A reduction in sick days, an improvement in productivity and increased collaboration between workers are among some of the key business benefits that are being realised through ‘healthy’ and ‘green’ office design and operation.
Investment in green, healthy buildings is also a smart business move for building developers and owners as it can have a positive impact on property values and attract premium rents, according to a ground-breaking new report released by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) this week.
WorldGBC chief executive Terri Wills said: “While our earlier work presented the overwhelming evidence between office design and improved health and wellbeing of workers, this report breaks new ground by demonstrating tangible action businesses are taking to improve their workspaces.
“The results are clear – putting both health and wellbeing, and the environment, at the heart of buildings, is a no brainer for businesses’ employees and the bottom line.”
The 50-page report, titled ‘Building the Business Case’ showcases 15 buildings from around the world that are leading the way in green building design through the likes of improved air quality, increased natural light and the introduction of greenery to create stronger connections between workers and the natural environment. These simple steps, the WorldGBC says, can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs.
UK businesses have maintained a leading level of take-up of energy and environmental management systems (EMS) standards according to new figures released by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).
The 2015 results of the ISO survey have shown that the number of certificates for the ISO 50001 standard of energy management increased in the UK by almost four times (289% increase) between 2014 and 2015, with 1,464 awarded.
This represents a huge rise from the 376 ISO 50001 certificates deployed in 2014 and makes up the lion’s share of the total number awarded since 2011 in the UK (2,317). ISO has attributed this rapid growth to the fact that ISO 50001 is relatively new to the market
This places the UK second in the world for the number of energy management certifications from ISO behind Germany, which saw almost 6,000 certificates awarded to businesses last year alone.
Salix has developed a new fund in partnership with the Education Funding Agency (EFA) that focuses specifically on energy efficiency projects.
The Salix Energy Efficiency Fund (SEEF) is available for all academies, including those in large Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) as well as sixth form colleges (SFC).
The fund is directed to those academies and SFCs that have energy efficiency projects that need capital to invest to save but may not meet the Condition Improvement Fund’s (CIF) condition need criteria.
This could include projects such as lighting or heating controls, LED lighting, insulation or boiler/heating system upgrades
Energys Group has helped many schools and colleges successfully apply for Salix funding, such as Hackney Community College, which is saving 320 tonnes of CO2 a year as a result of Salix-funded upgrades. We can support you through every step of the process, from application through to installation.
For as long as I can remember I, and therefore Energys Group, have pushed the message that energy efficiency and demand reduction are cheaper than building more capacity to generate electricity.
You may imagine then I was pleased to see that The Climate Group has started calling efficiency the 5th fuel. This is a sensible approach; wherever we can coin useful phrases to push the positive story efficiency has to tell, the better.
Invisibility is just not good enough; the vast benefits of efficiency need to be high on central policy lists, well known by businesses, accepted as key to our future. After years of lobbying, it seems to me that energy efficiency still faces unnecessary challenges with regard to take up and deployment.
This is a tragedy; energy efficiency is too often overlooked compared to generating more, yet we know it is the fifth fuel source and we know it needs to be prioritised.
In case you are after some proof, The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that since the 1970s, energy efficiency improvements in 11 countries saved the equivalent of 1,337 million tons of oil in 2011, worth US$743 billion.
This figure is larger than the combined total energy consumption in the European Union or Asia (excluding China) for the same year.
We must build energy efficiency in the UK, today
Fortunately, we have good news. Energys has been working with the government’s Electricity Demand Reduction (EDR) pilot, discovering how businesses that deliver lasting electricity savings at peak times could in future compete for funding with generation.
The enormous potential this approach has to do good is astounding. The concept affects relatively simple work too; projects that could win cash include improving motor or pump systems, installing energy efficient retrofit technologies such as LED lighting or making any other simple improvements to a building and its electrical equipment.
At Energys, we are delivering the lion’s share of the reductions for the 2016/2018 EDR programme. So far, that’s a total of 9,297kW out of the 23,307kW which the complete Phase II pilot is delivering.
Of course, we are very, very proud to be part of this early adoption drive, leading the way on UK energy efficiency.
But we are also aware of the pressing urgency to raise energy efficiency’s profile, and to banish efficiency’s unfair reputation as an ‘invisible’ fuel to history.
The deeper story to EDR and UK energy usage and resilience
Comparing energy efficiency’s story, there are some interesting numbers I would like to share.
Every kW of demand reduction in the EDR scheme, a key part of future UK energy plans, costs DECC £203.
Conversely, the cost of a kW of additional capacity using solar is around £1000. Solar contributes almost nothing to solving our peak capacity problem, as maximum demand occurs on winter evenings when the sun is set. Irrespective of how much solar capacity we bring on line, unless it is married to some form of storage solution, we still need sufficient generating capacity from other sources to meet our peak demand. I am not anti-renewables (far from it) but they are definitely not the solution to our capacity issues.
Wind generation is similarly expensive. Like solar, it too can only play a small role in capacity planning, as the high pressure weather systems that bring cold, dry, frosty winter days, also bring only light winds. The reality is that maximum energy demand often coincides with low wind.
Thus, from a demand planning point of view, we have to have sufficient capacity without taking renewables into account.
So, what about the generating methods where the amount of electricity we produce is in our control? Let’s consider Hinkley Point C. Even if the project is completed on budget (which is unlikely!), it will cost a whopping £5,625 per kW to build, and that is with no allowance for any future decommissioning costs. This makes it around 28 times as expensive as reducing demand.
There is a huge amount of angst at the moment as the UK faces several winters where peak demand is forecast to be at, or over, our capacity. The most cost effective way of solving this problem is to reduce demand rather than increase supply (and in any case increases in supply are often many years away).
Energy efficiency rules the roost
So, my call is this; get energy efficiency in there fast, into buildings we already have: Make businesses more profitable and their employees more productive, with better lighting and bespoke controls for lights or heat.
A beneficial ‘side effect’ of this approach is that we significantly reduce our carbon footprint – so carbon reduction becomes an automatic by-product of policy.
So, with new government programmes, let’s roll out more cash support to get this happening.
We have to get to work on really delivering energy efficiency today. We love the government’s EDR pilot. But we say; ‘there is so much more we can do’.
The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has collaborated with the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) to produce a new guide to help companies comply with the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).
The guide, dubbed ‘Gaining Value from ESOS Audits’, has been aimed at businesses who qualify under ESOS’ remit and do not already have energy saving measures in place, and aims to instruct them how to both comply with the scheme and take advantage of potential efficiency measures.
BRE has claimed that while the scheme and its auditing process has been put into place to help companies save money, most regard it “purely as a cost or a time-consuming burden”. The paper has been produced to shed more light onto its benefits.
It outlines the basic principles of ESOS and offers guidance on the four main routes to complying with it whilst also touching onto other themes such as display energy certificates, ISO 5001 awards and non-domestic Green Deal assessments.