Green tenants for green buildings, by Ashley Halligan

Green building is quickly becoming a preferred way of development - worldwide. With an emphasis on sustainability, renewable energy, efficiency and an implementation of hefty environmental performance goals, design teams across the globe are creating some of the most forward-moving projects ever conceptualised. The ideas and designs behind such projects signify pure innovation and good intentions, but without tenant compliance, meeting these goals is impossible.

The truth is, occupant behaviour directly accounts for up to 50 per cent of a building’s entire energy use. Even with Building Automation Systems (BAS), occupant energy use accounts for up to half of the usage. These habits are referred to as “plug use” and refer to all electronics used by tenants: computers, chargers, printers, etc. - none of which can be moderated by sustainability plans.

Given that research on occupant behavior is still somewhat new in nature, such environmentally friendly projects are still developing, along with the subsequent strategies to boost tenant participation in pursuing energy goals. Through a couple of expert interviews, we’ve created a list of methods to engage occupants, increase their awareness of the ultimate goal and reduce their consumption habits.

The first strategy is to engage the occupants before they move-in. By hosting an eco-charrette (a meeting between the design team, facility manager and occupants), goals can be made clear up front. By explaining the importance of established performance goals, occupants can understand their expectations from the beginning - and how simple habits can immensely affect overall usage.

Secondly, taking a holistic approach to an entire institution is helpful in engaging occupants in multiple ways. By embracing an overall lifestyle that’s healthy, sustainable and efficient, occupants are more likely to fully embrace the energy expectations they’ll be working towards.

Josh Radoff, Principal at YR&G Sustainability, explains, “There’s a mistake of focusing solely on energy and water. While they’re important for a lot of people, they’re abstract ideas. It’s hard to get too far only focusing on energy.”

New technologies allow for usage reports and comparisons between occupants. Lucid’s Building Dashboard offers several tools to measure to-the-minute energy usage and organises it into user-friendly, simple applications. Additionally, it’s easily incorporated into social media, allowing public visibility of current performance. Facilities management software can really simplify performance data so occupants can thoroughly understand the direct impact of their habits.

“Our goal was to engage occupants and visitors by showing real-time environmental performance of the building and landscape,” says Michael Murray, Lucid’s CEO and Co-Founder.

One extension of these performance recording systems is the ability to provoke competition among occupants. Competition is always a motivating factor when trying to engage participants. Competition isn’t limited to a single office or individual users; it can be among floors of a high-rise, between buildings in a facility, or even between unrelated facilities. With the social networking capabilities, competition can become widespread.

And lastly, creating a sense of transparency is essential, according to Radoff. Creating an atmosphere that’s not intimidating, easy to understand and simplified is necessary for tenants to not only be aware of their expectations but also to understand the founding principles of the environmental performance goals they’re subject to.

Given that this a regularly shifting sphere of development, new research will be regularly evolving, but beginning with these five strategies will offer a greater opportunity to meet the environmental performance goals.

Ashley Halligan is a property management analyst at United States-based advisory firm Software Advice.

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