November 30th 2022

Buildings: Designed for Energy, Operated for Comfort

Buildings: Designed for Energy, Operated for Comfort

Buildings account for almost 40% of global energy consumption. They are designed with energy efficiency in mind, but a large proportion of energy consumption in buildings is often dictated by occupant comfort.

The latest soaring energy prices are affecting everyone, both personally and commercially, and organisations are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory. Are businesses running comfort systems more than necessary and wasting energy in the process?

The objective of green rating systems such as BREEAM or LEED is to promote high efficiency in buildings and decrease operational costs, while enhancing the wellbeing and comfort of building occupants. But low energy compliance and accreditation at the design stage is pointless unless buildings are operated as their design intended, to ensure energy is not wasted in favour of comfort. 

Newer systems like the WELL Building Standard™ have established requirements designed to create productive and comfortable indoor environments to benefit the health, wellbeing and performance of people. Comfort is an important element for office staff, hotel guests or leisure centre users,for example, but in industries like manufacturing, the balance between energy efficiency versus product function and performance is more critical than comfort. For example, biscuit manufacturers or whisky distillers won’t take any unnecessary risks with energy efficiency measures, if there is the slightest chance that their core product might be affected in the process.

If organisations push energy efficiency measures too far, they risk compromising the health, safety, wellbeing and productivity of their staff. In order to reduce energy costs now and in the future, the goal is to find a trade-off between energy savings and comfort enhancement.

A recent report by the World Green Building Council, Beyond the Business Case, states that better indoor air quality can lead to productivity improvements of 8-11%, and even a minor improvement in productivity can substantially impact company turnover and profit. In fact, higher ventilation generates up to $7,500 per person per year in employee productivity.

However, to ensure a net-zero future, building industry leaders have stated that, by 2030, 100% of new buildings must be net-zero carbon in operation and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40%; and by 2050, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle. 

Decisions need to be made at Board level to achieve the right balance in this ‘tug-of-war’ conflict of interest between energy efficiencies and comfort levels. This is where IES's approach can help build a clear picture of your energy data and consumption, to understand where savings can be made in a way that is mindful of occupant needs.

To find out more on how you can take control of your building’s energy use and set your business on track to meet its decarbonisation and comfort goals, download our free Guide to Reducing Business Energy Costs.

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