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A collaborative approach to change for energy efficiency in commercial buildings

The challenge

Despite the business value that improved energy efficiency can deliver for building owners and tenants, limited communication and collaboration between parties serves to limit progress. While there is growing awareness of the multiple stakeholders that can influence energy efficiency decisions, few initiatives have actively brought together the relevant stakeholders to develop effective solutions.

Genesis of a new approach

In 2010 Patrick Crittenden approached the sustainability manager at the GPT Group, an Australian REIT with a track record of leadership in progressing energy efficiency and sustainability performance in the commercial real estate sector, to develop and pilot a collaborative approach to change. Funded by the NSW Government and with input from the property manager Jones Lang LaSalle, a series of 4x2 hour workshops were developed and delivered in each of six office buildings in the Sydney CBD. The results were evaluated and presented at the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference in Washington in November 2011. This case study presents a client perspective on the approach. 

Adapting the approach in new settings

Successful outcomes with the GPT Group led to further development and customisation of the approach in new settings. For example:


  • A regional cluster-based approach in Stockland shopping centres. This involved customising and facilitating the workshops with the personnel from four Stockland shopping centres in Western Sydney together with corporate staff and the shopping centre mechanical and electrical subcontractors.


  • A tenant focus at Westpac Bank. Two buildings in which Westpac was a tenant were selected. The training was customised and delivered within each building.

  • Operationalising a Green Lease with Cromwell Property Group and Government Property NSW. This approach involved bringing together the building owner, building management team and tenant to develop an environmental management plan for a building in the Sydney CBD. The project has delivered environmental outcomes while ensuring that obligations under a 'green lease' are met efficiently and effectively through a collaborative process.

Success factors

Bringing stakeholders together that have a shared focus on a particular building


Training interventions often involve taking individuals from their day-to-day work settings. While training participants often develop new strategies to address change for energy efficiency, on returning to their workplace after the training they are often confronted by established interests and 'ways of working'.  The different within this approach is that those 'established ways of working' are challenged throughout the course of the workshop. Since the appropriate stakeholders are involved around the table, the facilitated discussions help to address entrenched attitudes and behaviours that are typically difficult to shift without agreement between multiple parties.


Providing a non-threatening forum through facilitated discussion means that shared benefits are highlighted, opportunities for changing behaviours to deliver 'win-win' outcomes are identified and a spirit of collaboration is developed over time. A focus on solving problems throughout the process (for example, by taking action to improve energy efficiency between workshops) reinforces the shared benefits and 'win-win' outcomes that are sought.



Adopting an 'evidence based' approach


Underlying constructive discussions is non-threatening facilitation combined with the use of energy and building performance data. Often training participants hold various assumptions about how energy is used, where it is wasted and where the opportunities lie for improvement. By incorporating energy data into the process there is an evidence base that supports discussions. This helps to address underlying assumptions and the use of inacurate 'rules of thumb'.



Customising the approach through stakeholder consultation


The approach has been adapted to various setting and there is significant potential to apply the principles to the design and deployment of this approach in new settings. In each case it is critical that the facilitator understands the business that is involved, the history of both problems and improvements in a building, and the contractual arrangements between the different stakeholders involved. This preparation and customisation is an essential part of the process.


Presenting the outcomes of the process to decision makers


While asset managers and other key decision-makers may not be directly involved in each of the workshops, the final workshop typically includes the presentation of an action plan to a key decision-maker. Decision makers are asked for feedback and endorsement of the initiatives presented. This helps to highlight the importance of energy efficiency and the constructive efforts of the building management team in delivering energy savings and other benefits including improved tenant relations and reduced maintenance costs.



Further information and downloads

A case study summarising the training and the results achieved by The GPT Group


A conference presentation describing the training and the outcomes achieved


The full suite of training materials


Outcomes - The GPT Group


Across 6 Sydney CBD office buildings the following outcomes were achieved:


1. Energy efficiency projects have been identified and implemented


Examples include: • Fire stair lighting controls • Modification of lift motor room air conditioning • Use of after-hours air conditioning by security staff • Excessive use of tenant condensor water • Removing set schedules for operation of car park fans and utilising carbon monoxide sensors.


2. Energy efficiency is a higher priority for  the operations teams in each building and facilities managers and subcontractors are collaborating more closely on energy efficiency on an ongoing basis


3. Energy data is reviewed more frequently that it was before the training leading to ongoing operational improvements

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