Green going mainstream

While those currently undertaking new building projects have the ideal opportunity to ‘go green’, owners of existing buildings may not be aware of the meaningful cost and energy savings that can be achieved by eliminating wasteful and unnecessary practices in terms of operating an established building, says Rudolf Nieman, projects director for JHI property management company.

“Energy consumption when a building is in use is arguably the dominant factor in regard to its impact on the environment, probably accounting for up to 85 percent of its total environmental impact during its life. This is coupled with rising energy costs and the possibility of power rationing and costly penalties - making energy saving all the more imperative from an operational business perspective as well regarding return on investment in terms of the capital value of the property.”

He cites some examples of how savings can be achieved – and the impact on the environment minimised - by eliminating wasteful practices:

  • Harvesting rainwater and grey water which can be utilised to water plants in the grounds, thereby saving water
  • Switching off equipment when not in use including geysers in toilet areas, and the installation of variable speed drives to motors to adjust power input appropriate to the volume requirement
  • Utilising solar energy
  • Reducing temperatures in kitchens
  • Reducing lighting and installing energy saving lighting, and making the maximum use of natural light
  • Installing occupancy sensors which automatically turn off lights when areas are not in use
  • Closing windows/drawing blinds/keeping foyer doors close to conserve or reduce heat, depending on whether the outdoor temperature is hot or cold, and insulating the building, or applying window glazing, for the same reasons

Says Nieman: “While advice and policies regarding the more common energy savings and the minimising of consumption and polluting of water has for a long time formed an integral part of the services offered by JHI, our expertise has been bolstered to provide detailed advice on the full spectrum of green issues during the use phase of a commercial building – whether it comprises offices, retail, warehousing or mini-factories.

“As a result we have devised a comprehensive action plan that focuses on energy savings in existing properties and which is backed up by an integrated electronic facilities management system which we can apply to buildings within our portfolio of managed properties, or to specific buildings on request by interested owners or landlords.

“In a recent instance, for example, after conducting a detailed energy audit of the building we were able to achieve a 30 percent energy saving on behalf of a client by replacing dated lift motor equipment with new technology, and a further 30 percent energy saving by installing inverter split air conditioning units instead of normal split units coupled with the installation of energy saving lights.”

Nieman says it is inevitable that a number of challenges arise in regard to implementing the energy saving process. Affordability of retrofit mechanical and electrical systems ie replacing existing systems with those which are more environmentally friendly, and meaningful contributions by tenants generally prove to be the main stumbling blocks. However, JHI believes that the realities of continued electricity tariff hikes and the possibility of power rationing and penalties will compel all role players and consumers to starting seriously considering contributing to the saving of energy consumption.

“We believe it will become an increasing imperative for businesses to do so and our plan involves a detailed annual energy audit per building, comprising primarily the identification of problem areas – gleaned from the electricity billing history and a comparison with pre-determined benchmarks. In addition, recommendations are made regarding potential retrofit items such as air conditioning and light fittings, and maintenance procedures and programmes are scrutinised to ensure that the landlord is aware of the optimum cost-benefit situation.”

He says once a decision is made by the landlord or property owner, funds are allocated to the maintenance and refurbishment budgets for the coming financial years. This is coupled with advice on other green issues such as renewable natural and synthetic building materials in regard to any improvements, refurbishments or tenant installations, rainwater harvesting, use of grey water, provision of receptacles for recycling of materials etc is recommended in order to ensure a holistic approach to the greening of a building.

Concludes Nieman: “As resources become increasingly costly, greening will become virtually inevitable, and ultimately one may find that the disposal or letting of space may ultimately become an issue if the building does not have the necessary green credentials.”

Article from: www.eprop.co.za