Oxford urges tenants to embrace their inner energy scrooge

Oxford Properties is urging tenants in Canada’s five biggest cities to quite literally pull the plug before they leave the office for the extended holiday period.

Dubbed the Green Grinch campaign, the effort encompasses more than 45 individual buildings, encouraging tenants to conserve energy by powering down computers and switching off lights before leaving offices over the Christmas to New Year holiday break.

Last year, Oxford’s top performing office building cut its energy usage by 22% throughout the holiday period, the real estate company said.

While it’s not a long period on the calendar, the savings can be substantial. “Electricity represents up to 70% of energy used in our buildings and buildings consume up to 50% of energy in periods of low occupancy,” said Darryl Neate, Director of Sustainability with Oxford Properties Group. “By that I mean 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., weekends and holidays.

“When you look at that, we noted there is a clear opportunity to conserve energy and the Green Grinch campaign aligns strongly to areas that tenants can control through their actions,” he added.

Communications around the campaign focus on the unoccupied space that naturally increases over the holidays as whole departments go dark or are reduced to a skeleton crew. “We are obviously not targeting consumption our customers need to run their businesses during regular hours,” Neate said.

Second year for grinch campaign

The inaugural 2011 holiday season energy saving campaign managed to reduce energy across the portfolio of Oxford buildings by 5% from the year prior.

As well as the building that dropped its energy consumption by a portfolio-leading 22%, the real estate company handed out other awards recognizing innovative communications initiatives such as a four-building complex in Vancouver that set up a ‘green team’ and ran an online program offering tips and tricks to cutting energy usage.

Another building’s operations team was recognized for having the most impressive and efficient approach to reducing energy usage. The winning team did such things as tightening lighting use schedules, reducing the number of elevators in operation and dimming down the level of lighting in common areas as well as turning off lighting and HVAC on unoccupied floors.

“It’s really about being more thoughtful and more detailed around energy and (not) consuming it when there is no one in the building,” he said.

Saving energy takes two

While Oxford’s building operations teams take the lead when it comes to saving electricity during the down times “a function that can be done by and large remotely through computerized systems – tenants play an equally important role”, said the Oxford sustainability director. “The other half the story is the tenants, and that is more workstation to workstation and in-between areas, turning off computers and printers, coffee makers in kitchens and lights in meeting rooms.”

This year Oxford established tenant-staff green teams in all of its office towers across the country. (It intends to establish similar energy conservation teams across all its retail properties in 2013).

“We want to continue the dialogue through our green teams, we want to take our one-on-one dialogues within each tenant space to the next level and help our tenants find opportunities to save energy and we will be rolling out our ‘Green Lease’ program for office and retail portfolio.” The Green Lease program identifies joint tenant and management sustainability targets which form a part of the lease in the areas of electricity, water, waste management and LEED certification.

Grinchy attitude year-round

Oxford, which aims to be an industry leader when it comes to conservation efforts, tries to put together a major campaign like its Grinch effort once a quarter. Most of its buildings feature ‘green teams’ of tenants and staff as well as lobby events and the bigger campaigns which can be around recycling or cutting water consumption. Oxford was the first landlord to put up a real-time energy usage digital dashboard screen in one of its building lobbies to illustrate its energy usage from the year before, said Neate.

“We are trying to communicate our electricity use alongside simple, actionable tips and other sustainability messaging about the building.”

While Oxford has taken the lead on the issue, there is some push coming from those occupying its buildings to be greener. “Our customers consistently tell us they want their workplace to be environmentally friendly. Over 90% of our customers consistently tell us that.”

Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

Read more

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