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Occupant Behavior Shapes Energy Use

April 4, 2012 | 2 comments

The best-laid plans for energy efficiency can be thwarted by occupant behavior: open windows, space heaters, or task lights. Technology and building automation only take sustainability so far before facilities managers have to rely on occupants to support green actions.

Experts at Jones Lang LaSalle report that, in the properties they manage, between 50 and 60 percent of energy use is directly related to how tenants and occupants use their space. Getting occupants engaged takes more than a reminder to turn off lights; it requires dedication, time, and the right tools and resources.

Determine an occupant engagement program leader who can spend time doing things like educating occupants. Someone who can explain how plug loads from desk lamps, computers, small office refrigerators, and copy machines affect energy use will be of benefit, since these items account for at least 20 percent of energy consumption in office buildings.

As part of its occupant engagement program, the Syracuse Center of Excellence called on a tenant company to perform nighttime walkthroughs to find lights and equipment left on. The center also asked occupants to turn off computers, lights, and monitors before they left. For motivation, small cards were left at workstations as part of the walkthroughs. If equipment was off, the employee received a thank-you note informing them they had been entered into an iPad raffle. If equipment was on, the employee received a note reminding them to turn off computers and lights. These audits have led to as much as a 12-percent increase in equipment being powered down overnight.

These are some other ideas from organizations that have made occupant engagement programs work:

  • Shorenstein Properties’ Russ Building turns on lights and air-conditioning on weekends only if they’re requested ahead of time.
  • In Google’s Boulder office, electricity consumption shrunk by eight percent after occupants turned equipment off at night and on weekends.
  • ARUP’s San Francisco office saw a 10-percent reduction in plug load and lighting consumption when using an online dashboard that allowed employees to see how much energy they were using.
  • HOK displays energy savings for clients on eight-foot-tall displays in tenant lobbies so there’s no confusion on how well (or poorly) they’re doing.

Have you seen success with occupant engagement programs? What are your building occupants doing effectively, and how is it impacting the bottom line?


  1. hys
    August 19, 2012

    Please could you provide details of the Jones Lang Lasalle report referenced.


  2. Vista
    August 20, 2012

    Here are some links to more information about the report:

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