How to Reduce Energy Consumption in PBSA

Revolutionising PBSA: Embracing Fair Usage Energy Policies to Curtail Consumption

In the dynamic landscape of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), a pressing challenge stands out: excessive energy consumption. This blog delves into the transformative potential of fair usage energy billing in PBSAs, marking a departure from wasteful practices towards a more eco-conscious and economically sound approach.

The Energy Quandary in PBSA

Standard practice in large-scale PBSA developments involves incorporating utility costs into the rent. This model, while seemingly convenient, strips students of their choice in energy providers and inadvertently encourages unrestrained energy use. Management companies, leveraging their bargaining power, secure competitive rates for energy. However, they grapple with the repercussions of unchecked energy consumption, often resorting to imposing inflated fixed sums on rent to offset potential over-usage. This practice is not just economically inefficient; it is also an environmental travesty.

The Environmental Ethos of the Younger Generation

Today’s youth are pivotal in the crusade for a sustainable future. Particularly in PBSAs, home to a vibrant mix of international students, there’s a palpable drive towards environmental consciousness. However, Msengi et al (2019), found that only 17% knew their University’s Strategic Plan, while 98.5% indicated sustainability was important to them. Highlighting the need for its integration into their academic journey.

As highlighted by Obrinsky and Walter’s publication, Energy Efficiency in Multifamily Rental Homes: An Analysis of Residential Energy Consumption Data, “the fact that billing residents separately for energy utilities reduces energy usage confirms that retrofitting apartments to submeter residents separately could contribute meaningfully to reducing energy consumption.”

Therefore, the most effective strategy to mitigate utility overspending in PBSAs is to transition from a rent-inclusive utility model to one where students are accountable for their own energy consumption. This approach, inspired by practices in the US multifamily housing sector, not only promotes responsible energy use but also promises substantial cost savings. The caveat? The need for individual meters per unit, a feature not commonly found in student accommodations. Yet, with tightening government regulations on energy consumption, such an infrastructure could soon become the norm.

Fair Usage Policy: A Viable Alternative

For properties adhering to an all-inclusive rent model, implementing a fair usage policy offers a viable alternative. Such a policy sets consumption caps based on guidelines from entities like Ofgem or average usage statistics. Over-usage charges are then passed on to the tenants, incentivising mindful energy consumption.

However, the challenge in large-scale PBSA settings lies in accurately measuring individual energy usage, often making it feasible only to assess average consumption per floor or building. Despite this, innovative solutions like rewarding the most energy-efficient floor or fostering inter-site competitions can cultivate a culture of energy consciousness. The inclusion of student Eco Managers and engaging information campaigns, as suggested by action-based research from the NUS, can further galvanize student participation in energy-saving initiatives.

By championing fair usage energy policies, bolstered by strategic resident engagement, PBSA developers and property managers can significantly slash energy consumption. This dual approach not only curtails operational costs but also positions properties as paragons of eco-friendliness.

Interested in pioneering a Fair Usage Utilities Policy for your PBSA? Reach out to Fjeld Consulting – your partner in nurturing sustainable, cost-effective living spaces.


About the Author: Grace Morgan

Grace Morgan
Grace is our principal consultant at Fjeld Consulting. She leads a team specialising in mobilisation, process improvement, procurement and ancillary income across Europe.

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