running a green office

business benefits of green policies

This article looks at the business benefits of saving energy and shows you how to conduct an energy survey using the tick box template listed below. Saving energy is actually one of the easiest ways to reduce costs, while at the same time it will enhance your business reputation as  people now  want to invest in companies with environmentally friendly policies and production methods.

Climate change has never been so high on the political agenda, and we are already seeing  a cascade of further initiatives and government regulations. As well as the Climate Change Levy and the Emissions Trading Scheme, tighter building regulations and green taxes are merely the start. The sooner businesses prepare for the changes the better. For a change, this does not mean spending money but actually saving it. Make sure your business measures its energy use by completing the energy audit below and keep a track of bills to measure the impact any changes will make.

energy saving in the office
If ‘standby Britain’ got its act together and started switching off at the mains, British businesses could easily save up to 20% of its energy costs. For many businesses a 20% cut  equates to a 5% increase in sales.   

Get into the habit of switching off equipment. On average offices waste £6,000 each year by leaving equipment on at weekends and bank holidays. Encourage everyone to be involved. Order a starter pack from the Carbon Trust and vow to make some real changes. The Carbon Trust pack offers sound advice and gives free stickers to raise awareness of energy efficiency and to encourage staff to adopt simple energy efficiency actions.

energy wasting hotspots
Simply by switching off computers at night and weekends energy consumption can be reduced by 75% a year. A fifth of the total energy bill in commercial offices   is accounted for by office equipment, and according to the Carbon Trust, half of this is from PCs and monitors. In an air conditioned office it can take half as much energy again to remove the heat generated by office equipment as it takes to run the equipment in the first place! Office equipment is now the fastest growing area of energy and most equipment has energy saving features which need to be activated. Timers on printer’s vending machines etc can save up to 70% of costs.

Thirty per cent of the energy consumed in the UK is wasted.  Heating is another significant energy guzzler, and by turning the temperature down by 1 degree can save around 8% a year.

Lighting can account for 15% of an office energy, so make good use of natural light and use individual lights, like desk lamps, which are cheaper and better for the environment than lighting the entire office. Energy saving bulbs use 75% less electricity but provide the same amount of light and last up to 10 times longer.

But the first step is to find out how much the office spends on energy. Conduct an energy survey (see below), inform staff and use free posters and stickers from the Carbon Trust to remind everyone to switch off.
how to conduct an energy survey
An energy walk-round using the checklist below should help you identify wasteful energy use and opportunities for saving and can be the start of a business’ commitment to improving energy performance. It need not be complicated and there is lots of help available.

The survey takes into account heating, lighting and office equipment. The walk round needs to be done several times at different times of day as energy varies. So consider a lunchtime walk around and one in the evening and at the weekend and consider times when you would expect to be using very little energy. Obviously seasonal changes make a difference. Heating typically accounts for about half of energy use in offices and many people feel hot and uncomfortable at work. Often corridors and empty offices are heated unnecessarily.

Once you have used the checklist and identified where savings or improvements can be made, try to prioritise what is important to you company and which improvements will deliver the biggest savings. Be realistic about what you want to achieve. There are links to helpful websites at the end of the checklist, as well as links to other energy articles.
example of energy checklist
Name of company and date and time of energy walk around.

What is the temperature?

Do staff complain about the temperature?

Have heaters/boilers been services in the last 12 months?

Are portable heaters used?

Are heaters and air conditioning units operating in the same area?

How hot is the hot water?

Do all areas need to be heated fully?

Is there a room thermostat that works and is set to the correct temperature?

Are all timers working and on the correct settings?

Are there any obstructions in front of radiators or heaters?

How are extractor fans controlled?

Are windows and doors open when heating or air conditioning is on?

Is there any cold coming in from draughty windows and doors?

If rooms are too hot or heated unnecessarily this is easy to deal with. Improving insulation and draught control can also significantly reduce energy consumption. Poorly maintained boilers can add 30% to heating costs. Portable heaters are expensive so only use if essential and only for short periods (use a timer switch).

Staff often complain of being too hot at work, so make sure the thermostat is set at 19 – 20 degrees C, and install thermostatic radiator valves where possible. Turn the heating down rather than opening windows.

Timers need to be set so heating is only on when needed.

Are lights switched off where necessary?

Are large diameter fluorescent tube lights still used?

Are lamps, fitting and roof lights clean?

Are light bulbs long life or are they traditional tungsten light bulbs still used?

Are light switches easy to find and labelled with reminders to switch off etc?

Is exterior lighting switched off when not needed?

Energy efficient lighting can save your business hundreds of pounds a year. Old large diameter (38mm) fluorescent tubes use 10% more energy than slim-line tubes (26mm diameter) and new high frequency fluorescent lighting extends lamp life and can reduce consumption by up to a quarter. Dirt reduces lighting levels by a surprising amount. Standard bulbs are very expensive to run and actually produce more heat than light. Compact fluorescent bulbs have a longer life and use up to 75% less energy. Task lighting is more pleasant to work with as it reduces glare and  electricity  bills at the same time.

Are computers got built-in energy saving features and if so are they activated?

Are computers left on overnight?

Are monitors switched off when not in use?

Are photocopiers  and other equipment energy efficient?

Are photocopiers  located near air conditioned areas or air conditioning units?

Are printers and photocopiers left on overnight/ at weekends?

Are vending machines/water coolers etc left on permanently?

Can you see any other waste of energy?

Once you have completed the checklist you will be able to identify savings.

Computers need built in energy saving features (and the energy management software installed properly) and office equipment should ideally have an A star energy rating (certainly it is crucial to know this when replacing equipment). Monitors can be turned off at lunchtimes etc and the standby options activated. 

Photocopies  need natural ventilation where possible, and need to remain in power save mode for as much as possible. Photocopiers guzzle energy. A photocopier left on overnight uses enough energy to make over 5,000 A4 copies.

Also check cold drink vending machines and water coolers are programmed to turn off when not needed (use a seven day timer), examine the kitchen equipment. A new kettle and fridge, for example will improve energy efficiency and performance And save money in the long run.

Envirowise produces a good guide to running a cost-effective, environmentally aware office.

The Carbon Trust   produces an excellent free guide called FOCUS: A Practical Introduction to Reducing Energy Bills and has a range of  very helpful free literature, save energy and switch it off stickers as well as a series of fact sheets on specific technologies and business sectors.

Also contact the Energy Helpline 0800 58 57 94


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