What Are Sustainable Facility Management Practices?
Sustainable facility management keeps building occupants healthier, reduces your company’s environmental impact, and helps improve your brand image. These practices are both good for the world and good for your company, so it should be an easy decision to make your facility more environmentally friendly. Reducing waste and energy consumption saves money. It also makes your company more attractive to socially conscious young people, both as employees and as customers. Successfully implementing sustainable facility management practices can be complex. These are the major areas to focus on while building your strategy.
Reduced Energy Consumption
Cutting back your facility’s energy consumption is good for both the planet and your company’s bottom line. There are several ways to approach a shift to sustainable energy usage, so it’s a good idea to start with an energy audit to identify where the facility has room for improvement. Tactics for using less energy include updating the HVAC system to a more efficient model, replacing windows with styles that have better insulation, and installing motion sensors so lights aren’t on when no one is around.
Reduced Water Usage and Sustainable Water Reuse
Water is relatively inexpensive compared to other resources your facility relies on, so it’s easy to overlook if you’re primarily focused on your company budget. However, optimizing water usage and reuse is an essential practice for sustainable facility management. It’s important to look at your facility’s overall water usage to develop a strategy. This can include installing low-flow toilets and other efficient plumbing fixtures, collecting rainwater and other sources like air conditioning condensation, and treating greywater for use onsite.
Smarter Waste Management
As with other sustainable practices, it’s a good idea to perform a waste management audit to inform your overall strategy. Identify the types of waste your facility produces and consider ways to deal with each. Start by eliminating waste production early in the process wherever possible. Then, look at how you might reuse materials. Recycle these if they can’t be reused and look into alternative disposal methods like burning or anaerobic digestion to break waste down.
Green Cleaning With Eco-Friendly Products
Good cleaning and sanitation practices are essential for keeping your employees healthy and comfortable. Standard cleaning chemicals can pose both health and environmental risks, so you’ll want to replace them with greener options. Green Seal certification is a good place to start when looking for new eco-friendly cleaning products. Review your cleaning procedures to see where you can substitute recycled or reusable alternatives for disposable items.
While all of these methods will make your facility more eco-friendly, it’s important to take a big-picture view of the space as well.
How Will Facilities Management Leverage the Impact of the Current Built Environment?
Your facility isn’t just defined by its structure or layout. The built environment includes nine layers, from the surrounding environment to the people who work in it. To implement a sustainable facility management strategy, you need to understand all of these layers, how they work together, and how changes on one level impact results on another. You’ll also need to consider the scope of the changes you’re able to make.
In their industry white paper, Seeking Higher Ground, authors Mark Mobach, Nancy Sanquist, and Jeffrey Saunders list the levels of interactive building change as follows:
- Space Plan
For example, relocating to an area better served by public transportation might reduce your facility’s carbon footprint. However, the building’s location is a level one change (scale), which simply might not be possible. Your company could be locked into a long-term lease, or its business might rely on a certain geographic location.
Regardless of the changes you make, you’ll need to consider how they affect the space at level nine (souls) or the people who use or work in the space. Employees, especially those from younger generations, care about the environment and want to work for environmentally responsible companies. However, changes that make your facility more sustainable but less comfortable can damage morale and productivity. For example, making a level five change (systems) to install a more efficient heating system can save money and reduce energy consumption. However, if the new system means that your space is colder in the winter, your people will feel the negative impact.
Every facility’s layers combine in unique ways, so it’s important to understand what opportunities exist to improve sustainability at each level and how those changes might affect the other layers. These interactions are complex and multidisciplinary. This means facility managers need to develop their knowledge in areas ranging from interior design to sociology and construction in order to successfully understand and predict how the facility’s layers work together.
The Best Technology & Tools to Assist Facilities Professionals
Facility managers have plenty of options when it comes to tools and technologies to help with sustainability. These options include everything from data analytics programs to reusable office components. Different tools will help implement sustainable facility management practices in different layers of your environment.
Sustainability analytics software programs like Salesforce’s Net Zero Cloud and EHS Insight help you track emissions, resource usage, and waste, which will help with your sustainability audits and big-picture strategy decisions. Insulated windows, efficient HVAC systems, and low-flow plumbing fixtures help reduce the facility’s energy and water consumption. Apps like Gridd® Mobile let facility teams and subcontractors see the wiring and cables virtually, which reduces the need for cutting into walls and the resulting material waste.
Repositionable office fixtures like room dividers and raised access flooring mean that you can make changes to fit the space’s shifting needs without getting rid of these pieces and buying replacements. These pieces and other items like furniture can be made from recycled materials to increase sustainability even further.
Sustainable facility management practices require a holistic view of the facility and an understanding of its component layers. From waste management to furniture choices, almost every part of a building can contribute to sustainability efforts. This approach lets facility managers implement an effective sustainability strategy that supports the business, employees, customers, and the planet.