increasing the lifespan of equipment, as demand is far lower for the long run.

An illustration of a dead band can be found below in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Dead band set up around a central temperature set point [3]

4. What happens after dark?

Carefully scrutinising energy loads outside of office hours and identifying when and why consumption is occurring is another strong technique to reduce unwanted energy consumption. Sometimes equipment is left on overnight after a change to business hours and it all adds up in the grand scheme of things. Arranging engineers to stay behind and take note of what is running in the small hours and breaking it down by landlord or tenant consuming equipment provides opportunities for engagement to reduce load and make note of what is essential.

Furthermore, identifying what key equipment is operating out of hours can also help shape strategies for future reductions in consumption. If key operations can be reduced over time in terms of run time or frequency, baseload too can be gradually lowered to a new target, which year on year can be improved upon. The best results for this type of work are supported by active management and data analysis, something that EVORA employs in its Monitoring and Target (M&T) service line.

As we head back to the office, EVORA would recommend investigating baseloads over the periods of low occupation and aim to maintain or improve on them as occupancy returns in 2021.

5. Seasonal strategies

Seasonality is another factor that should be considered. Formulating effective plans for energy reduction crucially relies on how they are implemented on an ongoing and dynamic basis over the course of the year. This includes engaging with tenants and understanding that the indoor temperature will fluctuate instead of trying to achieve a single temperature set point all year. This will support the efficient operation of the plant by optimising the indoor temperature to the external environment. Similar seasonal strategies for external and car park lighting can also be implemented for best practice, changing timed controls to suit the needs of occupants, but also to reduce consumption.

Supporting you through 2021

Implementing these quick wins as well as numerous other strategies to lower energy consumption may require an extra helping hand, as uncertainty remains around heading back to workplaces. EVORA Global has an expert Building Optimisation Team of engineers and consultants who are experienced in energy management and building optimisation, and regardless of the turbulent times we are always here to advise and guide towards a sustainable future for real estate.

For more information on the services provided by the Building Optimisation Team, please contact info@evoraglobal.com


Sources:

[1] Building Energy Efficiency Survey (BEES), 2016

[2] How to save money and energy on space heating – Advice and support for organisations in Scotland, Resource Efficient Scotland, 2015

[3] Heating, ventilation and air conditioning – Saving energy without compromising comfort, Carbon Trust, 2011

The State of Corporate Sustainability Reporting in the EU

The legislation for sustainability disclosures in Europe will be reformed in 2021, as part of a major overhaul of financial market regulation. Importantly, these reforms include plans to create accompanying reporting standards.

Similar to financial accounting, sustainability reporting is essential for improved corporate management of risks and opportunities. Focusing on relevant and meaningful disclosures is key to produce high-quality and decision-useful reporting for organisations and investors alike. Using information reported on risks and impacts connected to climate change and broader sustainability matters, investors can best understand an organisation’s activities and strategies.

The European Commission will present a proposal for a reform in early 2021, while the EU Parliament will vote on the issue in Autumn.

EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness clearly stated in December 2020 that “the rules of the game must be transformed to fully integrate sustainability at every step of the financial value chain” and identified the reform of the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive as “one of the priorities to strengthen the foundations for sustainable investment”. 

Other reporting proposals have also recently stirred the reporting landscape, including:

  • Statement of Intent to Work Together from five reporting framework and standard-setting organisations that emphasises alignment and harmonisation;
  • proposal from the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation to create a new Sustainability Standards Board (SSB) that would develop global sustainability standards;
  • The World Economic Forum International Business Council white paper that puts forth a common metrics for consistent reporting disclosure, building on existing sustainability reporting standards and frameworks.

These developments imply future changes to an organisation’s reporting structure and process. They lay the groundwork for framework that has close linkage to financial reporting, ultimately meaning that companies will need to treat sustainability information with a higher level of rigor, akin to information included in financial reporting.

EVORA works with companies all along the reporting journey, from those working on their first sustainability report to expert reporters who need help developing a long-term reporting strategy. By reporting, they capture numerous external and internal benefits, including meeting regulatory requirements, improving relationships with stakeholders, enhancing trustworthiness and reputation, clarifying on ESG performance, and identifying sustainability risks and opportunities.

GRESB + SIERA = Success

Sustainability data can be complex. It can show many interesting patterns and insightful trends about energy usage, but at the same time be hard to manage.  The ability to use sustainability data to reduce energy usage by seeing the impact of actions is one of its most powerful features. Connecting those patterns and trends to actions leads to results.

GRESB provides a way of thinking about sustainability data which focuses effort on certain areas and types of energy consumption. SIERA is the sustainability software solution by EVORA for managing asset portfolio data to help achieve sustainability goals. SIERA provides a way of seeing those areas and types of energy consumption by organising consumption, meters, properties, and funds to make it easier to understand. That’s why EVORA sustainability consultants use it get the best out of the data, and easily see patterns which otherwise would be hidden.

But GRESB provides its own challenges. Submitting data to GRESB involves making sure the data is correct, accurate and above all reflects the performance of a property and ultimately a portfolio.

GRESB can be challenging to get right

For those who submit to GRESB, there’s a lot of data to prepare – a lot of ducks to get into rows if you will. One of the first hurdles is making sure that your asset data is correct, that floor areas add up correctly and that the consumption, waste or emissions make sense to GRESB. There’s wide range of categories and ownership to consider, and things like where emissions are generated and who consumes them.

In short, it can easily become somewhat of a mountain of information to organise. GRESB provide a website and a spreadsheet you can use to upload data. The website points out where things don’t add up correctly and you work through the errors until they’re all gone.

GRESB also provides the ability to use software to upload your data. This method is very similar to the website except errors are sent to the software instead of the GRESB webpage. SIERA uses this method to direct the wealth of asset data it contains about assets in the portfolios and funds managed by EVORA consultants.

This connection means SIERA can take advantage of its own intelligence to make it easier to prepare for GRESB.

SIERA makes things clearer

SIERA is a platform whose main aim is to make sustainability data more manageable and the intelligence within it easier to see. It shines at tasks like GRESB mainly because it already contains a lot of the data required for a GRESB submission. SIERA uses this data to show the patterns, monitor the impact of actions and to look for potential improvements.

SIERA has a wide range of different ways of showing the data, each taking a different slice of the data to show a pattern. Having so many different views on the data makes it much easier to understand the data which gets sent to GRESB.

Asset-level reporting becomes easy

This year GRESB changed how data is reported. Before it was fund-level, meaning the total consumption and usage of all assets in a fund was submitted. This year it became asset-level. This means the energy and performance of each individual asset is submitted. As you can imagine, this means much more detail is needed and a finer grain of accuracy than before.

Luckily for SIERA users this didn’t pose a problem. SIERA already recorded data at the meter level so this change didn’t cause a problem.

Qualitative survey answers add colour

GRESB doesn’t just focus on utility readings. It also asks a range of questions about the social initiatives, engagements and technical assessments done for each asset. This qualitative data helps to show how a building is being managed and what social programs are taking place to increase the sustainability of an asset.

SIERA captures this data using surveys. SIERA surveys capture exactly the qualitative data that GRESB asks about. Surveys can be sent out to building and property managers for each asset and contain a range of questions about the asset and its management.

SIERA automatically prepares the answers for the GRESB questions which focus on the building management. Where it can, SIERA also uses data it already has to save time for anyone submitting data to GRESB. For example, rather than ask every property manager if a building uses automatic meter readings, SIERA simply looks at the meters in the asset and checks itself.

No GRESB errors doesn’t always mean correct

Once the asset data has been checked for any updates, SIERA displays the whole GRESB submission in one page. This table makes errors or unexpected variances stand out so you can quickly correct any potential mistakes.

EVORA consultants use SIERA to prepare submissions for clients. On top of that, because they’re experts in their field, they use it to see where adjustments might be necessary.

GRESB show where data doesn’t add up using errors and outliers. This helps to make sure data like floor area coverage is correct, but it doesn’t highlight poorly organised data. EVORA consultants know to look for variances which may indicate problems like consumption data that has been incorrectly allocated to the wrong area of the building.

EVORA uses SIERA to achieve higher GRESB scores

Using these SIERA features make GRESB easier to get right, but they also make it easier to get higher scores. EVORA consultants use the fine-grain control of SIERA and the data visualisations and views to get the most out of the data, and correct issues before they get to GRESB.

Whilst other sustainability software can also prepare submissions for GRESB, SIERA ensures that the data is both in its best form, and used to get real results. Once the GRESB period is over EVORA consultants use the data to feedback to clients to help guide which actions will achieve an asset’s sustainability goals.

This combination of EVORA + SIERA explains how EVORA helped a number of our clients achieve GRESB global sector leadership and Hines Europe to achieve 100% in its Resilience score.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch with the team at contactus@evoraglobal.com.