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3 Easy Strategies to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Commercial Buildings

Reducing your building’s carbon footprint can have several advantages beyond sustainability. If you wish to seek a LEED certification, one advantage is that LEED-certified buildings tend to be more profitable.

Moreover, some carbon footprint reduction strategies have a directly positive impact on occupant health and happiness. For instance, having more sources of natural lighting in office buildings (to reduce electricity) leads to improved work performance, according to 70% of employees in this survey.

Yet, it can be challenging to identify ways of reducing your carbon footprint. This article will present 3 actionable strategies that you can undertake to reduce your carbon footprint.

Pro Tip: The LEED certification scorecard presents an invaluable list of action items that reduce carbon emissions, even if you do not plan to get certified.

Carbon Reduction Strategy #1

Change Your HVAC Filters on Time

One of the quickest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint is by replacing your HVAC filters on time. HVAC filters accumulate particles over time and can reduce airflow drastically, if used beyond their recommended life. This can force your HVAC system to work harder (consume more energy) to move air.

Moreover, you can even consider the effects of the kind of filter that you are using. HVAC filters with a higher “MERV” rating are better at filtering out unwanted air particles and pollutants. However, the filters with higher MERV ratings tend to be denser, resulting in lower airflow: making your HVAC system less efficient.

To balance efficiency with air quality, you can use the following table (source) as a reference:

MERV Rating Use Case Scenario
Furnaces, Air Conditioners: These filters are typically considered inadequate to maintain acceptable building air quality.
Commercial and Residential Buildings
Commercial and Residential Buildings that need higher air quality (think senior living facilities, or buildings that have sensitive occupants).
Buildings that need exceptional air quality like healthcare facilities.
Buildings that need near-perfect air quality like pharmaceutical plants.

Carbon Reduction Strategy #2

Automate to Optimize

The world of IoT, AI, and automation presents excitingly simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint. You can opt for smart devices and systems that can be easily customized to operate only when necessary. Consider the following example:

Lighting accounts for 18% of U.S. electricity consumption. With the use of smart window shades and smart LED lights, a building can potentially reduce lighting need during daytime in areas near windows. Smart lights can also be used in a building’s lobby so that some of them are only operational when someone passes through. 

Carbon Reduction Strategy #3

Improve Water Heating and Usage

Water heating accounts for 18% of a building’s energy usage. This is one area that most buildings take for granted when considering ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Here are some things you can do to reduce your building’s carbon footprint when it comes to water management:

  1. Insulate your pipes: Insulated pipes ensure that heat loss to surroundings is minimal. This means that your water heating system needs to spend lesser energy to recover lost heat.
  2. Consider lowering your water heating system’s set point temperature. You can reduce energy usage by up to 22% if you lower your water heater’s set point temperature. Read this article to know 7 factors to consider before choosing the ideal set point temperature for your water heater.
  3. Go Tankless: Tankless water heaters today are more than capable of handling large, commercial hot water demands. By only consuming energy when hot water is needed, tankless water heaters can reduce energy usage by up to 30%. Be sure to look for commercial-grade tankless units for optimal performance.