Implementing green options into your business doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, lowering your energy consumption and reducing your business’ carbon footprint don’t have to cost anything at all.
Jason Kliwinski, director of sustainable design at Parette Somjen Architects and partner at the Green Design Center in Lambertville, says the perception of high cost typically keeps businesses from implementing green initiatives. But most business owners and managers are in an ideal position to see green initiatives through. They just need to open their mouths.
Kliwinski will be part of the Mid-Jersey Chamber’s Sustainable Energy Breakfast Forum on Tuesday, April 29, at 8 a.m. at the Princeton Healthcare Community Room (near the YMCA) in Hamilton. Joining Kliwinski will be Ed Hutchinson, president of Hutchinson Mechanical Services; Andy Bakey of PPL Energy Plus; and Gary Finger of the NJ Board of Public Utilities. Cost: $15. Visit www.midjerseychamber.org.
Kliwinski grew up in Pennington and earned his bachelor’s in architecture from NJIT in 1994. He says he gets his artistic side from his mother, who hand-painted commercial figurines, and his love of buildings from his father, who was a superintendent on construction sites.
Kliwinski kicked off his career as a project manager at DF Gibson Architects and then the Prisco Group. In 2002 he co-founded the New Jersey chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. In 2007 he became the director of sustainable design at Spiezle Architectural Group, and a year later began teaching sustainability for NJIT’s architecture program. In 2010 he became a partner in the Green Building Center, which he calls a one-stop shop for green design and building. He joined Parette Somjen last year.
For Kliwinski, the basics of energy efficiency for businesses start with something rather obvious, but often overlooked: policy. “Behavior is one of those no-cost things you can do in your business,” Kliwinski says. “And you can implement it tomorrow.”
The behavior in question is nothing you haven’t heard from your parents — shut off lights when you leave the kitchen; separate your office paper from the garbage and make sure it gets to the curb; adjust the thermostat. The issue, Kliwinski says, is not the newness of the information, it’s the willingness of managers and executives to enforce policy decisions, even simple ones.
Let’s take the thermostat thing for example. “Instead of 76 degrees, set the thermostat at 74,” Kliwinski says. “Or when you’re cooling, instead of setting it at 68, set it to 70. That two degrees makes a big difference in energy consumption.”
What of employees who complain it’s too cold? “Tell your employees to dress appropriately,” Kliwinski says. This is what he means by leadership and policy. If your employees are showing up for work in February wearing thin clothing or shorts, you’ve got the heat too high.
Monitor your consumption. The thing about energy consumption, Kliwinski says, is that everyone thinks they’re doing something positive. And they may be. But when companies take an objective, measured look at what’s actually happening, they’re often surprised by how erratic and wasteful they are being.
You might, for example, have it in place to shut off the lights when leaving the kitchen, and all of your employees comply. But the janitor who comes in at 6 a.m. to mop the floors leaves the lights on in the kitchen and bathrooms when he leaves. If no one is there until eight, that adds up to several hours a year of wasted energy. “For the most part, no one’s monitoring the energy or water consumption,” Kliwinski says. “There has to be policy.” At least for starters. Where policy fails, inexpensive steps can make a world of difference.
Zoning. You might have heard that buildings consume 70 percent of the energy in the United States and contribute 40 percent of the carbon we put into the atmosphere. But if you want to know how large your business’ carbon footprint is, there’s a simple formula: Multiply the kilowatt hours on your utility bill by .5. “That’s how many pounds of carbon you produce,” Kliwinski says. In other words, if you use 10,000 kilowatts, you emit 5,000 pounds of carbon.
Zoning how you heat and cool your office can cut back on some of that consumption. “Nine out of ten times, there are no zones,” Kliwinski says. “There’s one thermostat that heats and cools the whole office.”
Zoning refers to heating and cooling areas only when needed. Some offices have one central vent for a system that tries to level out the entire office area. That’s fine if it’s a tiny office, but many offices have largely unoccupied areas that don’t need to be kept especially warm or cool. Installing a couple thermostats can greatly help, Kliwinski says. You’ll be able to section off what is heated and cooled and use less energy.
Low-cost options. Occupancy timers significantly cut power consumption, but surprisingly few businesses use them, Kliwinski says. And there’s no reason not to use them. They don’t cost much to put in (they retail typically for $20 to $50 apiece) and the state offers rebates and grants to offset those costs. Putting occupancy timers in the bathroom or kitchen, he says, negates the need to lord over employees (or the morning janitor) and pays itself off with energy savings in a very short time.
Another piece of “low-hanging fruit,” Kliwinski says, is replacing your lighting. In most cases, more energy efficient bulbs and tubes can fit into existing fixtures, or at most into slightly modified fixtures (i.e., the ballasts need to be replaced). Many extremely efficient bulbs or tubes require a bit more of an overhaul in the fixtures, Kliwinski says, but again, with incentives and grants aimed at helping businesses install more energy-efficient systems, there’s little reason not to take advantage.
Windows. When it comes to making windows more energy efficient, businesses have two main choices — replace inefficient windows with double-pane or triple-pane windows (which can be really expensive) or have Low-E film put over the glass (which is not). Low-E film essentially gets a single-pane window to work like a double-pane window by acting as a radiant barrier. A pro needs to install it, Kliwinski says, but it’s generally inexpensive — about $8 per square foot, as opposed to $50 per square foot for new windows — and works wonders.
The main point Kliwinski makes is that you need to know how much power you consume in order to effectively conserve it. And that starts with looking at your bill and knowing where the power is being used. Once you know where the power is going, you can better police it. “You can’t have the rogue person who sets the thermostat at 50,” he says.