Energy conservation is important to building owners and facilities managers, but what about those who occupy the buildings - home owners and residents, commercial oﬃce tenants, students and teachers? Let’s talk about how to engage building occupants in energy conservation, starting with home owners or residential tenants.
There are, of course, simple ways to save energy in your home - use LED lightbulbs, turn oﬀ lights and electronics when they’re not in use, take shorter showers, use ceiling fans instead of turning down your AC. But what about common area and resident management of multi-family, senior living, or home owners associations (HOA)? What are some strategies to help manage energy usage for many homes or apartments?
One of the most eﬀective strategies with residents is to communicate and share measurable goals. To be able to create measurable goals, a property ﬁrst has to track energy and water data (tools like Fusebox are available to help manage this task). After understanding where buildings are starting from, then property/association management can set their sights on an achievable energy eﬃciency goal. This is when resident engagement becomes critical.
It’s sometimes not enough to just set the goal; it’s also important to communicate the “why” behind setting the goal. Maybe it’s to save money. Energy eﬃciency often comes with savings that can then be passed back to residents. For example, if an energy eﬃciency project is completed and common area utility bills are reduced in the following months, association or common living fees may not need to be increased the following year. Another “why” could be wanting to provide a better environment for residents. Installing solar panels might not only save on utility bills (depending on the contract and negotiated rates), but they can also be a more environmentally-friendly source of electricity than grid-powered electricity (which often comes from fossil-fuel generated sources, depending on where you are in the country). Making sure residents know why an energy project is being proposed, and knowing it’s not just because someone thinks it would be a good idea, can build support for the project and outcome.
Once residents know why management is working towards a goal, they need to know what they can do and see the results of their eﬀorts. Creating communication campaigns that build awareness and resonate with residents is critical. Senior residents may not be as engaged with an email newsletter, but they might be excited to attend a workshop about energy conservation at home with fellow residents. Families with kids may not have time to attend a community workshop, but they could educate themselves (and their kids) through graphics and quick videos about initiatives. Publicly sharing savings and outcome information is also important to keep engagement and momentum with energy efficiency activities (and sustainability activities in general). Seeing results and knowing goals were met through resident participation can create a feeling of community pride and can improve morale and engagement for future projects.
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