How to optimize building energy consumption: A Guide for Facility Managers

Published on 12 Mar, 2024read time 5 mins
commercial real estate building, how to optimize building energy consumption

The ever-increasing consumption of energy within buildings has been recognised as a significant concern, given that buildings account for 40% of global energy consumption. This statistic is especially alarming given the construction market's current growth rate of 5.5% from 2022 to 2027. With the existing structures as well the new ones being constructed, it’s important to reduce energy consumption and maximize energy efficiency in order to tackle the rising carbon emissions and energy costs. Consequently, the critical question arises: How to optimize building energy consumption?

To address this important issue, we've put together a comprehensive guideline especially for Facility Managers, Energy Managers, and building owners. Before getting into the specifics of this guideline, it's essential to understand the importance of optimising building energy consumption and how it will benefit your organisation in the long run.

Importance of Building Energy Optimization

With the increasing urgency of climate change, achieving net-zero carbon emissions and meeting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals have become essential catalysts for adopting sustainable practices. In response, new regulations and building codes have been developed, mandating commercial buildings to prioritize energy consumption optimization and improve their energy performance to comply with minimum energy efficiency standards regulations and attain energy certifications. Stakeholders across the board, including tenants, investors, and regulators, are pressing for increased efficiency and environmental responsibility in commercial buildings.

Moreover, rising energy costs have become a major issue for building owners, putting enormous pressure on facility managers to bring down these expenses. As a result, building energy management has emerged as a key focus in the ongoing fight against the climate crisis. There's a growing acknowledgment of the environmental footprint of organizations, which significantly influences their reputation. For these reasons, energy consumption optimization is becoming increasingly significant given the current scenario, and the need to work on it requires immediate attention. Now, let's look at the benefits of building energy optimization.

Benefits of Optimizing building energy consumption

Cost Savings: By implementing energy-efficient measures, building owners can significantly reduce utility expenses, leading to substantial cost savings over time.

Enhanced Environmental Sustainability: Lower energy consumption results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, helping to mitigate climate change and promote environmental sustainability.

Improved Comfort and Productivity: Energy optimization measures such as better insulation and efficient HVAC systems can enhance indoor comfort levels, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction among occupants.

Compliance with Regulations and Standards: Adhering to minimum energy efficiency standards regulations not only avoids potential fines and penalties but also enhances the reputation of the building and its owners as environmentally responsible entities.

Increased Property Value: Energy-efficient buildings often command higher resale or rental values due to their lower operating costs and improved market appeal.

Future-Proofing Against Rising Energy Costs: As energy prices continue to rise, energy consumption optimization provides a hedge against escalating utility expenses, ensuring long-term financial stability.

Positive Public Image: Demonstrating a commitment to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship can enhance the public perception of the building owner or organization, fostering goodwill and positive brand recognition.

There is no denying  that optmizing building energy offers several benefits from cost savings to positive impact on the environment. The real challenge lies in how to optimize building energy?

How to Optimize Building Energy Consumption

To embark on the journey of building energy management, it's essential to follow a structured approach. Every step of making your building energy management plays an important part in helping you reach the end goal of enhanced energy efficiency and reduced energy bills. Let’s understand what this journey entails and how to optimize building energy with this roadmap.

1. Conduct Energy Audits

Conducting an in-depth energy audit is the first step in building energy optimization. An energy audit evaluates a building's energy performance, identifies areas of waste, and assesses the efficiency of existing systems and equipment. Another important part of determining current energy consumption is analysing energy bills. By analysing historical energy data, facility managers can recognise trends, identify peak consumption periods, and detect abnormalities, enabling them to take targeted actions to reduce consumption and costs.

2. Technology and Equipment Upgrades

Facility managers can identify outdated and energy-intensive equipment and systems based on energy audit results. Consider  implementing energy optimization solutions and upgrading to energy-efficient technologies like LED lighting and smart HVAC systems. HVAC systems are energy intensive, therefore, retrofitting and upgrading older HVAC systems can be a more cost-effective alternative. While these changes may necessitate initial capital investments, they can lead to savings in the long run and energy efficiency gains.

3. Real-Time Energy Monitoring

Implementing real-time energy monitoring systems allows facility managers to track energy consumption patterns and discover areas for improvement in real time. Facility managers can take proactive measures to optimise energy consumption and decrease waste by constantly monitoring energy usage, discrepancies, and trends.

4. Implementing Smart Building Technologies

Smart building technologies, including occupancy sensors, asset performance management systems and building automation systems, play a crucial role in building energy management. These technologies facilitate intelligent energy management, predictive maintenance, and continuous optimization of building performance. Building automation systems integrate a number of building systems, such as HVAC, lighting, and security, into a single platform for monitoring and control. By automating processes, optimizing energy consumption, and responding to changing conditions in real-time, building automation systems optimise operational efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

5. Performance Measurement and Reporting

Establishing performance indicators and implementing a system for measuring and reporting energy usage is essential for tracking progress and evaluating the effectiveness of building energy management. Regular reporting enables stakeholders to monitor trends, detect anomalies, and make data-driven decisions.

6. Energy Benchmarking

Benchmarking energy performance against industry standards or similar buildings enables facility managers to discover areas for improvement and establish performance targets. Setting clear energy consumption goals enables facility managers to track progress and measure the success of energy optimization efforts. Facility managers can evaluate progress, prioritise investments, and demonstrate success by comparing energy usage metrics such as energy intensity or Energy Use Intensity (EUI).

7. Employee Engagement and Training

By empowering employees with the knowledge and providing training on energy-saving strategies and procedures is crucial to optimize energy performance of a building. It is also important to provide the right set of tools to reduce their workload which will help them allocate their time in skill development. By raising awareness, fostering a sense of ownership, and encouraging employees to contribute to energy efficiency initiatives, facility managers can harness the shared experience and commitment of their workforce to achieve meaningful change and sustainable results.

Tools and Technologies for Optimizing Building Energy Consumption

Addressing energy inefficiency in buildings is a modern day challenge. Therefore, the question of how to optimize building energy consumption can be resolved through the adoption of modern energy optimization solutions and technologies.

1. Automated Fault Detection and Diagnostics:

Automated fault detection and diagnostics use advanced algorithms to detect inefficiencies, faults and problems in building systems automatically. Facility managers can address issues such as equipment breakdowns or energy wastage proactively, reducing energy losses and improving performance.

2. Predictive Analytics:

Utilize predictive analytics to forecast future energy consumption patterns and trends. By analyzing historical data and using machine learning algorithms, facility managers can identify potential energy-saving opportunities, optimize resource allocation, and make data-driven decisions to enhance energy efficiency.

3. Smart Meters and Sensors:

Smart metres and sensors track energy use and environmental conditions in buildings. By delivering real-time data and feedback, these devices allow for precise monitoring, control, and optimisation of energy usage, resulting in significant energy savings and improved building energy performance.

4. Internet of Things (IoT) Devices:

Internet of Things (IoT) devices connect building systems and equipment to the internet, which enables remote monitoring, control, and automation. Facility managers can use IoT technology to connect their building assest and systems onto one platform so as to gather data from every part of the building. this will eventually help to optimise energy usage, improve occupant comfort, and streamline building operations.

5. Remote Monitoring and Control Apps:

Remote monitoring and control applications enable facility managers and O&M teams to remotely monitor building systems and equipment using smartphones or tablets. These apps help facility managers to respond to issues quickly, optimise energy usage, and increase operational efficiency by offering real-time data and control capabilities.

6. Energy Management Software:

Energy Management Software provides advanced analytics and reporting for managing consumption and performance data. By analysing trends, identifying problems and delivering actionable insights, EMS enables facility managers to make informed decisions and successfully optimise building energy consumption.

Towards Achieving a Sustainable Built Environment

Embarking on the journey towards building energy optimization marks a crucial stride in shaping a more sustainable built environment. As a facility manager or building operator, one is repeatedly faced with the question "How to optimize building energy?”. 

Buildings can significantly minimise their environmental impact by adopting energy optimization solutions, energy-efficient practices and using advanced technologies, while also improving operating efficiency and lowering costs. Continuing the pursuit for a greener future not only promotes increased energy efficiency, but also ensures compliance with minimum energy efficiency standards regulations, government regulations and building energy codes.

Adherence to energy efficiency regulations and standards has become a legal requirement in many regions. Compliance to these standards ensures that buildings satisfy important energy performance benchmarks, avoiding potential fines and legal entanglements.

Furthermore, building energy optimisation is critical in reducing the environmental footprint of buildings, proving a commitment to social responsibility. This dedication not only improves reputation, but also gives you a competitive advantage in the market while improving the overall quality of life.

Building energy optimization will continue to be a critical component of achieving sustainability goals and creating a more resilient and resource-efficient built environment.