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Can Businesses Do More To Cut Emissions During Lockdown?

Can Businesses Do More To Cut Emissions During Lockdown?
24 April 2020

Research suggests that there has been a 16 per cent average reduction in building energy use since the lockdown began.

The latest data from Carbon Intelligence, which tracked and analysed energy usage from 300 buildings during this period, suggests that businesses can do much more to cut carbon and save costs.

Covering the commercial office, retail and hotel sectors, the smart building analytics highlight the final week of March when the first lockdown orders were issued - providing a full picture of average energy usage including ventilation, air conditioning, IT equipment and plant rooms.


“We've seen smart building technologies help facility teams remotely manage assets, improving visibility and control over building performance when it matters most.”

–Cian Duggan

Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Intelligence 

10% of buildings achieved only a 3% reduction in building energy use


Using remote monitoring and minute by minute data reporting, Carbon Intelligence,  who help companies move towards a zero-carbon economy, found only a 16 per cent average reduction in building energy use. While the worst 10 per cent of buildings achieved only a 3 per cent reduction in energy usage, despite the government requiring people to work from home, avoid unnecessary travel and socially distance themselves from others.  

The top 10 per cent of buildings achieved an impressive 54 per cent reduction – saving £4,200 per week of energy savings per large office building and 5,600kg CO2e/week of carbon emissions - the equivalent of four London to New York return flights.


Ventilation and heating biggest energy drainers


Other key findings include single occupier buildings achieving on average higher emission reductions than multiple occupier buildings as there is a greater likelihood of these buildings remaining partly occupied for critical operations.  While buildings with older plants and control systems struggled to cut energy usage at all.

Ventilation and heating were the biggest energy drainers across all buildings, covering over half of energy use on average, with some buildings still operating central plant equipment on a standard time schedule despite no occupants during this period. Buildings with a skeleton staff also fared poorly, with employees often working across multiple floors.

Cian Duggan, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Carbon Intelligence said: “The COVID-19 crisis has put enormous pressure on businesses to reduce costs whilst ensuring health and safety compliance. We've seen smart building technologies help facility teams remotely manage assets, improving visibility and control over building performance when it matters most.

“In the longer term this control will also help businesses meet their carbon reduction goals and improve indoor air quality for building occupants, and with at least another three weeks in lockdown organisations still have time to make changes and generate substantial savings.”


Top tips for businesses to save costs and cut building emissions during lockdown


Carbon Intelligence have offered some tips for those managing occupied building areas:

  • Maintain adequate ventilation, avoid recirculation and deactivate any thermal wheel heat recovery units
  • Minimise draughts by holding off terminal unit fans if HVAC design allows for this
  • Maintain humidity levels at 40-60% Relative humidity (RH)
  • Consider heating/cooling low occupancy areas with standalone units rather than central HVAC plant


For those buildings that are unoccupied during the lockdown period, the following advice is offered:


  • Consider reducing the central plant to a minimum daily runtime
  • Avoid scheduling equipment to run during times of high energy prices – for example, during Distribution Use of System Charges (DuOS) red bands when electricity costs are effectively doubled
  • Use a wider deadband, for heating & cooling, which prevents the thermostat from activating heat and cooling in rapid succession, provided that fabric protection is not compromised
  • Weather compensated set points and hold-offs for heating & cooling plant
  • Check that any unused lighting, computers, printers, TVs and other plug loads are switched off, to reduce baseload energy waste

To view a graph showing Carbon Intelligence shut down buildings data, click here

Picture: Image showing city skyscrapers 

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 24 April 2020


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