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REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT IN AN EXISTING BUILDING

“In the property industry, statistics indicate that a building - through its life cycle - is a significant consumer of natural resources and that existing buildings may account for up to 85 percent of the environmental impact of buildings,” he says.

With a property portfolio of in excess of 1 000 existing buildings under management and with the urgency of the matter in mind, JHI is well positioned to immediately contribute to sustainable economic objectives and environmental responsibility in the property industry.

Nieman says unfortunately, the topic of reducing your carbon footprint has become a weighty matter associated with complicated and expensive strategic plans ranging from advocating “measurable solutions to drive climate change” to the “acceleration of sustainable growth”. “Together with new and imminent legislation, this has contributed to the lagging of practical and effective action plans to reduce the impact of the property industry’s actions on the environment. In addition, numerous stakeholders such as authorities, utility companies, property owners, tenants, consultants, property managers, NGOs, etc are approaching the issue from different angles of expertise, expectations and requirements, exacerbating the already stymied process.

“Before we attempt to demystify the process, more clarity is needed as to what is actually meant when stakeholders in the property industry refer to “carbon footprint”. Global warming is caused by the release of certain types of gas into the atmosphere whenever fossil fuels are burnt. The most prominent “greenhouse gas” is carbon dioxide, but cognisance should be taken of the effects of other greenhouse gases as well,” says Nieman.

He says in view of the fact that the emission of carbon dioxide is responsible for in excess of 80 percent of total man-made gases, the convention is to express a carbon footprint in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. “In simple terms therefore, the property industry’s carbon footprint means the total negative impact on the climate as a result of the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with activities in the property industry. Invariably, the next question arises as to how a specific carbon footprint is measured, with the added confusion of the distinction between ”direct” and “indirect” emissions. The true carbon footprint of the construction of a new building includes for example, not only direct emissions resulting from the construction process but also a whole host of indirect emissions such as those caused by the manufacturing of building materials, etc.

“From the above it can be gleaned that stakeholders and decision makers in the property industry are faced with the daunting task to decide what interventions are needed by whom and how it is measured to render effective results. This decision is complicated with the ever present constraint of capital and skilled resources needed to plan and execute the action steps,” says Nieman.

In an effort to assist with this decision making dilemma, JHI has implemented a simple but effective process to reduce the carbon footprint as well as the measurement of reduction in existing properties. The process is extremely simple and is loosely based on the Pareto principle or 80-20 rule where it is assumed that in many cases 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.

With the knowledge that the “use phase” of a building primarily influences the environmental impact of that building and that electricity consumption is the major factor contributing to the emissions, it is clear that the focus should be on the reduction of electricity consumption. What is reinforcing this angle of intervention is the current rising trend in the cost of electricity. In certain sectors it is expected that electricity costs could rise in the near future to approximately 70 percent of the cost of utilities consumed by a building and will therefore soon dominate a building’s operational expenses. In studies provided to JHI by SSI Engineers and Environmental Consultants, it was indicated that on average 60 percent of the electrical consumption can be attributed to air-conditioning installation and 20 percent to lights respectively.

Acting on this information, JHI has put in place an “energy saving schedule” with the nucleus of the schedule prompting actions regarding items relating to these focus areas. Generally these actions require little or no capital expenditure, do not affect the comfortable state of the occupied environment and simply form part of proper and diligent property management activities. Examples are the switching off of chillers one hour earlier, ensuring that air-conditioning fans only work during peak hours, ensuring that cooling towers are properly cleaned for proper heat transfer, regular checking that power factor correction is functioning properly, ensuring that lights and air-conditioning units are switched off in vacant areas, installation of a controlling device which switches off console units at certain times, up the frequency of filter cleaning, etc. Furthermore, tenants are regularly informed in writing of energy saving requirements such as switching off of lights after working hours, closing of windows and foyer doors when air conditioning is switched on, switching off of unused equipment such as geysers in toilets, and so on.

Adds Nieman: “These run-of-the-mill activities do not constitute JHI’s total effort to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings under our management. On the contrary, reduction in consumption and cost savings can easily be determined by scrutinising the energy consumption (kwh) and maximum demand (kva) on the building’s monthly accounts, and the cost savings generated are utilised to fund retro-fitting of buildings to make them even more energy efficient.  Ultimately, retro-fitting buildings in order to make them more energy efficient makes sound business sense and is likely to become increasingly imperative as energy costs continue to rise.”

 For further information contact JHI on 011 9118000 or email rudolph.nieman@jhi.co.za or info@jhi.co.za.




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