Green Buildings Need Green Tenants


Environmental performance has, perhaps, become the biggest trend in building design and modification. Globally, design teams are working hard to design and develop the most sustainable facilities imaginable, some of which are even declared zero-energy. That said, despite savvy building automation systems (BAS) and the environmental gurus behind them, without occupant compliance, meeting environmental performance goals is not only impossible, but in some cases, quite contradictory. In fact, occupants typically consume fifty percent of a building's energy usage. Finding a way to encourage occupant compliance is essential to meeting environmental performance goals. Speaking with two leading industry experts, we've compiled five ways to boost tenant engagement.


An eco-charrette is a great strategy to enhance occupant interest before occupancy is even taken. An eco-charrette is a meeting between the design team, architects, facility managers and tenants. This gives the design team the opportunity to express their performance expectations and the importance of meeting consumption goals. By including tenants in the building's plans pre-occupancy, they have a chance to become engaged before moving in, and affords the opportunity for them to build an interest that's lateral to the design team's.


With a bounty of new facility maintenance software on the market, there's several energy-measuring resources that facility managers can implement to further boost occupant interest. Lucid, for instance, offers a comprehensive product called Building Dashboard that measures and reports live consumption figures and presents it in an easy-to-decipher platform that's quite intriguing to a building's occupants. This program also integrates social networking capabilities that can forecast and feature usage patterns in a public forum, offering comparisons between organizations.

“Our goal was to engage occupants and visitors by showing real-time environmental performance of the building and landscape,” says Michael Murray, Lucid’s CEO and Co-Founder.


Using the aforementioned facility management systems, it's easy to create competitions among users. Consider what Lucid refers to as the Prius Effect: "when you can see how your car is performing in real time, you tend to fine-tune usage in order to improve, sustain and eventually surpass your current level of performance. This phenomenon is especially true when friends, family and spouses get involved, each competing to outperform the recent mile-per-gallon ‘winner.’ By analogy, the outcome of using Building Dashboard is like the social and psychological effect produced by using the energy monitor in a hybrid vehicle.”


Energy measurements, calculations and data can all seem foreign to those outside of the industry. Simplifying data so the average occupant can understand its importance and how their behaviors can impact consumption rates will create a relationship between the user and the stated performance goals.

Josh Radoff, Principal at YR&G Sustainability, explains, “It’s sociology. People do not respond well to austerity measures, but they do if it’s packaged in a way that’s appealing. Then it’s more likely to be well-received.” By providing data that's simple, polished and easy-to-understand, your occupants will be far more likely to comply with your expectations.


Radoff goes on to say, “There’s a mistake of focusing solely on energy and water. While they’re important for a lot of people, they’re abstract ideas. It’s hard to get too far only focusing on energy.”

Organizations that create an overall holistic approach enhance the likelihood of their tenants adopting their performance initiatives. This could mean emphasizing healthy lifestyles and offering on-site composting. “Communicating about sustainability isn’t only about austerity. A holistic view is far more likely to bring people in,” concludes Radoff.

There isn't a single formular that'll ensure occupants will entirely comply with consumption goals, particularly in an ever-shifting field like sustainable building. But beginning with these five expert-suggested strategies, your project will surely be off to a promising start, and you'll be closer to meeting and exceeding your design team's environmental performance goals.


About the author: Ashley Halligan has been a market analyst at Software Advice since fall 2011. She's specifically focused on covering best practices, what-to-know and industry trends of the property, facilities and maintenance management software markets. With a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Marietta College, she's been a freelance travel writer for nearly four years, working for editorial travel sites, and is managing editor of Austin Lifestyle Magazine.