Reducing Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings

September 6, 2022 By Mid-Atlantic Controls 4 minute read

A modern commercial building that's optimized for energy efficiency

Researchers at MIT estimate that commercial buildings account for 20% of all the energy used in the U.S., and as much as 30% of that goes to waste.

Energy usage is a business operating expense in commercial buildings. However, the productivity of the people inside is the real goal. 

Comfort and climate control are key aspects of maintaining productivity in an office building, but what if you could retain that comfort while reducing energy consumption by 20 or 30 percent?

Tracking energy usage within a building is the first step to identifying where to make cuts. The three ways to reduce energy consumption in the office are climate control, lighting, and water usage.

How Can a Building Automation System Help Avoid Energy Waste in Commercial Buildings?

A modern and open Building Management System (BMS) allows a building manager to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings in several ways:

  • Powerful reports and analytics can uncover hidden insights that allow facility managers to optimize energy usage.
  • A BMS system provides managers with more granular control over the HVAC, lighting, security, and other building equipment.
  • An open BMS system is manufacturer-agnostic. This means you can use equipment from any brand that helps you better achieve your building goals.
  • You can set up a BMS system to flag minor issues before they turn into major ones.


Where Does The Energy Go?

National averages show that the majority of energy goes towards heating and cooling, which holds particularly true in Central Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region. Lighting, electronic equipment, water usage and heating, refrigeration, cooking, and a variety of other building components account for the remaining energy used in most offices. 

Saving a small percentage in an area (e.g., climate control) that comprises a large percentage of total energy consumption will usually give you the highest return on investment. Saving 35% on lighting is outstanding, but saving 10% on climate control could have a significantly larger impact on the bottom line.

Air Conditioning Compressor On The Rooftop TerraceTracking Energy Usage

Your electric bill will not show up with itemized costs of heating your building, keeping the lights on, or any other electric usage. We recommend installing a system that can track where energy gets used—as information is a powerful tool. 

If you do not know how much your company spends on cooling the building, how do you quantify spending an extra $3,000 to purchase a more energy-efficient piece of equipment? How quickly will this energy management effort pay for itself?



Energy Management Data Allows More Informed Decisions

Will this decision be profitable? Without energy data, you'll never know. Imagine the power a simple pie chart could lend in your decision-making process. 

Knowing that your company spends a certain amount per year cooling the building will help you decide if a particular piece of equipment will pay for itself within its estimated life expectancy. 

The kind of data derived from energy usage can also help you identify problem areas. Why is my company spending more on lighting than the national average?

Ways to Avoid Commercial Building Energy Waste

Here are several different ways that facility managers can increase the energy efficiency of their building:

  • Add natural lighting — energy star-rated skylights and solar windows can help significantly reduce daytime energy consumption in the short and long term.
  • Improve the seal of the building — making your facility more airtight will help prevent air leakage that can cause HVAC systems to work overtime.
  • Create an energy usage plan — you can determine areas of energy waste in your building by performing an audit and then creating a usage plan to address them.
  • Replace legacy HVAC equipment — older HVAC equipment is often energy inefficient. High-efficiency equipment can reduce monthly energy usage by a significant amount.
  • Upgrade your legacy BMS — Older BMS systems are not optimized for the demands of today’s modern buildings. A BMS upgrade will provide more granular control over your HVAC, lighting, security, and other building systems.

National Averages in Commercial Building Energy Use

A study by the National Grid estimates that “office buildings in the U.S. spend an annual average of $1.34 per square foot on electricity and 18 cents per square foot on natural gas.” They approximate that somewhere between 54 and 71 percent of that energy goes to climate control. 

While you could save money in lighting or other areas, your business might be better off starting with improvements related to climate control. Having concrete data in front of decision-makers is the best way to quantify equipment upgrades and achieve energy cost savings.

Improve Your Commercial Building’s Energy Efficiency

Adding a new BMS system or upgrading a legacy one will help you dramatically decrease energy waste in your commercial building. At MACC, we have decades of experience helping commercial building owners and facility managers install, upgrade, and maintain a building management system.

Benefits of Smart Building Management Systems