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Go Green at Work

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As we step into the next generation of workplaces, it is pertinent to opt for eco-friendly infrastructure. Shrinivas Rao, CEO-Asia Pacific, Vestian, an ISO 9001:2008 certified workplace solutions firm, presents some green solutions and briefs on the advantages of the same for a corporate business.

Presently, tenant-occupied office buildings exist in a very competitive market with multiple stakeholders who have different building demands. The owner of a tenant-occupied commercial space will invest in the building if there is a positively foreseeable return. The returns could be in terms of tenant retention or improved prospects of leasing all available space.

In an owner occupied space, operating cost is always a primary concern. Investment in the property is usually difficult due to limitations of financial resources and uncertainty about ROI (return-on-investment). Therefore, what the owner needs is a clear justification for investment in energy-related products and services to alleviate these concerns.

Benefits of Sustainable practices

Energy conservation may seem a theoretical idea of little value and practically useless to real estate investors. But some quick research is enough to understand the long-term benefits of constructing energy efficient buildings and revise one’s decision. Reasons to invest in energy efficient infrastructure go beyond the need to just save energy for both owner-occupied and tenant-occupied buildings and include:

Greater Marketability– An energy efficient building reflects enhanced market value.

Property Maintenance– Energy costs become more predictable in the budget, because demand patterns are measured over time through building management reporting. The same reporting system can issue utility bills to tenants. This properly allocates costs and enables tenants to control their own expenses. The result can be lower lease rates, thereby helping the property to better compete in the local market.

• Cost-effective– Climate control and lighting after office hour’s can be controlled and billed to tenants. This permits large sections of the building to economize on energy.

• Durability– Equipment life is extended, deferring replacement cost for years to come.

• Monitoring Changes– Changes in building use can be monitored for significant impacts on energy demand.

• Job Satisfaction– Facility staff can enhance their skills in energy management, which increases job satisfaction and employee retention.

• Goodwill– The building is seen as an energy leader in the community, attracting interest and new tenants.

While we have already recognized the need to “go green” from a commercial standpoint reduction of carbon footprint at work places is not expensive, inflexible or a laborious affair. It doesn’t hinder productivity or comfort. On the contrary, these account for only basic improvements to our standard facilities management functions such as replacing regular incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LED bulbs. Such minor energy-efficient systems can be sought during refurbishment, renovation, or office reconfiguration and can also help earn carbon credit points. Most companies across India are thus, readily encouraging the creation of a green environment as part of their Sustainability Initiative.

Technologies for Energy-efficiency

Modern architecture and infrastructure have advanced to facilitate limited energy consumption. Some innovative processes adopted towards energy saving are:

Day lighting

Light shelves, installed high on the inside of a window, will shade and prevent glare in the space six feet from the floor, which is where most occupants work. The shelves also reflect the daylight up onto the ceiling, which indirectly illuminates a room.

Smart lighting design in parking lots

While designing lighting for a new parking lot, consider using low-wattage metal halide lamps, instead of high-pressure sodium lamps, in fixtures that direct the light downward.

Using lower-wattage bulbs can actually increase the safety for the vehicle drivers and others. An over lit lot can be dangerous to drivers if their eyes cannot adjust quickly enough in the transition from highly lit to dark areas.

Commissioning

This is a process by which engineers check and tune up building systems to ensure that they are operating appropriately and efficiently. Studies have shown that continuously monitoring a building’s energy systems can lead to reductions of 10 to 15 percent in annual energy bills.

High-efficiency HVAC

A highly efficient packaged air-conditioning/heating unit can reduce cooling energy consumption by 10 percent or more over a standard-efficiency, commercial packaged unit. Selection of equipment that has multiple levels of capacity (compressor stages) with good part-load efficiency also is beneficial.

Demand-Controlled Ventilation

For office spaces that have large swings in occupancy, energy can be saved by decreasing the amount of ventilation supplied by the HVAC system during low-occupancy hours. A demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) system senses the level of carbon dioxide in the return air stream, uses it as an indicator of occupancy and decreases air supply when carbon dioxide levels are low. DCV systems are particularly applicable to variable occupancy spaces like indoor parking garages, auditoriums, meeting rooms, and cafeterias.

Reflective Roof Coating

If the roof needs re-coating or painting, consider white or some other highly reflective color to minimize the amount of heat the building absorbs. This change can often reduce peak cooling demand by 15 to 20 percent.

Performance of Green & Non-Green Buildings

Green Buildings ideally are certified by the LED Energy auditors who are authorized to certify the building. Based on the categorization and factual inputs assessed during the energy audit, the buildings are certified. In a joint study by Vestian and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors titled “Assessment of IT Campus Environs”, campuses across India were assessed on their energy efficiency.

While the key observation was ignorance of renewable forms of energy, perpetual cost implications, the study also revealed the lack of the utmost important “Green Certification” in some campuses that diligently followed several energy efficient mechanisms and therein, could be categorized as green building. This basically highlights the requirement of environmental education for corporate professionals and a grave deficit of facility managers adept at green technology and related innovations.

Role of Facility Management

Very often an avid reader may overlook technological updates commonly featured in trade magazines or journals. “LEDs being clustered to provide more light” may be the prime highlight of a journal or feature high on news portals- but may fail to attract the attention of a real estate or software professional. A professional facilities manager will be able to translate the scientific implication of this technological advancement as “the availability of light across a wider area” to an end-user. It is vital to be well-informed constantly on recent developments in green technology and this is where a professional service provider can assess, identify and assist with the necessary energy efficient system for a contemporary or mature building. Energy conservation is not the sole responsibility of one particular individual or team; it involves each one of us to drive this agenda in our daily work, to create & sustain energy-efficient structures & living spaces.

Today, energy efficiency is at the heart of any green, sustainable space, uniting naturalists and real estate investors towards better days ahead. The sustainable approaches included in the building operations and maintenance add value to an energy-sensitive construction.

Corporate businesses either resort to an in-house end-to-end model or outsource a facilities management partner. Also called the outsource model, the FM partner with his empanelled vendors performs the various services as per a defined service level agreement.

Many IT & ITeS organizations maintain the green quotient through these two basic models. The objective is for the building to have a higher lifespan resulting in high overall returns i.e. increased user satisfaction and customer retention. In addition, the buildings will require low maintenance and provide improved indoor air quality. The buildings and tenant spaces operated on green practices result in significant energy and cost savings in comparison to the traditional buildings. Organizations such as Reliance group in Mumbai, EMC2 in Bangalore and the Wipro-IT services campus, Bangalore have all incorporated renewable energy sources such as wind & tidal power through outsourced agencies to reduce their carbon foot print.

 

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