In Australia, the average office building consumes 1,000 MJ/m2/annum, but some buildings use 1,900 MJ/m2/annum or almost twice as much energy. If you want to ensure your electric usage doesn't fall on the wrong side of that scale, you need to think about efficiency during the design process. When designing a commercial space for offices, here's what you need to do to make it energy efficient.

1. Use daylighting techniques to boost light and lower energy consumption.

Daylighting is the process of harnessing sunlight to brighten up your office or commercial building. Design your space with large windows, use reflective surfaces (ceiling panels, countertops, etc.) to help natural light move around your space and install dimmers that respond automatically to the amount of natural light entering the room so you don't unnecessarily waste power.

However, keep in mind when exploring these options that you also want to minimise glare, as it can make it hard for people to work or even see what they are doing. For example, invest in window treatments that provide some respite from the sun's direct rays while still allowing in light.

2. Install task lighting with individual sensors.

Instead of filling your commercial office building with overhead lighting, explore task lighting with individual sensors.

Use small lamps over desks, on conference tables or in other work stations. Also, place light fixtures on walls -- when designed strategically, wall light fixtures provide task lighting, and they create the illusion of more light without using as much power as ceiling lights. Also, add occupancy sensors to as many of your lights as possible so they turn off when no one is in the space using them.

3. Create remote lighting controls for building managers and tenants.

If you want to save energy, you also need to be able to let your building operators control and reduce usage as needed. For example, building operators should have a central command station from where they can see how much power is being used and which light bulbs need replacing. They should also be able to turn off lights remotely if everyone has left the building.

Tenants should also be given the tools to control and reduce their usage. In most commercial buildings, general operation including hallways, exterior lighting and utility usage accounts for about half of the electricity consumed, while tenant usage accounts for the other half.

By designing the light system so that your tenants can control their usage, you help to minimise the amount of power your building consumes. Install individual controls throughout the building so that your tenants can turn on and off lights as they need them. Also, invest in remote controls so that your tenants can dim lights when they aren't needed, or if they forget to turn off the lights, they can access they from home using an app that lets them turn the lights off.  

4. Lower light levels

Many office buildings are overlit. They have overhead lighting, task lighting and lights from computer monitors. Don't fall into the overlighting trap. Instead, put in light bulbs that emit less light but also use less energy.

Also, use dimmer switches. With dimmer switches, you can start on full light and reduce it incrementally each day until you find the balance that suits your needs.  

5. Use light sparingly outside

Even the light you use in your landscaping design affects your building's overall sustainability levels. Look carefully at your outdoor lighting options, and use light sparingly.

Rather than using spotlights to light up your building after dark, for example, use small solar-powered path lighting or even motion detector lights so they are not constantly running.

Get in touch with a commercial electrical contractor for more information and guidance.