Buildings Buzz

How to Capitalize on the Sustainable Corporate Campus Movement

Apple has announced plans to build the world’s greenest building, Uber has launched an initiative to make theirs the smartest corporate headquarters on the planet and Google has committed to making renewable energy a reality in its more than 3.1 million square feet of office space. As shown by some of the leading innovators in the technology industry, the corporate world is increasing its emphasis on sustainability in the physical buildings that they inhabit; which points to an evolving environmental mindset across the enterprise.  We are entering an era in which more and more companies are beginning to understand that their buildings can, and should be, an expression of their overall sustainability plan and ethos.

While most companies can’t take on green building efforts on the same scale as industry giants like Google and Apple, this increase in initiatives with clear-cut and tangible objectives dictates that businesses can also no longer rely solely on energy use metrics or other outdated reporting systems to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. Instead, many companies are now turning to new energy management technologies and building automation solutions as a way of introducing sustainability initiatives to their own facilities, and capitalizing on the growing sustainability corporate movement.

Financial Initiatives

One of the factors helping to drive this trend is the expansion of federal, state and even private financing initiatives, which encourage organizations to install clean tech and energy management solutions by offering tax credits or other incentives. As an example, Apple made headlines in February by signing an $848 million agreement to buy energy from First Solar. Solar power purchasing agreements (SPPAs) like this allow an organization to buy energy directly from a solar electricity generator at a fixed low rate, thereby reducing the company’s carbon footprint and energy costs simultaneously. It also provides an opportunity for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by helping to support clean energy providers. 

Future-Proof Retrofits

On average, lighting accounts for more than a third of buildings’ energy use, and can be much higher for the more than two million commercial facilities estimated to be using lighting systems installed prior to the 1980s. While a relatively simple facilities retrofit can help to cut wasteful energy consumption, failing to also consider future efficiency standards can end up costing companies more than forgoing the retrofit altogether in the first place. Title 24 of California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards, for instance, has resulted in a range of new requirements for lighting systems, many of which go beyond simply replacing the existing infrastructure with high efficiency bulbs. Part of the legislation states that now even LEDs are required to have 10%-100% continuous light level dimming capacity, and these rules extend to a variety of other lighting installations as well. Without investing the effort to properly prepare their facilities for future efficiency requirements, companies’ savings from a simple retrofit will quickly be lost in the need to update the building’s systems again a few years down the line.

Intelligent Buildings

With mass integration of Internet of Things (IoT) technology within both residential and commercial environments, there are now more opportunities than ever to tap connected devices and sensors as a means to manage energy expenditures through enhanced data collection and analysis. By utilizing connected sensors in conjunction with a central building management system (BMS) for example, organizations are able to achieve measurable impacts on efficiency through improved use of office space and resources, and the automatic adjustment of environmental features like lighting and climate in response to occupancy, levels of daylight and other factors. Furthermore, facility engineers and property managers are able to examine data collected from these devices to help plan for future building needs. The information can be used to compare the building’s trends in energy consumption to predict future use, or examine current inefficiencies in the office design to create a more effective building layout as a company grows.

While Apple, Google and other leaders in the technology industry may have initiated the trend towards sustainability within their buildings, the movement has begun to take hold across the enterprise. As more companies make the effort to adapt their own buildings to capitalize on this movement, new energy management solutions will no doubt continue to spread and become an integral point of consideration within the modern corporate campus.

Zach Gentry is vice president of business development for Enlighted

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