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6 Energy Efficiency Tips for Better Building Management

It makes financial and environmental sense to ensure that your residential building is running sustainably. Residents are looking for sustainable residences to help reduce costs such as energy and water bills. They are also becoming more ecologically aware, with most people willing to pay extra for ‘earth friendly’ products and attributes.

Throughout the 80s, 90s, and most of the 2000s, electricity prices tracked reasonably closely to general consumer price trends. In the past decade, however, electricity prices have shot up alarmingly.

Your residents already know this and they are feeling the pressure on their budgets. So, as a strata manager, improving your building’s sustainability and eco-friendliness is becoming increasingly worthwhile.

  • Current research from the UK shows that 49 percent of people surveyed said they would be more likely to buy or rent an eco-conscious home. Twenty-two percent said the use of recycled and sustainable building products was an appealing sustainability feature.
  • Australian research showed that sustainable homes typically sold for ten percent higher and 13 days faster than ordinary properties. Research by finder.com.au indicates that 33 percent of buyers would pay more for a property with solar panels.

With demand from buyers and tenants expected to drive the sustainable building movement forward, it only makes sense to improve the sustainability of your residential building now before it gets left behind.

1. Shift to smart electronics

Smart electronic devices

Begin by assessing the lighting systems in your building. Examine the use of natural and artificial lighting: What types of bulbs are installed? Are there opportunities for skylights?

  • Think about replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs that can save you maintenance costs as they last approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent globe. 
  • Motion-detecting sensors for lights in low traffic areas can also cut energy costs since these lights will stay off when there is no movement. At the same time, lights that suddenly turn on can discourage intruders and criminals.
  • Retrofit your building’s light systems with daylight sensors that turn on lights only when it’s dark, automatic light dimmers that adjust the light to environmental conditions, and occupancy sensors that turn off lights in empty rooms. 

Most building managers are unaware that “standby power draw” costs them hundreds of dollars a year when electronics and electrical appliances consume electricity while on standby mode or even when switched off. 

  • One strategy is to completely unplug devices and appliances. 
  • Another cost-effective practice is to plug devices into power strips with on-off switches. 
  • Even better, you can install automatic shutdown sockets that use infra-red sensors that shut off power to unused devices as well as to unoccupied rooms.

2. Reduce electrical consumption

Save energy

Cooling and heating systems such as air-conditioning units or ducted heating can produce hefty emissions, strain the electricity grid, and cost big dollars. Ducted reverse cycle air conditioners top the list of energy-guzzling items in the average Australian home.

  • Breezes and shades: Where possible, use natural ventilation, sun-blocking blinds, and shaded windows.
  • Keep out the heat: Increase comfort and reduce energy consumption by replacing calking. Use low VOC sealants on openings that allow air infiltration. 
  • Time and insulate: To reduce energy consumption without complaints from users, properly install water heating tanks with high-quality insulation. If hot water is only used at certain hours, install timer controls on the heating mechanism.
  • Circulate the air: Central heating or cooling equipment need more electricity (or conk out faster) due to poor air circulation. Clean the cooling coils and replace blocked or poorly maintained filters with reusable or cleanable filters. 
  • Time those outside lights: Using timers or photocells to activate exterior building lights. Assign someone to adjust the timers seasonally.
  • Cut the power: Unplug all other equipment that is not in use, including computers, and monitors. Where possible, use the power-down features of office equipment such as those found on Energy Star computers.

3. Decrease water consumption

Reduce water consumption

Saving water is made easy with eco-friendly products flooding the market (pun intended!). Ask tenants about installing dual-flush toilets, water-efficient taps, showerheads, dishwashers, and washing machines. The products are designed to decrease water consumption without jeopardizing water pressure.

  • Plug leaks: Regularly monitor leakages and water wastage in pool filtration systems. Quickly fix leaky taps, toilets, and air conditioning units. Check for water wastage between 2 A.M. and 4.30 A.M. when few people use the water facilities.
  • Rainwater: Install water tanks and use collected rainwater to flush toilets, wash clothing, and water landscaped areas.
  • Use low-flows: Low-flow plumbing fixtures in restrooms, touch-free faucets that only flow when there are hands beneath, and low-flow models of faucets, sink aerators, and flush valves can save hundreds of dollars a year in water bills.
  • Inspect the towers: Cooling towers and boiler systems constantly lose water to evaporation when removing heat from a building’s air-conditioning systems. Regularly inspect the building’s cooling towers for maintenance and repair needs.

4. Meter and monitor

Smart energy monitor

Most Australian energy providers provide ‘smart meters’ for residents to access detailed energy consumption data. 

  • Smart meters: If your building doesn’t currently have smart meters, there are tech choices out there that will do the job for you. Both Smappee and Sense are hardware options that work in real-time with apps that can be downloaded onto mobile devices.
  • Sensors and IoT: Invest in sensors, internet of things (IoT) technology, and software to connect all the building equipment and systems for machine-to-machine communication. For example, the AC can receive weather data and occupancy information to run at the best temperature for occupants and to turn off when the room is vacant.
  • Solar options: Get common areas off the grid and use solar energy or wind power technologies. In one Perth apartment complex, residents can directly trade solar energy with each other. Using blockchain technology, residents who use more power can purchase energy from those that use less, an attractive feature for building occupants. This new paradigm is shifting the way residents think about energy production.

5. Be smart with paint

Environment-friendly paint

If you’re still using conventional paints and if you don’t open enough windows while you’re painting indoors, expect nausea, dizziness, and headaches that are caused by the petrochemical industry’s heavy metals, titanium dioxide, fungicides, formaldehyde, chemical pigments, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that remain in the air you breathe up to five years. 

  • Avoid lung cancer: According to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, the very high concentrations of pollutants in paint interact with other airborne particulates during the painting process, even while the paint is drying, and continues as the paint breaks down over time. Several reports confirm that professional decorators, glaziers, and painters are 40% more likely to contract lung cancer. 
  • Help the earth: Producing a single liter of paint produces up to 30 liters of toxic waste. The best paints are plant-based and water-borne or are plant-based and solvent-borne using natural solvents. These are produced using lower carbon and are carbon-neutral. Even leftover paints can be composted. 
  • Ask for eco-friendly paints: More building residents prefer eco-friendly paint brands from Amazon Australia, eBay Australia, Bauwerk Colour, Bio Products Australia, Ecolour, Mythic, Porter’s Original Paints, Sydney Paint Warehouse, Taubmans, The Natural Paint Place, and Wattyl. 
  • Read the labels: Low- and zero-VOC paints are now standard practice. More than 500 painters all over Australia are trained in identifying low-VOC paints. People with allergies love natural paints, which are manufactured using non-toxic ingredients that include lime, linseed oil, beeswax, earth pigments, and minerals. Wastewater with natural paints may even be good for your plants. 
  • Know the standards: Wattyl’s I. D. Advanced paints is approved by the Australian Paint Approval Scheme (apas.gov.au) and the Good Environment Choice Australia (geca.org.au). Bio Paint’s Wall Paint HD is tested by the Australian Defence Department Materials Testing Laboratory (AS 1580) and meets Australian standards. 
  • Protect the children: Eco-paints are perfect for toys and children’s rooms. There are wipeable, durable paints for kitchens, classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, and playrooms. You can buy eco-friendly primers, emulsions, exterior paints, masonry paints, as well as distempers that are perfect for dry areas that aren’t used too often.  
  • Be safe outside: For exterior painting jobs, use mineral-based paints such as those from Livos, Bio Products, and Murobond’s Cement Paint is best for masonry, not wood or metal. These do not have UV-blockers, so use them for shaded areas and expect repainting in about five years or so. 
  • Start from the top: If you need paints that reflect heat, look for CodeMark certification on the paint can labels. Any paint that claims to provide conductive insulation is only heat-reflecting paints.

6. Get certified

Certification

Your building may use non-toxic cleaning products for better indoor air quality. Your staff may regularly test sensors for efficiency. However, poor training can still result in system failures. Many building owners and companies strengthen their competitive advantages by having a certified energy manager (CEM) leading the staff.

Staff certification in the field of energy management started in 1981. CEMs are trained to use cost-effective approaches to reduce energy consumption in buildings, facilities, or manufacturing plants. Contact the following organizations for more details:

  • AIRAH: The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (airah.org.au) offer short courses and post-graduate qualifications in energy efficiency and energy auditing.
  • API: The Australian Power Institute (api.edu.au) offers a bursary program to support students in electric power industry training courses. 
  • CTI: Carbon Training International (co2ti.com) offers a range of courses to build skills and knowledge in carbon management. 
  • EEC: The Energy Efficiency Council (eec.org.au) manages the Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme for Australian professionals to lead comprehensive energy retrofits of commercial buildings.
  • EUAA: The Energy Users Association of Australia (euaa.com.au) holds events and workshops on energy markets, pricing, and issues related to climate change. 
  • EA: The Professional Development Programme offered by Engineers Australia (engineersaustralia.org.au) offers work-based training to engineers who want to achieve chartered status thru career path progression. 
  • IBSA: The MSS11 Sustainability Training Package offered by Innovation and Business Skills Australia (ibsa.org.au) includes six energy efficiency and innovation skillsets for manufacturers and relevant sectors.
  • ISER: Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources (energy.gov.au) provides various energy efficiency training courses.

Takeaways

As in other highly-urbanized cities, most of Brisbane’s workers, residents, children, and pets spend more than 90% of their lives indoors. Building managers in Brisbane are going green by choosing non-toxic cleaning products, low-VOC paints, natural lighting and ventilation, and using better painting management decisions.

  • Better sustainability: As you and your staff use best practices and implement sustainability processes in maintaining, monitoring, and usage the facilities, you can use the help of a professional property maintenance contractor in Brisbane. For instance, Surepaint can provide you with roof paint that reflects heat to lower energy bills and improve your building’s sustainability standards.
  • Best color choices: Since it is often hard to identify the best colors for buildings, color designers at Surepaint provide building managers in Brisbane with photo-shot overlays that help them sign off on color choices even before the colors are on the walls. Need advice on the trendiest range of tints, pastels, and bold accent choices that attract tenants and keep property values high? No worries, we’re here to help.
  • Health and savings: Since 2014, Surepaint has been ready to provide building managers in Brisbane with paints approved by the Australian Asthma Council. Even better, if the property was built before 1978, let us schedule a visit and provide you with a free lead testing report. No more worries about lead poisoning!
  • Free paint inspection: Brisbane’s climatic conditions of heat and moisture can result in corrosion, seepage, leakage, and drastically shortened life-spans of building structures. Call Surepaint (0449 846 744) today and schedule a free paint inspection report. 

Make sure that your management and maintenance staff have a certified energy manager (CEM) to monitor energy costs and systems performance. If you do not have an energy program in place or need to educate your staff, email Surepaint at office@surepaint.com.au to provide you with paints that protect and provide you with long-term savings by maximizing the lifespan of your roofs, ceilings, and walls. 

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