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Improving the energy performance of existing public buildings through monitoring, energy management and fostering of behavioural change

Public administration bodies can make use of a range of buildings, some of which can be large and host many employees. In these cases, public administration bodies can be under pressure to better control and reduce expenses, and the energy bill can represent a significant factor. While there is always potential for improvements, the main limitation can be the availability of an adequate budget. Thus, establishing strategies that can provide a more efficient use of energy and a substantial reduction of energy-related expenses with low or no cost interventions becomes a priority.

Two ways to save energy without incurring relevant costs are:

  • staff engagement and training and behaviour change campaigns
  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Display Energy Certificates (DECs).

A meaningful way to achieve better energy management while cutting costs is getting the full participation of staff, as numerous opportunities for energy reduction are within the control of the occupants of a building. Through behaviour change campaigns, staff engagement and training, public administration bodies can inspire staff to lead more sustainable lives both in their workplace and at home.

A successful behaviour change campaign should clearly identify and understand the target audience and try to include all staff to ensure that maximum impact is delivered and all employees are engaged and empowered to deliver reductions in energy consumption over a sustained period. No less important is to pay attention to the ‘Behaviour Change Champions’ and use multiple channels of communication. Moreover, the campaign can be better received and accepted by staff with the inclusion of an element of competition and teamwork or an incentivisation mechanism consisting of financial payments, small gifts and/or public recognition.

Campaigns must be accompanied by an appropriate training process with ad hoc training sessions tailored to the specific role of individuals.

Public administration bodies can also sensitise and involve stakeholders through Energy Performance Certificates and Display Energy Certificates. These certificates were introduced in the UK (similar schemes exist throughout the EU) under the impetus of the Buildings Energy Performance Directive starting in 2003. They rate the building on a scale from A to G (A being the highest efficiency) in a similar way to other efficiency ratings for items such as refrigerators.

Energy Performance Certificates assess the energy efficiency of the fabric of a building, while Display Energy Certificates assess the actual energy consumption of a building, benchmarked against an ‘average’ building of the same type. The reports are produced by independent accredited assessors and display energy certificates are required to be displayed in a poster in a prominent place clearly visible to the public. Although EPCs and DECs in themselves do not have a direct impact on energy consumption or carbon emissions, they are a tool that can be used to engage staff and citizens on energy efficiency issues.

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