6 steps to a sustainable office renovation

Epson’s strategy for eco-efficiency, and the benefits for your business

6 steps to a sustainable office renovation

Greater efficiency and sustainable business practice aren’t just a matter of how we work, but where we work. Buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption1 and 36% of all CO2 emissions in the EU. Non-residential buildings contribute almost a third of that, leaving vast scope for improvement in commercial infrastructure.

High-efficiency building practice and design offer great potential to reduce overall energy consumption while providing a better working environment and more sustainable business. If we want to renovate towards more energy efficient working environments, what do we need to know, and how should we get started?

Step 1 – Assessing the opportunity

Energy-efficient renovation can cover a wide range of changes, from installation of new heating systems to a full structural overhaul. The first step should always be understanding your goals, and assessing the opportunity.

Energy efficiency in buildings is assessed through the EU’s Energy Performance Certificate(EPC)2. This is a measure of a building’s efficiency, including the building fabric and insulation as well as installed mechanisms such as heating and lighting. These certificates are not mandatory for most renovation projects, however an accredited assessor is likely to use this as a benchmark for any proper assessment.

Member states’ regulations on these performance certificates vary, but whatever system is in place, a full energy audit of your building stock by an accredited auditor is the first step to any renovation.

Step 2 – Understanding the benefits

The simplest benefit from an energy efficient building is in reduced energy costs and greater resilience to energy price fluctuations. Consider just some examples:

  • Over 60% of office heat3 is lost through the fabric of a building.
  • Occupancy4 sensors for lighting can reduce electricity use by 30%.
  • Efficient heating5 systems can reduce an organisation’s heating bills by up to 30%.

Direct energy savings are not the only benefit. Studies have shown6 that the improved environment within a green building renovation can have demonstrable impact on worker health and significantly reduce absenteeism. In the study noted, that amounted to almost 40 additional hours of productivity per worker per year.  A better work environment will also contribute to hiring and retaining high-quality workers.

Aside from the clear benefits to workers and balance sheet, being a responsible corporate citizen is a positive move for any company. In reducing our carbon footprint we help show our dedication to ensuring a better environment, and benefit from a more positive perception of our company as a result. An organisation’s carbon footprint can also significantly impact the success of tenders for public projects.

Step 3 – Understanding policy and incentives

Government policy is a huge driver of benefit and cost for energy efficiency. The EU has committed more than EUR 13 billion to energy renovation. Around 15%7 of that is dedicated to SME’s, with a smaller portion to enable large business.

Yet the EU suffers from significant fragmentation of policy. There are 14 separate EU policy8 instruments touching on the importance of energy efficient buildings.

The IEA Building Energy Efficiency Policies(BEEP) database provides a handy reference tool for policies and incentive schemes globally, but importantly includes the EU6 and many other EU countries. The EU’s own Build Up9 resource offers a further insight into varied practice.

Step 4 – The integrated design approach

An experienced and accredited energy assessor will play a vital role in any renovation. It’s important not to silo this knowledge, but implement it as part of a wider strategy.

The success of any business policy will require management or board support. That will likely necessitate a corporate commitment to more sustainable business practice. The first step in regards to renovation is high-level understanding of the assessed benefits.

Key to this process is the idea of integrated energy design - the practice of bringing together architects, owners, operators and wider stakeholders to deliver an integrated strategy to your eco-building renovation. Ensuring all relevant parties are involved from the outset means you maximise your opportunity for innovative energy efficient solutions, while reducing the opportunity for problems later in the construction process.

For larger projects it can be helpful to implement energy modelling data to explore a variety of low carbon solutions. But whether you’re an SME installing a new heating system or a multinational renovating an entire structure, this integrated design approach will be vital.

  • Understand the whole life cost of low carbon solutions.
  • Share that knowledge within your organisation and with designers, architects and builders.
  • Establish a brief based on shared understanding of all stakeholders
  • Set out the current carbon footprint and energy use of your building, and the specified goals.

Step 5 – The build

When undertaking an eco-renovation, it’s important to keep the ultimate goal of energy efficiency at the core of your project. Ensure a project manager is hired on that understanding, and that capital cost savings are not made to jeopardise this.

It’s also key that your contractors on site continue that understanding so, where possible, utilise contractors with experience and understanding of low carbon refurbishment. Of course ultimately the best way to ensure success is monitoring renovation progress 

Step 6 – Maintain and monitor

It’s important to continue to maintain and monitor efficient energy use once a renovation is complete.

In larger buildings, Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS) can be used to help control and supervise mechanical systems. That means on-going monitoring for systems such as air-conditioning, heating and lighting. These systems allow you to provide a comfortable working environment while monitoring efficient energy use.

Thanks to digital technologies, even smaller renovations provide the opportunity for on-going monitoring. Speak to your energy assessor about the opportunities for continued monitoring as part of your renovation process.

The future of eco-buildings and business

With the EU’s stated goals of nearly zero-energy buildings10 by 2020, eco-renovation is likely to play an increasingly important role in an organisation’s sustainable impact. While this legislation currently only applies to new-builds, the continued focus on energy consumption of the EU’s building stock may well see that change in future.

Creating a more energy efficient infrastructure help cuts costs, can create a better work environment and deliver higher productivity and positive public sentiment. With more stringent building requirements likely to be on the table in the future, it offers something else besides - a way to reduce costs while potentially future proofing your business.