How to Achieve Sustainability in your Buildings

How to Achieve Sustainability in Your Buildings

As a real estate professional, do you manage buildings with very different characteristics such as offices, factories, supermarkets, or warehouses?

Regardless of your focus, energy management and more precisely, understanding how much energy buildings consume is certainly one of your priorities. Therefore, tracking the consumption of your properties, in large portfolios with multiple locations, or in a single building with different spaces, is a must.

Keeping track of your energy consumption on a regular basis can help improve your management efficiency and identify areas for energy and financial savings.

In addition, an efficient and sustainable building also becomes more attractive to buyers or tenants, as well as to authorities or banks when applying for financing. Not to mention compliance with your ESG objectives (Environmental, Social and Governance) and European regulations. 
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1. Evaluate your Energy Supplies and consider Renewable Energy Sources

Let’s start with a fundamental and straightforward point: are you aware of the origin of the energy you use? Did you choose your company’s energy mix or did you rely on the package offered by your utility company?

Most utilities display the percentage of their energy that comes from renewable sources and from fossil fuels. They also usually provide a detailed breakdown of the percentages of each energy source, from solar, natural gas, nuclear, etc.

Electricity generation from renewable energy sources represented 43% of the total electricity generated in the UK, in 2020. This number continues to rise and has more than doubled since 2014.

What does this mean? That you have a great opportunity to shift towards 100% clean supplies and to push demand toward a renewable energy mix.

2. Control the Energy Consumption of your Buildings

No matter the source of the energy you use, you can analyse where you consume the most energy, how to reduce it and define saving plans. Energy will always need to be used, but you can reduce its consumption in some key areas to save and be more efficient.

Identify Buildings with the Highest Energy Saving Potential

If you run several buildings or manage different offices within the same building, then comparing them can be very useful. Although it is not the only aspect to be taken into account, it will allow you to make the first analysis to understand their consumption patterns.

Consumption comparisons can be done in various ways: for instance, you can start by looking at your bills, and comparing them with previous periods to see if your consumption has varied or if it remained similar.

You can also compare your energy expenditure based on the buildings’ occupancy rate and their energy consumption. Consuming energy in a crowded building, with constant use of all spaces, is not the same as consuming the same energy in a building that is only used at a 30% capacity. Of course, there are some fixed costs, but you can still play with some elements such as lighting and temperature according to occupancy, or automate the shutdown of machines at night to avoid passive consumption of computers, printers and other equipment on standby.

Comparing your energy consumption according to occupancy rates is possible if you have implemented an Energy Management Solution (EMS). The DEXMA Detect solution will help you identify which buildings consume the most in your building portfolio, and which have the greatest savings potential so you know where to start.

Other functions carried by an EMS include: 

  • Virtual audit. Thanks to non-intrusive load monitoring technology, or NILM. Through this feature, the EMS collects information from available data sources (such as meters and bills) to help you identify the consumption of your devices. This function is not available in all EMSs and depends on the user profile, but may be an option to consider.
  • The multi-location management of your buildings. In this comparison process, you will find the multi-location function very useful, as you will be able to evaluate all your properties without having to physically go to each building or office. This function is mainly useful for large portfolios.

The Importance of Measuring and Monitoring Your Energy Consumption

When we refer to the measurement and the usefulness of an EMS, we are not just talking about the ability to measure data for the sake of measuring data: the objective is to have the data available to be able to manage and act on it.

In practical terms, in the real estate sector, measuring energy consumption through an EMS will be useful for you to:

  • Issue bills for each tenant and monitor them centrally
  • Identify savings in your consumption, meaning that your measures are working
  • Set alerts and identify anomalies and consumption peaks if variations are very pronounced

3. Reduce the Impact of your Building on the Environment and on Users

Monitor the Carbon Emissions from your Buildings

As you know, buildings under construction or already in use are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. That is why reducing carbon emissions is a predominant aspect of the sustainability conversation in the real estate sector. In addition, in many countries, measures and regulations are being tightened to force companies to publish their carbon emissions and implement measures to limit them.

The Carbon Emissions application, which you can access through the DEXMA Platform, can be your great ally in this case. This application allows you to monitor up to 9 different gases and you can adjust the periodicity according to your needs.

Also, if you keep track of your Greenhouse Gas Emissions and you are interested in the European emissions market and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), you can read more in this article about the CO2 emissions market.

Monitor Indoor Air Quality

This step can also be taken as part of the process of becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly. You can monitor the indoor air quality in your buildings to make your tenants or potential buyers feel more comfortable in your properties. You can also adjust other related management parameters such as ventilation and temperature.

With DEXMA Analyse and its real-time monitoring, this tracking is made easy, so that the levels of harmful substances and humidity, among others, are under control and the users of your buildings have a healthy working environment. You can learn more about the Air Quality functionality in DEXMA in this article.

4. Strengthening Good Energy Management Practices

Once you have identified the buildings in which you can save, the strategies, the saving measures and the renewable energy sources… Now it is time to get moving. But what if, after this initial effort, you don’t have the means to carry out the measures, or if you don’t have the support of your management team? It will be frustrating.

It is important to know how far you and your organisation are willing to go. For that, knowing the return on investment (ROI) and providing your organisation with clear numbers to show the benefits of the energy efficiency project can be key. This way you can continue with the energy efficiency project, sharing monetary data with your organisation so they can evaluate the results. 

Are you looking for short-term savings measures? Do you want to renovate your building with insulating materials to reduce consumption and save in the long term? 

Setting minor controls on temperature and lighting use is not the same as investing in an EMS and in physical and insulation components such as enclosures, air conditioning systems, lighting, etc.

Maintaining Energy Efficiency in your Buildings in the Long Term

Once you have taken the first steps towards efficiency and sustainability in your buildings, whether you have implemented an EMS directly or have contracted the services of an energy service company, it is time to maintain it. Energy efficiency is not a one-time task. Maintaining measures and raising awareness in your company will help you to sustain the results in the long term. While there are actions you can take up front to make a bigger impact on your savings process, it is a long-distance race that must be maintained.

5. Consider the Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Certifications

Finally, after the effort you are making to become more sustainable, why not get an international certification as proof of your achievement?

These are not mandatory certifications or requirements, but rather quality seals that can open doors for future business opportunities. Depending on your needs, you can opt for sustainable building certifications discussed in our previous article, or for international certifications, such as the ISO Certifications that you can discover in this other article. 

So far you have seen a summary of the steps to take to make your building portfolio more sustainable and efficient. If you want to know more, get the details and hear from our experts, watch the recording of our special webinar special real estate.

Energy Efficiency and Carbon Intensity Reduction in Real Estate - Webinar