Regardless of size, organisations are under growing pressure from customers and employees to act environmentally responsible, from the sustainability of their buildings through to supply chain operations.
In a YouGov study 60% of UK employees say it’s important to work for a company that has an active policy to reduce its carbon emissions.
So how do you ensure staff stay cool and have access to the equipment they need whilst minimising your carbon impact? It could be you’ve had to decrease the temperature on your air conditioning or bring in extra fans? Maybe the cooling equipment is struggling under the heat?
Making the following changes to your office environment and educating and engaging staff will have a positive impact on the wellbeing and comfort of your people, the planet and your bottom line.
Ensure settings match peoples’ needs. Most companies make the mistake of running their air conditioning systems permanently. Appoint an Energy ‘Tsar’ to work with your facilities management (FM) and HR teams to ensure timings match when people need the cool air and temperatures are set so people are not too cold.
Most systems aren’t sophisticated enough to tell when it is day or night, or if the offices are occupied, so ensure AC is set to turn off just before people leave the building and never left running overnight. Encourage people to switch off any manual units after leaving rooms.
Don’t open windows
Building heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems are designed to be operated in a specific way. Opening windows may make the system less efficient and costlier to run. To improve comfort and reduce costs, discuss with your FM how to best use the HVAC.
Office fit outs can lead to imbalances in airflow which causes hot office areas and freezing meeting rooms because the air supply for the office has been separated in the meeting room. Leave the doors open on hot days and look at ways to move the air supply to rooms.
With great thermostats come great responsibility
Heating and cooling controls and thermostats are often used in ways which have unintended consequences.
For example, a space that has been split in two but only has one temperature control can result in the people with controls always trying to turn the heat up or down, affecting the other room who are getting extreme temperatures without knowing why. Review the HVAC arrangements and make sure controls are being managed effectively.
Encourage flexible and home working
Typically, the main heat sources in an office are people and IT equipment. If your office has a high density of people it may be beyond what the HVAC system was designed to cope with. Hot days may be a good time to look at more flexible or home working to reduce the density of people in the office.
Electrical equipment emits heat, so switching everything off overnight will reduce the cooling demand during hot summer months. This will also improve the life expectancy of your device.
Label equipment using simple red and green labels to show what can and can’t be switched off.
This will give people the confidence that they are switching off the correct kit. Use fun communications on light switches or air conditioning systems to act as reminders to prompt staff to switch off.
Develop a daily or nightly checklist of all items that should be switched off and integrate this into cleaning and security checks or daily site walk rounds. Delegating responsibility to staff members as ‘Energy Tsars’ spreads the load and builds it into daily routines.
Training staff to understand how energy is used, what action they can take and the impact this has encourages energy conscious behaviour. Training should be relevant to your business and incorporated within internal and external training programmes.
Consider workshop-style training sessions to target those who have a significant influence over energy use. Help them to understand how their buildings are using energy and where they can make savings. For wider audiences, eLearning modules are an effective way of reaching larger groups and tracking completion.
There are many actions you can take to save energy, whether office or site-based. It’s knowing what these actions are and educating and engaging everyone in the business to take responsibility and play their part. But once they do, the collective impact of these actions can be significant on your energy costs and staff performance.
Sam Carson is director of sustainability innovation at Carbon Credentials.
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