Striving for Environmental Sustainability in Facilities Management
Discover How to Achieve a Greener Workplace
April 22, 2021, marks the 51st anniversary of our global celebration, awareness, and efforts to live sustainably in all aspects of our lives.
From recycled packaging and sustainable goods on a corporate scale to green transportation and energy-efficient buildings, the global community has seen progression like never before in our combat against climate change.
When it comes to an individual or a portfolio of buildings, facility managers are faced with complying with carbon footprint goals and environmental certification scores to achieve sustainability in their operations. Thankfully, there are tons of helpful tools and solutions available today to propel the industry of facilities management forward in this initiative.
This article will introduce Archibus Green Building, its benefits, and other facilities management solutions that promote environmentally friendly buildings and bring health benefits to their occupants.
How Buildings Affect Human Health and the Environment
Buildings are more than architectural structures that make up our cityscape. They have a major impact on the environment and the humans that occupy them.
Whether buildings are designed, constructed, and maintained with environmentally sustainable practices will determine if they use–and waste–more energy, raise carbon dioxide emissions, contribute to global warming, and impact our health.
Other factors like air quality, toxic materials (e.g. in paints, flooring, insulators), and regular maintenance for issues like dust, mould, and pests directly affect our health in the workplace. Failing to address these can trigger ailments like allergies, asthma, and even cancer and other serious health issues.
“The built environment can affect health directly and indirectly either through immediate, passive impact (e.g. effects of indoor environmental quality) or by influencing behaviours that can affect health, which can involve individuals’ active participation (e.g. encouraging walking to increase physical activity).” – Borasi G, Zardini M. 2012Imperfect health: the medicalization of architecture. Montreal, Canada: Canadian Centre for Architecture.
Responsibility to Be Sustainable
It’s not just up to office managers to ensure there are enough recycling bins in the building or to do their research on sustainable vendors from which to order materials and goods.
Facility managers are uniquely positioned to offer solutions in their operations that support the global initiative towards environmental sustainability.
Achieving high-performance or sustainable buildings means facility managers need to consider saving energy and resources and cost-effective operations when balancing labour, energy, materials, and political and financial capital. Particularly when managing how we use technology to maximize space and lead our workforce, it’s crucial to always operate on the notion of prioritizing a healthy, safe, productive, and comfortable environment for the individuals who occupy the building.
But how does the facility manager’s role differ when it comes to sustainability in a 35-year-old building? When evaluating how to operate with sustainability goals for buildings that aren’t designed for energy and environmental efficiency, the answer is simply to make changes one step at a time.
Whether that’s understanding limitations or educating oneself on best practices in sustainable facilities management, facility managers need the proper tools and resources available today if they want to achieve sustainability in these existing buildings.
What is Sustainable Facility Management?
Sustainable facility management (SFM) incorporates safety, efficiency, functionality, and comfort uniquely tailored to a process that enables facility managers to make architectural, structural, and operational changes with the purpose of reducing the potentially damaging impact buildings have on the environment and their occupants.
This includes the following areas of both hard and soft facilities management:
- Environmental sustainability
- Human factors and ergonomics
- Real estate and property management
- Operations and maintenance
- Project management
- Emergency management and business continuity
- Communications management
Archibus Green Building, Explained
Achieving sustainable facilities management isn’t as complicated as you’d think. Archibus Green Building provides intuitive, easy-to-use tools that support SFM initiatives with its highly versatile, robust web-based platform. The state-of-the-art information framework makes it easy to understand and implement best practices to lower greenhouse gas emissions and fulfill the environmental sustainability certification and recertification process.
Archibus Green Building also aids users in defining environmental criteria and protocols, curating portfolio data, and analyzing results to direct their efforts from an informed perspective and make cost-effective choices that lead to sustainability.
Benefits of Archibus Green Building
Lower Carbon Footprint
Archibus Green Building allows users to define any number of carbon footprint scenarios, associate buildings with those scenarios, and configure combinations of carbon footprint emissions factors for each, over one or more years. Users can then proceed through a series of forms for entering or mapping carbon footprint sources like fuel and energy consumption for heat and electricity, hours flown, miles driven, electricity purchased, materials procured, and waste recycled.
- Monitor performance of buildings and associated operations according to designated standards
- Promote lower operating costs by highlighting the reduction of electricity, fuel, and other consumption variables that contribute to the carbon footprint
- Hold operating managers and building occupants accountable for their behaviours and/or practices that contribute to an overall carbon footprint
- Support strategic decision-making for potential policy changes and their associated capital investments
Streamline Compliance Goals
Whether driven by internal or external regulatory mandates, tax or other financial incentives, or a desire to improve environmental stewardship, becoming “green” has become a high priority for many organizations. Archibus Green Building facilitates compliance with internal or external reporting requirements, defined by major standards-setting organizations, to qualify for carbon credits, reduced carbon tax, and/ or to submit defensible data on progress toward meeting environmental sustainability goals.
- Track building performance over time to judge the effects of future renovations or capital projects, and verify that certification and energy efficiency ratings continue or improve over time
- Aggregate data for annual greenhouse gas inventory reporting according to internal and/or governmental regulatory requirements
- Maintain scores by defining a rating project and scoring a building, floor, or room according to a chosen rating system
- Support multiple certification systems including LEED, BREEAM, other major systems, and/ or self-defined criteria
- Integrate with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager
- Provide many common unit conversions and support user-defined metrics to accommodate a broad range of measurement, input, and output options
Easily Compare Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Archibus Green Building exceeds the capabilities of readily available spreadsheet-based carbon footprint calculators. It provides data and calculation scalability, and aggregates information from all sources into a dynamic database, not just a flat spreadsheet file. As a result, information remains organized, secure, easy to retrieve, and accessible for analysis. Streamline and automate the storage and retrieval of sustainability project notes and documents
- Deliver a process-oriented and form-driven framework with detailed instructions
- Generate actionable information, with summary and analysis tables and charts for synthesizing and comparing information
- Provide tools for side-by-side comparison of a portfolio of buildings over multiple years
- Support actual or “what if” scenarios containing different consumption amounts or versions of emissions factors
Track Progress and Identify Best Practices
Centralized and consolidated information, combined with flexible scoring and powerful analytic tools, enable Archibus Green Building users to identify, validate, and propagate best practices to achieve environmental objectives. After implementing Green Building, users can evaluate building benchmarks against other new and existing buildings in a portfolio, as well as create and compare multiple scenarios for each building.
- Determine actual savings on energy, water, and carbon within the building after construction
- Provide a quick comparison of payback periods for capital investments to achieve sustainability goals
- Supplement design values established with complementary solutions such as Autodesk Green Building Studio
- Fund, justify, and manage up-front investments in new green buildings or renovations using the Archibus Capital Budgeting and Projects applications
Other Ways Facility Managers Are Enforcing Sustainability in Buildings
Conduct Sustainability Analytics
Sustainability analytics is data collected to help facility managers understand the impact, cost, and performance of their previous and current initiatives. It allows for more accurate insight into the future conditions and requirements to achieve a more resilient and efficient enterprise.
To see where there are inefficiencies and where energy is being wasted, conduct an audit to gain insight into various ways to make your facilities more environmentally stable.
Perform Preventive Maintenance
Preventative maintenance seems standard for all facility managers, but what does this have to do with sustainability?
Over time, machines, technology, and equipment can fail, and when not performing optimally, this lack of functionality can negatively affect sustainability. Performing regular checkups and upkeep on all major assets will limit unforeseen costs and resources on repairs, reduce energy consumption, and extend the lifespan, ultimately limiting the need for material usage and spend.
The optimal method for performing preventative maintenance is by deploying software that automates the process for you and logs detailed records, statistics, and data of all your assets. Utilizing software like Archibus means you can track details like the asset’s age, maintenance history, past issues, scheduled appointments, and other pertinent information that can help you make informed decisions. You can also say goodbye to pages upon pages of folders, binders, and other paperwork that’s easily disregarded, lost, or thrown out. You’ll be more efficient, have detailed records, and reduce paper consumption.
Note: Do your facilities use regulated technologies or elements such as coolant or refrigerant? If so, it’s important to say on top of their levels and functionality status, ensuring to always perform regular maintenance and analyze usage levels. This will satisfy your sustainability and safety regulations.
Update Assets to Boost Energy-Efficiency
If you manage an older building, you’ll know first-hand that the majority of the assets were not designed with energy efficiency or sustainability in mind. Whether it’s the materials or how much energy they use (and waste!), there is certainly room for improvement when considering upgrades.
Main updates that will save on energy consumption and overall costs:
- Dramatically save energy by replacing outdated HVAC systems, windows, and boilers
- Trap in heat by installing cool or green roofing
- Install new insulation to prevent energy loss
- Install smart water, gas, and electric meters and submeters
- Get sunlight and motion sensors for lighting
- If you have the budget, look into renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal
Take a Smart Approach to Lighting and Energy Usage
Smart lighting has been revolutionized over the years. It’s such a simple way to boost your facility’s energy efficiency, reduce unnecessary usage, and quickly see a guaranteed return on investment. Smart lighting options include:
- LED light bulbs
- Energy-efficient light fixtures
- Automatic dimmers
- Motion detection lighting systems
- Daylight detection lighting systems
- Occupancy detection lighting systems
- Skylight installation (for optimal natural light)
Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies
A major responsibility of facility managers is to keep facilities clean and in good condition. Conventional cleaning products are typically made up of hazardous chemicals that might be great for getting rid of germs and grime but can damage property, negatively affect the environment, and could cause harm to employees, customers, and contractors who are in and out of the building.
To boost your sustainability efforts, opt for environmentally friendly cleaning products that limit the amount of toxic chemicals your facility releases into the environment. You’ll also be lowering the exposure for people in and around the building(s) you manage.
Chemicals to avoid include:
- alkylphenol ethoxylates
- other volatile organic compounds (VOC)
Note: Not all “sustainable” cleaning products are made equal, so don’t fall for buzzwords printed on bottles. Instead, look for symbols that designate the product to the sustainability standards set forth by the government. And when in doubt, read the ingredients!
Decreased Water, Energy, and Material Use
Water consumption is a major culprit in the fight towards a greener environment. But did you know it’s actually quite simple to decrease your water bill?
- Install low-flow plumbing fixtures in restrooms, kitchens, and other wash stations
- Use low-flow variants of flush valves, faucets, and sink aerators
- Opt for hands-free faucets as they only run water when necessary and can never be left running
- Regularly inspect and repair cooling towers and boiler systems as they are notorious for losing water through evaporation
- Install overflow alarms for your building’s cooling tower
Increase Recycling & Implement Recycling Practices (fluorescent lights, batteries, large pieces of equipment, refrigerant)
Recycling is arguably the pioneer of the green initiative. It reduces CO2 emissions, saves fossil fuel energy, conserves resources, and eliminates the risk of waste from polluting our oceans.
However, recently, we’ve seen debate into whether this legacy tactic actually works, particularly when examining individual households vs. big corporations. In 2016, Thomson Reuters released a report that was covered by the Harvard Business Review.
“Carbon emissions by the world’s largest companies are increasing, and only one-third of the 600 largest companies in the U.S. have any systematic sustainability oversight at the board level.” – CB Bhattacharya; How to Make Sustainability Every Employee’s Responsibility.
There seems to be a disconnect or lack of urgency for larger businesses to get on the sustainability wagon, but the more information, education, and awareness that circulates, the more opportunity to join the movement.
Depending on your industry, it may not be mandatory for your business to recycle, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t implement a recycling policy for your facility. Prioritizing recycling in your building(s) takes planning, understanding your municipality’s rules and regulations, and knowing what materials are available to be recycled.
Take your recycling initiative beyond paper and plastic – opt into compost programs, recycle electronics and tech, and consider donations for things that are more challenging to recycle.
Some other recyclable materials include:
- Batteries – they’re filled with toxic materials and shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage.
- Fluorescent lights – these contain mercury and aren’t meant for the landfill.
- Refrigerant – this contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and cannot be released into the atmosphere.
- Pieces of equipment – a hauler is required for recycling oversized equipment; make sure you provide specs to haulers so they can prepare with the right tools.
Employ Green-Focused Contractors and Services
When searching for contractors, vendors, or other service providers, be sure to research their offerings and whether they drive towards sustainability in their work. In your research, look for elements that speak to the pillars of sustainability: economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity.
Once you have your list of viable options, narrow down your search by setting up phone calls to discuss their green initiatives and how it compliments your efforts. And remember, always think local!
When it comes time for repair and maintenance, seek out contractors who use clean products, are experienced with low-energy equipment, and use energy-efficient tools. Take pride in know that every time you support local businesses who prioritize the environment in their quality work, you’re doing your part in helping to improve the environment and supporting the community.
Make earth day an everyday fixture in our society by adopting these short- and long-term sustainability practices into your facilities management.
Contact Horizant today, and together we can discover sustainable solutions through innovation.