Energy Efficiency

Passive and Active Measures for achieving Good Energy Management

Design and Building Fabric – Passive Measures

Regulatory factors (for example, UK Building Regulations and comparable design requirements) control modern building designs, which include backup values for the thermal performance of building elements (u-values) and the efficiency of HVAC and lighting. The building must, however, have an overall energy performance that can be achieved through passive design and the employment of low-carbon technology and renewables.

This is not usually as easy on older constructions. One of the primary problems in reducing energy demand is dealing with the building fabric and its constituent elements. Although building science requires that the fabric be addressed first, the economics typically don’t stack up unless you’ve previously planned an update and are simply upgrading the specification – this is normally a comfort decision or done to protect the asset, but it is not the right choice.

Both are valid parts of the business case since they protect the asset’s value and, if rented out, keep rental values stable and decrease void times. Controls and pipe insulation are typically the only cost-effective solutions when working on a stand-alone project. Plant only enters the picture if it is nearing the end of its useful life or if an upgrade is in the works.

A holistic approach to renovation is usually recommended, in which all methods that contribute to effective energy savings are evaluated simultaneously but be careful of ill-conceived attempts that cause additional issues.

Active Measures

If the building’s occupants are consistently exhibiting bad user behaviour, such as opening windows and utilising portable heaters, it’s typically an indication of a poorly managed structure. What steps can be taken if the appropriate environment is not provided? Normally, controls are the answer, but is the use of automated controls really necessary? The choice depends on the functionality required and whether there is a requirement to provide manual overrides.

Regulatory restrictions, as well as national and international standards, push modern building designs to incorporate energy-saving technologies and controls. Depending on the demands and funds, the intricacy of this method will vary. Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and other sustainability design tools will aid in the development of new installations and refurbishment projects, but care needs to be taken that ‘green’ boxes are not simply ticked off.

User requirements, installation operation, possible maintenance concerns, user interfaces, and overall performance must all be taken into account. If any of these are incorrect, the pricey energy-saving technology will simply not operate as intended on the design table — this is part of the so-called “performance gap.”. Another pitfall might occur if the concerns of operation, maintenance, and commissioning are not addressed. A thorough examination of the installation’s intended use and a holistic approach is required; this may be accomplished utilising assessment techniques such as BREEAM-In-Use.

Installing modern technologies in existing buildings and infrastructures will also be difficult. It’s critical to make sure that the use of technology in a given installation, which is frequently a replacement for heritage, is a good use of resources. New technology, such as variable speed drives, has the potential to minimise energy usage at the point of use, but it could lead to other problems on a 40-50 year old electrical switchboard or cabling infrastructure.

Examining the entire installation is critical while performing this inspection. Another factor to examine is whether all of the essential passive measures are in place before taking active measures. Although it is not reasonable in engineering terms to replace the building’s historic cast iron central heating boiler if there is a double height single-glazed atrium losing heat from the building; economics and/or the practicalities of the fabric solution may favour the installation of a new plant and controls.

On User Behaviour (and how to improve it)

Investing a lot of money in energy-saving devices and technology may save energy, but are there any other fast wins? Could the tenants’ behaviours jeopardise the technical investment? People are the most valuable and important resource in energy management, yet they may also be the most difficult to manage. Technology is only an enabler and for energy management to really work the management and staff need to be on board.

Modifying tenant behaviour with respect to energy usage and possible waste is widely recognised as the quickest approach to minimise energy use in any area, environment, or structure. It makes no difference if your estate’s technology is ancient and outdated or brand new and cutting-edge.

When employees have a culture of disobeying restrictions and leaving lights on when they aren’t needed, energy is squandered. It must be understood that this is not the fault of the employees; all they want is a pleasant working environment, which has been proved to increase employee productivity. The goal is to create such an environment rather than just switch off systems to save energy.

Induction, education, training, feedback, and updates on the job site will all help. Energy management and related initiatives should be championed by directors; managers should own the procedures, and users should be rewarded. The difficulty in reducing energy demand is keeping people motivated to continue reducing energy consumption while maintaining an environment that allows the business to operate.

Management Systems in Energy Management

To be successful in energy management, a process-driven system that facilitates change and is backed by technology that closely evaluates what, where, why, and how energy is utilised is required. Areas and possibilities for improvement will be identified via careful monitoring and analysis.

The international standard ISO 50001 – Energy Management lays out a framework for an energy management system based on the universal paradigm of ‘plan, do, check, act,’ which is frequently used in the engineering industry to manage improvements.

However, you need to appreciate that there is no ‘one size fits all’, nor is there one single solution for one problem. Your management systems should be robust and, ultimately, adaptable.

Your management system should:

  1. have suitable rules in place and procedures in place that use a number of tools that have all been customised for the business’s local requirements and reflect strategic direction,
  2. consist of processes that make the most efficient use of resources,
  3. have measurable, SMART goals and objectives, and be adaptive to changes in usage or occupancy.

It’s crucial to remember, though, that any changes must be meticulously recorded so that data may be compared and accurately analysed.

Discussing Energy Management and Its Challenges

Facilities managers and their colleagues will confront several energy management problems as energy costs continue to rise, worries about reliable energy sources linger, and legislative requirements related to emissions and climate change policies grow.

The manner in which energy management is carried out, as well as the related tasks and functions, varies based on the kind of organisation and the installation’s lifetime. For example, larger estates and companies will have a duty-holder with a well-defined function in energy management. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, are more likely to assign energy management as a secondary task to the facilities manager or another specialist.

Coordination across different areas of the business is critical for effective outcomes. An energy manager may be tempted to switch off lights and equipment whenever feasible in order to save overhead costs. However, in order for a firm to succeed, it is critical to offer employees working circumstances that encourage efficiency and effectiveness. These difficulties are prevalent in most organisations, but short-sighted cost-cutting should not be allowed to prevail because it will negatively impact production and profitability.

When it comes to energy management, doing nothing and going on as usual – sometimes referred to as “business as usual” – is not an option, despite the complexity of some of the challenges involved. Rising energy prices and supply security are now important corporate concerns that must be handled. So these challenges must be overcome.

An organisation must have a strategy in place to successfully address any issues that may arise. Compliance is sometimes the driving force behind these strategies since it is necessary to satisfy legislative obligations and adhere to regulations like as health and safety, environmental management, and equal opportunity rules.

Increased levels of legislation governing energy consumption, reporting mechanisms, and the need for business efficiency mean that facilities managers must recognise that energy management requires similar levels of ownership and responsibility throughout the organisation – from the boardroom to the shop floor.

Visitors must also be aware of how they may contribute to the reduction of needless energy consumption. If the strategy and plan do not have active boardroom backing, the effort will stall at the technical level and fail to result in a change in organisational culture. The goal should be to integrate the strategy into management practises such that it becomes the new “business as usual.”

Energy – Why It Matters

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997. Owing to a complex ratification process, it entered into force on 16 February 2005. Currently, there are 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The scale of buy-in represents a shift in world views and one of the first serious, guided attempts to bring climate change under control. The protocol has been subject to further amendments since its creation.


The Kyoto Protocol imposes challenging targets for the world in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on February 16th 2005 following the ratification of the Protocol by Russia in November 2004. If any member fails to meet their individual targets, there are potentially serious financial penalties.

Greenhouse gases seriously contribute to the acceleration of climate change. Oxides of sulphur and nitrogen that are emitted during the combustion process cause acid rain which corrodes buildings, increases the acidity levels of lakes, rivers, and sea, while also being seriously damaging to human health.

For countries that import the majority of their energy requirements, this makes them vulnerable to supply issues and volatile energy prices on the world market. Due to rising fuel costs, opening of electricity and gas markets to competition, and climate change, the requirement to monitor and reduce energy consumption is thrown under the spotlight like never before.

The top three non-domestic building uses that consume the most energy in the UK (true of 2018) are as follows:

  • Factories (34%)
  • Other (15%)
  • Offices (10%)

It is somewhat easy to assume that this is due to these building types existing in much higher numbers than other building types, but this is simply not true. There are 1,656,000 non-domestic buildings in the UK – the top three most common?

  • Shops (29%)
  • Offices (20%)
  • Factories (14%)

From comparing the most common uses of non-domestic buildings with the biggest energy consumers by building type, it can be seen that energy demand will vary based on building type. This may seem just like common sense for some, but it paves the way for a little context.

Figure 1.1 Electricity consumption (TWh) by non-domestic building types. Source: The Non-Domestic National Energy Efficiency Data-Framework 2020

Energy Consumption in Buildings

Before beginning this section, it is prudent to explain a term that will be used throughout. The “service sector” can be thought of to include both commercial service activities (such as banking, hotels, cinemas, retail outlets) and public services (such as universities, hospitals, and government departments).

Although it may seem like common sense, buildings are often the main point of energy consumption within the services sector. The balance being tipped mainly by certain municipal and civic facilities.

Energy End Use in Buildings

As you may imagine, the end use of energy in buildings varies with the type, function and occupancy of building.

To illustrate this, the energy use associated with two typical office blocks is contrasted below. One building is naturally ventilated with an open plan setup while the other is air-conditioned.

Although it is difficult to be able to formulate a statement that applies to all businesses and office settings, it is interesting to see how a slight operational difference can cause such a vast difference in energy end use.

Energy End UsePercentage of Total Energy Use
Fans, Pumps, Controls2%
Office Equipment12%
Heating/Hot Water65%
Figure 1.3 -Typical energy end use in a naturally ventilated open plan office
Energy End UsePercentage of Total Energy Use
Fans, Pumps, Controls16%
Office Equipment8%
Heating/Hot Water46%
Figure 1.4 -Typical energy end use in an air-conditioned office

Environmental Impact Of Energy Use In Buildings

Energy consumption in buildings (which will involve the use of fossil fuels) contributes to air pollution. This has further downstream impacts on public health and causing irreparable damage to the environment.

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels cause global warming and ultimately climate change. This is not the only harmful emission though; others include oxides of sulphur and nitrogen which can cause acid rain.

Much of the UK’s electricity is still generated from fossil fuels. Because of the inefficiencies and losses resulting from generation and distribution, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are relatively high compared to other energy sources. The emissions resulting from electricity will change on a yearly basis – this is as a result of the changing fuel mix of electricity generation.

Generation SourceKg CO2 per KWh
Open Cycle Gas Turbine0.5
Closed Cycle Gas Turbine0.5
Pumped Storage0.02
Non-Pumped Storage Hydro0.005
Wind Onshore0.00464
Wind Offshore0.00525
Figure 1.5 – CO2 emissions by energy source. Source:

Energy Costs In Buildings

Energy costs are considered to be a growing cost and are controllable through proper energy management and strategy. Any cost savings from energy saving tactics can be thought of to add directly to profits, if already running a profitable business. They require no additional turnover, service provision or increase in customer numbers. This creates an incredible financial opportunity for businesses take advantage of, should they want to.

Figure 1.6 – Proportion of total intermediate consumption spent on products within each industry group. Source:

Design Opportunities In Buildings

Opportunities for New Buildings

When building a new building, it allows for complete creative freedom and a building entirely of your designs. This represents the best opportunity to take advantage of any benefits resulting from design features.

  • Optimise location and orientation of site features
  • Optimise the layout, form and fabrics used to moderate energy needs
  • Reduce heat demand by using insulation and ensuring seals are airtight
  • Minimise cooling needs through the use of optimised fabrics
  • Integrate natural ventilation
  • Implement renewable energy sources
  • Ensure requirements of occupants are met

It may seem like just common sense, but a well-designed and energy efficient building using the form and fabric of the construction to allow plenty of daylight and natural ventilation, will provide a more productive workplace than any heavily serviced conventional alternative. This is further enhanced by providing staff with the right combination of automatic systems, timed systems, and individual control over the local environment.

Opportunities in Existing Buildings

For existing buildings, there are not so many opportunities. The scope for efficiency improvements is limited. Opportunities present themselves more in the form of cost-effective investment, either as stand-alone measures or as part of other replacement or refurbishment plans.

  • Lighting systems can be upgraded to more efficient lamps, luminaires and controls. There is a balance to be found in replacing electrical equipment between upgrading to more modern efficiency standards, and wasteful consumerism.
  • Hot water can often be provided in more efficient ways than initial historical designs. Boilers at the end of their life can be replaced with more efficient alternatives.
  • Properly designed controls for building services should be integral to all new and upgrade building projects.
  • All IT and office equipment should be chosen with its energy performance in mind, alongside other criteria.
  • Pumps and fans can often be powered by more efficient motors with the use of variable-speed drives.
  • Heat pumps and combined heat and power (CHP) systems under certain conditions can be implemented with great success.