Saving energy with commercial tenants

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Carol Rosenfeld
Vision Architecture

I just attended a great session here at Greenbuild on how property managers are partnering with commercial tenants to save energy and become more sustainable. One of the key takeaways was about taking the time to get to know your tenants and what motivates them (otherwise known at the “What’s in it for me?” or WIIFM (“whiff-um”)). As part of this, connecting any efforts to the tenant’s own sustainability goals is a great way to move forward on both organizations’ sustainability or energy reduction commitments.

I particularly liked one example of a “save some juice” campaign that one property manager ran. They had posters about the effort around the building, and on kick-off day handed out juice boxes in the lobby. (Although, I did wonder if there is a less waste-intensive way to make this cute pun.) They also printed post-it notes with “Save some juice” on them, and had building security workers put the notes on the light switches of any lights left on at night, etc. While I thought this was a brilliant idea, apparently some tenants were offended at the apparent finger waving that this implied. Behavior change theory discusses the times when a negative message is most effective, and the times when a positive message is most effective, and perhaps this would have been a time for a positive message instead. (For example, they could have placed a note with “Thanks for saving some juice!” and a hershey’s kiss on the desks of people who had turned off lights and shutdown IT equipment before leaving for the day.)

All in all, a great session, and now I’ll spend the rest of the day thinking about how the speakers’ advice can be applied to a university setting, where the occupants are not tenants per se, but they do not directly pay their own energy bills and are reliant on a central facilities organization to maintain hundreds of buildings spread out across a large campus.

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