What is the impact of COVID-19 on building energy consumption?

Managing Building Energy in Times of Reduced Occupancy

COVID-19 is changing the way we all look at the world. Changes in rules, regulations and guidelines have everyone re-examining the things we once took for granted. The impacts of this pandemic are reaching far beyond public health, and consequences will be measured for decades to come. At Sapient, we’ve been spending time looking at how the massive work-from-home shift has impacted building energy.

You might think with buildings nearly empty that building energy costs have gone way down.
Think again.

Our research revealed that while office building occupancy rates are down 94%*, average building energy consumption was still at approximately 84%. In some cases, building energy costs are still at 97% of full-occupancy levels*.

With buildings standing nearly empty, while still paying for nearly full-occupancy energy consumption, we wondered: 

What is the source of these building energy inefficiencies?  

How can organizations reduce facility operating costs during times of decreased occupancy?

Even considering that building operators must maintain a baseline level of activity to be able to perform building maintenance, the misalignment between energy consumption and occupancy presents significant inefficiencies and a compelling optimization opportunity.

Using Plug Load Management as a tool to address building energy inefficiencies

A solution to building energy inefficiencies lies in managing plug load.  Plug load represents the energy consumed by all the devices and pieces of equipment plugged-in throughout a building. Plugged-in devices draw different levels of power, depending on how they are being used, whether in active, standby or sleep mode.  Even while not in use, these devices draw energy, and when added together, total plug load represents about 30% of a buildings total energy consumption.

Now more than ever, leveraging a long-term solution of automated plug load management may be the key to significantly reducing building operating costs driven by energy consumption*. 

Sapient Industries, has developed machine learning-driven technology to help you control and reduce your buildings energy consumption from plug load.  As buildings remain largely unoccupied, Sapient’s platform learns occupant behavior and understands not only the precise type of equipment plugged into every single socket in a building, but also how occupants are utilizing that equipment.

Using a centralized web application, you can take control of plugged-in devices, optimizing their use to significantly reduce energy consumption. Sapient’s software has the capacity to intelligently turn off any plugged-in device. Whether it’s turning power off in an unused area of the building, or allowing for power to be supplied only to the workstations that are going to be used that day, the system can analyze and inform where and when energy should be delivered. Ultimately, the system enables facilities managers to make informed, granular decisions about how power is distributed and utilized in their buildings, and have control like never before. 

Managing plug load during times of reduced occupancy is one thing, but developing safe return to work strategies is another.

In part 2 of our blog series on how COVID-19 impacts building energy, we'll show how Sapient uses plug load data to make the workplace safer.

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