Data is plentiful in so many parts of our lives now. Technology like the FitBit puts data-gathering devices into our hands and pockets and lets us monitor personal fitness, sleep, finances, and even mood metrics. But while this sudden uptick in available data has created more interest in tracking personal metrics, I find it intriguing to examine the areas of daily life where we still lack basic information.
In the United States, we spend over 88 percent of each day in buildings. However, the recent focus on granular data metrics about our health, food, or finances has not extended to our energy and water consumption. Things like the Nest thermostat are starting to scratch the surface in single-family homes, but it’s still very common for an office tenant or multifamily tenant to be entirely unaware of how much energy and water they consume and, thus, the actual costs they are paying.
This lack of knowledge in office and multifamily buildings isn’t due to a technological barrier either. Companies today provide technology advanced enough to track energy or water usage by floor, tenant space, or even down to the specific usage of each appliance plugged in. Companies like Lucid Design Group, Aquicore, and WegoWise will provide a software dashboard to organize all this data and companies like AtSite will even provide engineering staff to analyze the data and provide recommendations for improvement.
So what’s the hang up? Landlords have been slow to embrace these new technologies, partially because they think they cost too much and partially because of the effort required to change the building’s metering structure. And many tenants are unaware of their energy and water use simply because they haven’t thought to ask about it at the beginning of the leasing process.
Here at IMT, we’re constantly thinking about energy and how to save it, so we asked at the beginning of our lease negotiations to have an electric submeter installed. This submeter counts the energy that our office space uses each day—which changes our utility cost because we only pay for the electricity our office space uses.
As tenants, we have a clear and vested interest in saving energy because it saves us money. Since IMT’s energy costs are no longer averaging in the usage of all various tenants into a charge per-square-foot, we quickly recoup the benefits of upgrades such as the highly-efficient T5 fluorescent lighting that we installed. At the building scale, this means that the owner can rely on his or her tenant to help maintain an efficient and high-performing building. This kind of cooperation helps raise the profile of the building and eventually attract more tenants.
IMT’s also gone one step further in the hopes that our example can show what’s already possible for tenants signing (green) leases today. Our submetered electricity use is always displayed publicly in real-time thanks to a Lucid Design Group Dashboard; essentially a FitBit for our office space which we enjoy checking regularly to make sure we’re saving as much as possible.
So for those planning to sign a new lease on space in the future, it makes good sense to ask the question – how would I benefit from paying for the energy and water that I actually use? It may be the best metric you haven’t tracked yet.