Monthly Archives: September 2015

It’s Not Just Being Cool; Green Office Design Raises Productivity

Many companies and building owners and managers are skeptical about investing in green design of commercial space. It is a new concept to many; something not familiar from school. And many look at any change in terms of short-term business gains; environmental benefits are unimportant. For most businesses, personnel costs are its biggest expense. Can a “greener” office environment raise worker productivity and therefore make the firm more money? A report from the World Green Business Council ( provides widespread evidence that green office design does have a positive impact on worker productivity. And this is a key competitive business issue for most businesses.

This paper notes that for some businesses, up to 90% of their costs are involved in personnel (salaries, benefits, etc.). How can they get the most production out of this cost, whether it is better productivity and/or less absenteeism? The associated business cost of each employee with a high absentee rate and being underproductive can be $2,500 per year or more.

The report reviews peer-reviewed research and outlines a number of key areas where green features have been proven to improve occupant productivity or health:

1. Indoor Air Quality. Also known as IAQ, the concentration of solvents, particulates, and microorganisms that workers may be exposed to 40 or more hours per week has a major influence over productivity whether it be absenteeism or alertness and productivity while in the office. Studies show that improved ventilation can increase productivity by as much as 11%, making an investment in filters or better fresh air replenishment a great value. Of course, for retailers, IAQ is important to ensure that customers are relaxed and comfortable and, therefore, more willing to buy product.

2. Thermal Comfort. The thermal comfort that workers perceive affects productivity, as well. Productivity has been shown to drop 4% when workers are too cool and 6% when they are too warm. Studies have also shown that by giving office workers some control over the temperature of their workspace, some are more willing to accept a wider temperature range. However, do note that this is a difficult problem as different people in the same room may perceive the surroundings as too cold or as too warm at the same time, no matter what the thermostat is set for. What one wants to do is avoid the extremes which can distract a worker’s attention and potentially make him or her more vulnerable to infections. I came across a poorly functioning building where the office workers had to sit at their desks in their parkas or several sweaters. You can imagine the motivation to work hard and the productivity was poor. And these both were raised quickly when the HVAC was upgraded.

3. Lighting. All (indoor) workers work under artificial lights. The amount of light (lumens) is critical for a person to feel well (avoid eye strain) and to perform their jobs safely and properly. ASHRAE 90.1 and the IES publish information about minimum recommended concentrations of light per square foot (in lumens/sf) for different rooms with different functions (office, parking garage, class room, etc.). However, recent research shows that productivity is more complicated than just ensuring the right concentration of light in an area, as measured by a light meter. Research is showing that not all light is the same in terms of how they enter our eyes and stimulate the retina. The key is to maximize what scientists call visually effective lumens (VELs), based on the relative amounts of scotopic and phototopic light or S/P ratio. People appear to be more sensitive to cooler tone light (toward blue and green) rather than warmer tone light (toward yellow and red). As you change lighting to be more energy efficient, look for lights with a higher S/P ratio and those that are cooler in tone. It is worth investing in an experienced lighting professional to design the most productive light for your workers or to sell your product if you are in retail.

4. Daylighting. The report describes numerous studies stating that seeing natural light by having access to windows increases worker satisfaction and can even have health and mood benefits. This is certainly a positive contrast to earlier trends of windowless offices built with the thinking that a worker is more productive if he or she is not distracted with what goes on outside. Again, allowing sunlight in does improve productivity and mood. Similarly, the report states that workers with a view of nature from a window or those who have plants near their desks are more productive than those without a connection to nature. Some studies have shown workers can increase their time-on-task by up to 15% due to the presence of a window with a view.

5. Noise and Other Distractions. Workers exposed to distracting background noise suffer potentially large drops in productivity. Studies show an up to a 66% drop in productivity when workers are exposed to high background noise. This is particularly a growing issue as companies increase worker density to control real estate costs. The report cites research suggesting that installing physical design features affecting acoustics can be effective at reducing distractions and background noise in offices.

6. Access to Amenities. Though the report notes that not as many studies have been conducted on the matter, those that have consistently point to facility location and the presence of accessible amenities such as healthcare, shops, gyms, and particularly childcare centers as having a significant impact on occupant productivity. For example, the LEED point system for green buildings awards points for accessibility to mass transit and for having amenities, such as bike racks. One employer found that 68% of parents would have missed days of work if they were without access to an onsite childcare center.

CCES has the experts to help you improve your office, retail, or residential space to save you energy costs and improve the productivity and satisfaction of your workers. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Overcharging on Utility Bills Is Common, But What Can You Do?

As a licensed professional engineer and Certified Energy Manager, I have reviewed hundreds of utility bills and tracked energy consumption of many buildings to determine the feasibility of energy-efficiency upgrades. While I have been successful helping many buildings incorporate common-sense new technologies to save money, there is another, much simpler, risk-free way to save energy costs. In reviewing bills, I have come across seemingly obvious errors, such as incorrect tax rates and delivery taxes for ESCO accounts. With utility costs being a greater percentage of a building’s costs and ever-more complex electric, gas and water bills, there is a growing number of potential errors that could result in overcharging; errors that are difficult for even experienced building managers to catch even if they knew what to look for.

The way to avoid such issues and to not be overcharged on utility bills is a new and growing sub-field in energy services: BILL RECOVERY.

What is Bill Recovery?

It is simply the organized process of having your utility bills carefully scrutinized for errors by experts using complex algorithms that look at taxes, tariffs, meter-read errors, utility rates, and other issues that make up the over 100 components of a typical electric, gas or water bill.

Bill recovery services are generally contingency-based so there is no out-of-pocket cost to you. If no errors are found, the review will not cost you anything, and you will know that you were correctly charged. If errors are found, the company recovers the refund from the utility and sends you a pre-negotiated split of the recovery. Plus, you will have the assurance that you will be charged fairly in the future, and thus save future costs, too, compared to not having the review performed. For larger accounts, it has been shown to be worthwhile to go through the utility bill review process a second or even a third time as errors missed by other bill recovery companies have been found or due to changes in billing that occur subsequently.

I found the argument compelling. You should consider having a Bill Recovery analysis performed. Again, there is no cost to you for the analysis, and potentially much money to be recovered that you would not know about otherwise if errors are found.

However, make sure it is done by an experienced expert, using up-to-date software. You can contact Jean Hamerman at Vantage Energy at with any questions or just to learn more about a potential Bill Recovery program for you. No obligation. Vantage Energy ( has extensive experience in this area, saving its clients millions of dollars in improperly assessed utility costs.

Considering Green Leases

We all know there are many direct financial benefits to reducing one’s energy usage or to otherwise conserve resources and be “green”. However, there is one segment where these advantages are less obvious, and that is the leased community. In many cases, such as comfort, if a landlord invests money to make a building more efficient or “green”, the tenants benefit (reduced need for electricity and/or fuel usage) with, reduced costs, but the landlord does not get directly compensated for the initial investment. Examples include improving the building envelope or upgrading the A/C system. Thus, there is little motivation for a landlord to invest in energy upgrades.

As a result, there is a recent growing concept of “green” leases which incentivize energy and related upgrades. According to a recent study issued by the Institute for Market Transformation called “What’s in a Green Lease? Measuring the Potential Impact of Green Leases in the US Office Sector” (, green leases have the potential to cut energy consumption by 11 to 22% (or $0.26 to $0.51 per sq. ft.) in US leased office buildings.

The intention of “green” leases is to provide direct financial benefits for energy conservation measures to both the tenant and landlord for their investment.

The report provides ideas to consider to make a lease more “green”, such as:

• Savings Pass-Through: This allows landlords to pay for the investments in energy efficiency by directly adding a portion of the energy cost savings from their tenants in the rent over a period of a few years until the original investment is recouped.

• Energy-Efficient Tenant Buildout: This mandates that tenants meet certain basic “green” guidelines in the lease to ensure that the space (which the landlord owns) is high-performing. Taken to an extreme, it could mean that the space meets a certification program, such as LEED. However, since this can be quite expensive, minimal standards of lighting power density (watts/sq. ft.) or only using energy- and water-efficient equipment may suffice. The tenant saves money in the long run; the landlord has made no initial investment and the building is potentially more desirable upon re-sale or when the tenant moves out; and both meet sustainability goals. For example, ASHRAE 90.1-2013 recommends a lighting power density for an office of 0.82 watts/sq. ft. (and lists recommended power densities for other functions).

• Submetering: As discussed in other blogs, installing sub-meters for tenant spaces and having the lease re-written to mandate that tenants pay for electricity, gas, water, a proven way to make tenants aware of their utility usage. After a bill or two comes in and tenants see the correlation between usage and cost, they are incentivized to reduce energy and water usage.

Please note that this is a technical only evaluation about the topic of “green” leases, and not a legal one. Please speak to a qualified legal professional if you wish to develop “green” leases. CCES can help you assess your energy and water usage and develop smart, cost-effective ways to reduce your usage and costs without impacting and, in fact, enhancing your operations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

More about Sub-metering: What to Look For

Two months ago I posted a blog article on sub-metering and its many benefits, such as providing a fair measure of what different users use in terms of electricity and other utilities in order to avoid or to resolve landlord-tenant disputes and to get real readings to encourage energy and water savings (when people see what they really use, they readily invest in technologies to save). At least two cities, New York and Philadelphia, have promulgated laws to mandate electricity sub-metering in certain situations. A recent report in EE Reports ( provides robust guides on the basics and how-to of sub-metering.

OK, you have agreed with the arguments that sub-metering will lead to eventual significant cost savings and avoid disputes before they start. There are 3 steps to implement sub-meters, as follows:

• Site Survey. Review drawings and walk the site to understand the layout and the site’s needs. Decide what you wish to sub-meter for. Electricity (the most common) only? Gas, water, other utilities, too? Have in mind the reason(s) you are sub-metering (M&V, demand response, cost allocation, optimizing building performance, and/or bill verification). How many sub-meters may you need, a number based on the number of tenants? Generally one sub-meter can accommodate one single phase or three-phase load and up to 7 connecting wires. An important item to consider is how will the sub-meters interface with your current (or perhaps future) building management or automation system. Wireless? Ethernet? Proper planning is so important.

• Commissioning. After installing your sub-meter (by a certified, experienced electrical contractor), don’t have the attitude of “set it and forget it”. You’ve invested the money and time; make sure the sub-meters provide reliable, accurate, accessible data. Compare values from the sub-meter with that of data measured by BMS software. Take 2 readings around a desired timeframe (ex. 1 hour apart) to determine usage, and compare. Take multiple readings in time. If the sub-meter readings are significantly different, then contact the vendor and/or installer to determine why. It could be faulty wiring or a faulty sub-meter. Perhaps a different model or type of sub-meter is needed to handle the load.

• Evaluate your savings. Now that the sub-meters are installed and operating, collect data to show how the electricity, water, etc. is now distributed among tenants and compare it to past readings (before the sub-meters) to determine long-term savings. Determine usage trends and tie them to location, time of day, building activities, etc. See in what areas your building can focus on to take the greatest advantage in terms of tenant leases, demand management, etc. Are the promised savings being met? Repeat these evaluations at least every year to see how the sub-meters continue to operate and to save your building money.

See to see the full “Metering and Sub-metering 101” and “102” Guides. CCES can help you assess the value of sub-metering your buildings and can plan and manage its complete implementation to maximize your financial benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at