Complacency and poor design hitting energy efficiency

Aug 03 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Spiralling energy costs may be increasing pressure on companies to reduce both their bills and their environmental impact, but a combination of complacency and badly built offices is conspiring to cost British business millions.

It is estimated that British businesses waste as much as 30 per cent of their energy Ė equating to more than £1 billion every year, while still more is literally flowing out of the door thanks to badly built offices.

Indeed, according to a new report by international architects, Gensler.

almost a third (27 per cent) of companies' property-related energy consumption could be saved simply by making offices sustainable.

Compounding the problem, Gensler says, two-thirds of property developers will only go as far as legislation demands when it comes to energy efficiency.

"The commercial offices which currently dominate our city skylines are costing business and the environment dear" said Chris Johnson, Gensler's Managing Principal.

"With around 40 per cent of energy consumption in the EU coming from the building sector, more sustainable and efficient design offers an enormous opportunity for reducing energy wastage, reducing carbon emissions and cutting costs."

According to the study, spiralling energy costs have pushed energy efficiency up the business agenda, with business aiming to reduce property energy consumption by 12 per cent over the next 5 years. On average, business is willing to pay 10 per cent more in rent for efficiently designed and constructed buildings.

Yet as things stand, almost three quarters of companies' property directors believe that business is picking up the bill for badly designed, inefficient buildings and more than a quarter think that bad office stock is actually damaging UK productivity

Yet despite this, many organisations are clearly not taking even the most elementary steps to save energy. As a separate survey by energy company, npower, has found, only a quarter of UK SMEs even regularly monitor their energy usage.

Moreover, only one in 10 have taken the simple step of appointing someone who is responsible for ensuring that computers and non-essential equipment are switched off overnight and at weekends.

"It is quite staggering how much money businesses waste every year through energy inefficiency," said npower's Gordon Parsons.

"There has always been a sound business case for energy efficiency but with volatile wholesale energy costs and increasing evidence of the very real effects of global warming, that case is now stronger than ever.

"It is also important to remember that small changes can make a huge difference Ė for example turning off a photocopier when it is not in use could save up to £194 a year and every £75 of energy saved, in turn, prevents a tonne of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere."

Parsons added that despite the long summer months meaning that there is no need for 24/7 central heating and lights blazing in the dark mornings and evenings, air conditioning systems and desk fans turned to the max, combined with equipment left running or on stand-by will still result in higher bills.

"The cheapest and greenest unit of energy is the one that you don't use so energy efficiency and sound energy management should be at the top of the agenda for every UK business," he said.