active businessman riding a bicycle on the way to job

Case study: tenants are the key to saving energy

Oxford Properties launches new engagement campaign
Friday, June 27, 2014
By Ilan Mester

A property management company can implement countless strategies to reduce energy consumption that are unlikely to achieve significant results unless tenants are involved. Oxford Properties has launched an engagement campaign to address this very issue.

“Of a tenant’s utilities, electricity is 70 per cent of that amount,” says Michael Turner, senior vice president of investments at Oxford Properties. “Our research suggests that up to 40 per cent of their electricity consumption can be reduced by changing their after-hours behaviour.”

Few tenants are deliberately wasteful, but many are simply uninformed. For example, turning off a device doesn’t necessarily mean it stops consuming energy.

“They just don’t realize that the very passive devices that they have around them consume as much energy as they do,” Turner says.

In response, Oxford has launched the Gear Up for Less Energy campaign, which encourages office occupants to reduce energy use. Stationary bikes have been hooked up to everyday office items (such as monitors, radios, keyboards, etc.) in some properties’ lobbies. The goal is for people to hop onto the bikes and get an understanding of how much energy is required to power supposedly simple devices.

“Always, the reaction is that people are really really surprised at how much energy it takes and how much energy is required, for example, to power a computer screen, a small desktop lamp – a number of devices that we typically have at our desktop,” Turner reports.

Oxford’s property managers promote energy-conserving practices  such as timers on power bars and smart power strips that completely shut off connected devices.  Screensavers and computer sleep mode are notable energy consumers, as are so-called phantom loads, which use energy even when electronics are switched off.

The Green Teams initiative is another part of the strategy, providing the opportunity for tenants to meet with property managers and discuss energy efficient strategies they’re interested in pursuing. So far, Oxford has helped tenants start their own recycling programs and teach their staff about energy reduction techniques.

Oxford targets energy efficiency at the building system level through strategies such as energy efficient lighting, recommissioning to ensure systems are operating as efficiently as possible and reduction of lighting during off-peak hours. It was also one of the first management companies to take advantage of Toronto’s unique deep lake water cooling network, which draws on Lake Ontario to deliver cooling via underground piping throughout the business core.

“Deep lake water cooling results in an annual electricity reduction by about 15 per cent per year,” Turner says. “We now have 10 buildings on that system.”

Ilan Mester is the online editor of Building Strategies & Sustainability.  

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