Implementing a systematic approach to energy savings can have far-reaching benefits that go beyond energy consumption and energy cost reductions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, significant energy reductions and energy cost savings have been achieved with minimal or no capital investment. However, a successful and sustainable strategy requires a close relationship between tenants, landlords and property managers.
Less usage does not equal energy savings
During the COVID-19 pandemic, building occupancy has naturally reduced as a consequence of governmental actions (home office policies). In line with less usage, there are some underlying expectations of reduced energy consumption and cost reductions. In an ideal world all buildings would be “smart”, whereby and heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting would be directly correlated with building usage. This is sadly not the case. Buildings must be actively managed in order to reduce HVAC expenses and at the same time an acceptable indoor climate must be maintained that reflects the rapidly changing number of people that use the building.
The pandemic has accelerated our focus as property managers on energy saving initiatives, in terms of utilizing existing building technology by combining insights and controls across the available platforms and solutions. As a result, we have been able to reduce the energy consumption of the buildings we manage. Close cooperation between tenants, landlords and property managers has been a critical factor in this success.
CBRE has made a systematic global review of our opportunities for reducing emissions using existing technologies and analyzed the financial impact of each carbon action. Based on this review have we set an absolute goal to reduce Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 30% before 2025 and by 50% before 2035 (using the baseline year of 2015). In addition, we have set an absolute goal to reduce Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions by 20% before 2026 (using the baseline year of 2016).
Policies vs human actions
Governments continuously develop energy policy tools (e.g. appliance standards, building energy codes and labelling) to contribute to energy reductions in commercial buildings. Traditionally, these tools have taken a one-dimensional approach to energy conservation by mainly promoting ‘technological’ solutions including efficient building envelopes; office equipment, lighting systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), to name a few (EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2020).
Recent studies have shown that human actions (both by tenants and property managers), are significant determinants of energy use, and could hinder the optimal operations of buildings. This could result inexcessive energy use which would defeat the purpose of ‘technological’ investments.
Covid-19 has accelerated the ESG-initiatives
As businesses across a multitude of sectors have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the investments in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies and focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has suffered.). However, the pandemic may grant us a window of opportunity to accelerate energy efficiency in real estate and teach us how to make society more resilient to the future risks our planet may face.
One of the main pillars of ESG-strategy, and the sustainable development goals, is to save energy (hence save money), reduce CO2 emissions and upgrade technical equipment and systems to be more energy-efficient. Collectively, these actions will help to create a “green” bottom line. A systematic approach to energy savings creates benefits far beyond lowering energy consumption and reducing energy costs.