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A tool from VTT and Rapal for reducing the carbon footprint of properties


Office premises cause a significant part of society's environmental effects. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a tool together with Rapal Oy that can be used to determine the environmental load caused by various premise solutions. The calculator helps to set objectives and monitor results simultaneously with respect to both finance and environmental impacts, and supports property management that is in accordance with sustainable development.



The carbon footprint calculator is based upon Rapal's property management service. The core of the service in an ASP-based software used with a web browser. The system combines the perspectives of finance, personnel resources, and premises; and it can be used to calculate costs for particular user groups and premises. VTT developed a feature into the service that enables the user of the office premises to get an overall estimate of the environmental impact of the premise solutions under examination.

VTT's task in the project was to create a calculation model and collect the necessary background data for the calculation of the carbon footprint of the property. Using the designed calculation model, the energy consumption resulting from the heating, cooling, lighting, and electricity for devices on the premises can be converted into environmental impacts. In addition, when estimating the carbon footprint, the location of the office premises is taken into consideration, as well as environmental effects related to travel to the premises, including various forms of commuting and business trips.

"The single most important activity in the service sector that causes environmental impacts is the use of business premises. As general environmental awareness has increased, the importance of environmental management for the businesses of firms has continued to grow. The software we have developed with VTT provides real-time, transparent and factual data for the various levels of decision-making on environmental strategy," says Kai Patja, Director of Rapal Oy's business unit.

In the cooperation project between VTT and Rapal, the environmental perspective has been incorporated into the same tool alongside other essential factors in property management. The software helps set objectives and monitor results simultaneously with respect to both finance and environmental impacts. The tool can be used to determine what personnel resource solutions for the use of the premises are possible and what effect they have on costs and the environmental load. Since commuting is included, it is possible to estimate the effects of teleworking on the property's carbon footprint.

"One of the common problems with research projects on environmental impacts is that the tools and models developed in them are ultimately used very little. In this project, the calculation of environmental impacts was incorporated into a tool that is already used to aid property management and for which all the required support operations already exist," says Tarja Häkkinen, Chief Research Scientist at VTT.

In the cooperation project, instructions were also drawn up for the possible utilisation of the organisation's environmental impact data in various environmental responsibility and environmental reporting processes as part of comprehensive property management in accordance with sustainable development. The tool developed in the project enables the reporting of the results as graphic presentations and in table form for the various stakeholder groups of the client organisation and also directly for the end-users of energy, i.e., the personnel.

Initially, the environmental calculation add-on based on VTT's calculation model will only be usable in Finland's conditions, but in the future, the solution can be expanded to be usable in other countries as well.

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