by Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM

Adapted from a presentation at the Central Penn Business Journal’s Real Estate & Development Symposium.

Did you know that occupants control as much as 70% of a building’s energy consumption?

If you want to make your building more energy efficient, educate the building’s occupants about how to be smarter when it comes to energy.

Turning off lights, powering down computers and equipment, and unplugging are all part of it.

But so is use of the thermostat – which is a major energy hog in buildings.  Most people cannot discern the difference between a three-degree temperature swing.  We like to think that we can, which brings in the concept of temperature psychology.  Is there really that much of a difference between the air conditioning at 72-degrees and at 75-degrees?  If you didn’t have a thermostat and thermometer telling you the temperature, would you really notice?

Plus, it is important to realize that the definition of “perfect temperature” varies by individual, and usually the range of perfect temperatures when multiple people are involved is six-to-eight degrees!  So two people may disagree on the temperature setting by as much as eight degrees!  You won’t satisfy everyone, so you may as well err on the side of energy savings.

But y sure knows the difference, don’t they?  Changing the thermostat just two or three degrees can significantly reduce energy costs.  Increasing heating by just one degree increases your energy costs by 3%!  And lowering the air conditioning by just one degree increases your energy costs by as much as 6%!

Several years ago we designed a LEED Certified office renovation, and we recently went back to look at the energy use.  The building was not performing as originally projected – but the equipment was all in proper working order.  So what was the difference?  People.  It turned out that with the newly renovated building, the spaces were getting used a lot more during the evenings.  More people, more activity, more meetings – that meant more lighting and heating or air conditioning.  Plus, the cleaning crew was going through after hours and turning on every single light – and leaving them on until they were finished.  Additionally, people who were working late left their office without switching off the lights!  Although many spaces did have occupancy sensors, they were being overridden by occupants.

Your occupants may think that they “don’t need no education,” but there’s a lot of money to be saved if you spend time educating them.

•    The Energy Symphony: Call Mac, Maybe
•    The Energy Symphony: Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
•    The Energy Symphony: Phantom of the Opera (& Office)
•    The Energy Symphony: The Futures So Bright…I Gotta Wear Shades
•    The Energy Symphony

Next: When You Wish Upon A Star


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