What are the challenges for energy savings in public and office buildings?


It is widely reported that an estimated 30% of the electricity consumed in buildings of the service sector is wasted. Why is it so difficult to reduce that figure?


The failure in achieving major savings in buildings of the public sector and more generally public venues is closely related to a range of challenges and shortcomings:

  1. No interest from energy consumers – Occupants of related buildings, i.e. the individuals visiting the building or operating the buildings’ electrical equipment are, in effect, not the buildings’ owners and they do not pay the bill. Most have little concern about energy spending and do not take responsibility.

  2.  **Long return on investment –** Although continuously increasing, electricity bills in public buildings compare low with industrial settings. As a result, expensive and thorough monitoring solutions traditionally deployed in energy-intensive buildings will not be commercially viable for public buildings because payback will often be too long.
  3. Culprits go unnoticed – In industrial environments people are assigned to machines or areas, so it is easy to associate wastage/savings to a particular team or person. In public buildings, many people occupy the same areas and share equipment, for instance open offices, and it is more difficult to associate energy spending to end-users. As a result, it is easy to pass on energy saving opportunities and inefficient patterns go unnoticed.

  4. Major consumers not accessible to building occupants – Buildings of the service sector use electricity primarily for space heating, hot water generation, lighting, and powering business equipment and domain-specific machines. While any saving is good to make, major energy reduction will come from a reduced set of machines, typically L-HVAC equipment maintaining comfort level through heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. Such equipment and their controllers is out of reach for all building occupants and is generally under the facility manager supervision or external consultant.

  5. No reward incentives – Employees do not generally get immediate rewards from their institutions if they behave green. This situation leads to poor engagement and failure of energy awareness campaigns.

  6. Privacy intrusion – For many, monitoring energy can lead to privacy intrusion, as it can provide immediate insights on space occupancy and periods of activity for people operating machines.


Good answer Anthony :slight_smile:, certainly the challenges you highlighted are important. From an energy manager point of view, I would also add an extra point:

PRIORITY: It is somehow difficult to get a decent budget from the company management, which prioritises sales and growth hence allocate a huge marketing budget and a little budget to improve energy efficiency.