A practical guide to the 4Ts charter

If your company owns or manages a building in Hong Kong, then you’ve probably heard a lot about the “4Ts” lately. The “4Ts Charter” was published in January 2017 by the Hong Kong SAR Government[1]. Under this charter, owners and managers of buildings commit to a specific energy saving framework known as the “4Ts” – target, timeline, transparency and together.

To date, many companies and organizations have signed the charter and made specific commitments. But they are already experiencing challenges. Most of them set targets without knowing how feasible those targets are. Others made commitments to transparency and engagement without a clear plan to achieve that in practice.

This article aims to provide building owners and operators with a practical guide to implementation of the 4Ts. Whether you’ve already made specific commitments or not, you can still benefit from a more practical approach to planning and implementation of this new charter.

1. Target

It can be tempting to quickly set a long-term target and worry about meeting it another day. But whatever your goal is, setting an appropriate “stretch target” is essential for getting results from your team. Set the goal too low and you’ll provide no motivation and get poor results.

But set the goal too high and you’ll demotivate your team. They’ll spend more time thinking about their excuses for inevitably missing the target than they do on working to meet the target! Moreover, there can be embarrassing consequences to missing a public target or commitment.

Setting the right target requires a strong understanding of your existing baseline. Your building(s) may be wasting huge amounts of energy due to easily addressable problems, in which case you can set an aggressive target. Or you may be relatively energy efficient already, which means a smaller target is more feasible.

The best way to understand your baseline and your savings potential is to have clear and detailed data on your energy performance. You might already have that data stored in a building management system (BMS), or you may need to start from scratch with some data collection.

Once you have that data, you can easily visualize, analyze and report it with professional software tools like En-trak Energy.

Another important component in target-setting is an understanding of the external factors that affect your energy use. Those factors could be temperature, occupancy, or rented floor space. Once again, professional software tools can help to illuminate this relationship and provide better predictions of future energy use under changing conditions.

2. Timeline

All targets come with a timeline, which is as important as the target itself. You need to provide yourself with enough time to get the job done while still creating a feeling of urgency. More importantly, you need frequent progress reports before the deadline. Otherwise you could be in for an unpleasant surprise!

When it comes to energy reduction across a large building or company, it’s best to work with a range of short-term and long-term goals. The long-term goals serve as your ultimate targets, guiding your plans and short-term decisions. Meanwhile the short-term goals serve as opportunities to see what works and what doesn’t. With that knowledge, you can then make necessary adjustments on the way to your long-term targets.

For instance, you may want to test a range of aircon optimization options to achieve a 10% year-on-year reduction for a particular month. At the end of the month, if you have the right data and tools, you can verify whether your initiatives worked (taking into account temperature differences, occupancy differences, etc.).

You can also assess whether your initiatives are sustainable in the long run in terms of operational procedures, occupant comfort, etc. Since any new initiative might encounter resistance, it is important to get quick and quantifiable results. With these results in hand, you can build support for your range of initiatives. This is much more effective than persuading teams to undertake major changes without evidence of results.

Short-term targets and initiatives are thus a key part of any long-term energy reduction timeline.



3. Transparency

The charter also requires that you commit to transparency of your energy saving results. This is meant to provide a bit more incentive to stick to your targets! It specifically mentions publication of results in your annual report, on your website, or in a newsletter.

It’s simple enough to squeeze a number into any publication. But a far better approach is to turn your numbers into compelling stories about your initiatives and your progress. This lets you capture the attention of socially responsible investors, customers and partners.

But turning a simple number into a story requires a clear understanding of what is going on behind the number. This is even more important when the single number is a missed target. You may need to provide more detailed data to show that it's not all bad news.

Perhaps you met the target on a per square foot basis, but due to an increase in rented space you were unable to reduce your energy use overall. Thus you turn an embarrassing number into a proud story about increasing efficiency (and an extra reminder about the increase in rented space!).

Prepare in advance for this – make sure you have the information and insight to tell an accurate and compelling story about what you’ve achieved!

4. Together

Some energy reduction initiatives can be carried out by a small team working with centralized equipment. But many other opportunities for energy saving require cooperation with building occupants. This cooperation is at the root of the fourth ‘T’ – together.

Working together to reduce energy use means you have to elevate the process beyond engineers and technical systems. You need to encourage participation by groups and individuals who have no technical knowledge of energy saving. You also need to give them regular feedback to keep them motivated.

Doing this is not as simple as it may seem. The average person receives dozens to hundreds of emails in their inbox each day. They need a compelling reason to open or read your email about energy saving! Engagement sessions can be even worse. They can lead to boredom or even resentment that you’re wasting their time on matters irrelevant to their KPIs.

That’s why it’s essential to grab their interest and address their sense of pride with clear feedback and results. Trust us, they already know they’re supposed to turn off appliances when not in use. They already know they’re not supposed to set the aircon units to 19 degrees.

But they don’t know that they’re using 30% more energy than the average office in their building. They don’t know that the actions of their colleagues last month resulted in a 12% decrease in average workday energy use.

Show them something they don’t know, something that reflects on their relative performance, and you’ll catch their interest. But make sure you have the right tools to do so. You can’t rely on monthly bill comparisons that are subject to so many external factors that their performance is blurred out!

Going forward

Whether you’ve already signed the 4Ts Charter or are planning to do so, you will quickly find that the process is both smoother and more effective when you have the right data and the right tools. Don’t set, strive for, and share targets blindly – be prepared!

[1] http://www.energysaving.gov.hk/esc2017/en/charter/index.html


About En-trak

En-trak is an award-winning cleantech IoT company. We design and sell cloud-based solutions to help enterprises manage and optimize their energy consumption. Our flagship solution En-trak™ Energy enables users to know where, when and how they are using energy in real-time.

With continuous monitoring and advanced analytics, we’ve helped over 250+ world-class clients including Hong Kong Stock Exchange, National Environmental Agency, and Fuji Xerox achieve their sustainability goals. We’ve also recently launched our brand-new, patented En-trak™ Smart Lighting solution designed to help companies and building owners to automate and optimize their office lights.