Terms like “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” have had consumers and businesses “going green” for years, and this trend of environmental responsibility shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, the green movement is steadily picking up steam. As far as trends go, this is one that touches many business sectors and industries, including facilities management (FM). The U.S. Green Building Council reports annually on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects, and the numbers don’t lie: LEED certifications jumped from 296 in 2006 to just over 67,000 in 2018.
While engineering a sustainable building from the ground up is one surefire way to achieve your green goals, you don’t have to build a facility from scratch or complete a large-scale renovation in order to reduce your carbon footprint, conserve water or become more energy efficient. And you don’t need to break the bank, either—evidence shows that sustainable facilities can help grow, not diminish, their business’s bottom line.
Everyone from the Facilities Manager to the C-suite executive has a role to play in making their company leaner, greener and more sustainable. Here are a few steps facilities managers can take to become champions of environmental stewardship and elevate your position in the organization.
Start with Education
Before facilities managers can begin implementing environmentally-focused solutions, they must first understand the basic principles of sustainable facilities management (SFM). Several entities, such as the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), offer certified training programs that cover everything from overarching strategies and alignment, to the day-to-day management and operation of sustainable facilities. Programs of this nature provide knowledge that facilities managers can use to educate other staff members, laying the groundwork for more sustainable business practices across the organization.
Think Proactively, Not Reactively
Preventive maintenance, which is the practice of routinely inspecting, servicing and/or replacing parts or entire assets, is a sustainable practice with many benefits. Regular maintenance will ensure each system and piece of equipment in your facility is running as efficiently as possible. It’s also a big money saver—by tracking trends, risk factors and energy consumption over time, you can plan for the future and identify assets that require the most energy and figure out strategies for reducing energy usage.
One way to think proactively and sustainably is to prepare for seasonal changes in advance. HVAC equipment, for instance, works twice as hard in the heat of the summer and is therefore more prone to breakdowns. By being proactive and prioritizing HVAC maintenance projects before the summer heat strikes, you can stick to your FM budget and avoid costly repairs. This approach can lengthen the life cycle of assets like HVAC equipment, too.
Use Environmentally Friendly Products and Materials
Whether you’re choosing cleaning supplies or installing new carpets in your facility, strive to use products and materials that are safe for the health of the environment and building occupants alike. For example, instead of using conventional cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals, seek less toxic alternatives that are biodegradable, or that meet the EPA’s Safer Choice standards. When selecting carpeting, paint or other interior finishes, opt for those that release the least amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air to help reduce hazardous pollution and improve air quality.
Environmental responsibility should be an important consideration for all facilities managers who wish to create value for their company. Even the simplest sustainable practices can make a difference in the end. While enacting SFM measures may appear costly and labor-intensive on the surface, with a scalable plan and the right resources to support that plan, your organization can be both environmentally responsible and economically profitable.
To make this goal even more achievable, consider working with a strategic partner who can help manage the tactical elements of tasks such as equipment maintenance and overall program budgets. By taking the administrative burden off your FM team, an advisor can be instrumental in helping facilities managers focus on strategies that will transform their FM programs, and their entire organizations.