Building managers can cut down on utilities cost by using hi-tech yet affordable methods for reminding tenants of sustainability's importance.

The installation of prominently displayed sustainability dashboards in commercial buildings can prompt occupants to cut down on their energy consumption, resulting in major savings in utilities bills and benefit for the environment.

One such system installed in late 2012 by Toronto-based building managers Oxford Propeties at its Royal Bank Plaza complex consists of a set of five high resolution digital screens installed in the elevator lobbies of the building, displaying current, real-time electricity consumption as well as comparisons to past data.

The displays on each dashboard are designed by Oxford Properties to be simple and readily comprehensible for the even most innumerate of users, consisting of gauge and line graphs in varying colours to signify electricity consumption in the building.

Green means less energy is being used than usual, yellow means that a standard amount of energy is being consumed, while red, which is usually associated with hazard or alert, signifies greater than average consumption.

This simple visual format provides a highly comprehensive indicator of energy consumption in the building, collating information on electricity usage from over 70 tenant sub-meters.

The screens also serve as community bulletin boards and public awareness placards, dispensing tips on sustainability at home or in the work place, information about events in the building, tenant success stories, and other energy-related targets or programs.

Oxford Properties decided to install the sustainability dashboards in response to increasing environmental awareness amongst tenants, over 90 per cent of whom endorse the new system.

In addition to appealing to the ecological consciousness of Royal Bank Plaza’s tenants, the system could also translate into major savings via reduced utilities bills. Royal Bank Plaza has annual energy costs of over $8 million, of which over 70 per cent is comprised of electricity, chiefly involving the lighting and plug loads of occupants.

The energy consumption dashboards themselves are sustainable in design, with all five screens enjoying Energy Star certification and employing the most efficient LCD screens for their class, meaning that they consume a barely negligible amount of electricity.

The sustainability dashboard system at Royal Bank Plaza is part of a broad based effort by Oxford Properties to make its portfolio more ecologically friendly and efficiency, a big part of which consists of raising environmental awareness amongst tenants and occupants.