The number of people working in office buildings has fallen dramatically since COVID-19 control measures were introduced. In this short video we illustrate, with real-world data*, the range of energy efficiency outcomes that commercial office building owners and operators have managed to achieve during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

In most cases the reductions have been substantial, but they have been anything but uniform. We put this down to a variety of factors such as the configuration and sophistication of building equipment and controls, the supportiveness and engagement of tenants, and other factors like lease agreements and how the office space is laid out. And we find in every case, even when the savings appear relatively small, that active and effective building management is as valuable as ever, probably even more so.

Have the achievements of vigilant office building operators been enough to offset rising household energy use? Unfortunately, looking at Australian data (where most of the surveyed buildings are located), the National Energy Emissions Audit Report published last week found that during the period 16 March 2020 when major lockdowns and closures began to 21 April 2020, total electricity consumption was just 2.5 percent lower than the equivalent periods in 2019 and 2018. And because the conditions this year were warmer than previous years (yet again…), reduced economic activity only accounted for about half of that meagre saving.

These statistics raise big questions and clearly commercial buildings are only part of the picture. However, they are certainly an important part of the solution.

Our goal right now is to keep our clients and the broader community informed about strategies to optimize building performance while protecting the health, safety and comfort of building occupants. We welcome your feedback and questions.

* Primarily derived from base building electricity meters that capture all heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), vertical transportation and common area loads, but not tenant lighting or power (e.g. plug loads).