With increased industry regulation and public support, sustainability is more of a priority than ever before. As a result, more and more organizations are creating executive and senior management positions to manage their sustainability projects. Some of these position titles include Director of Sustainability, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility, and even Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). This new trend gives facilities managers a unique opportunity to expand the roles of their departments and advance their careers.
These positions were usually created once the organization had already begun pursuing sustainability and energy efficiency improvements, according to a recent study by Kathleen Miller and George Serafeim of Harvard Business School. Facilities managers who make these improvements a priority are likely to be remembered once their organization is ready to create a CSO position. In fact, 86% of CSOs were hired internally, according to another study.
When do organizations create CSO positions?
Most organizations move through a similar process as they advance their sustainability efforts, according to Miller and Serafeim:
- Compliance stage: Many organizations’ first introduction to sustainability comes from needing to comply with industry regulations. Your organization may very well be in this stage right now. In this stage, those responsible for managing sustainability efforts are unlikely to hold a CSO position…at least not yet.
- Efficiency stage: Over time an organization will begin to focus more on how sustainability can improve their business and less on simply complying with industry regulations. These organizations frequently develop an overall sustainability strategy and work to implement it. It is at this stage, that CSO positions are most often introduced.
- Innovation stage: Most organizations move into the innovation stage after their sustainability strategies have been in place for a while. These organizations then begin to approach their sustainability efforts in a more proactive way.
How can you move your organization into the efficiency stage and beyond?
The first step is to get the attention of upper management by improving your energy efficiency, thus lowering your energy costs and improving your sustainability.
Most energy efficiency initiatives take the form of equipment or inventory replacements, for example, replacing a low-efficiency water heater with a high-efficiency one. These initiatives are popular because they are easy to identify and install, and the savings are immediately evident. Equipment/inventory replacements are a great place to start, however, they do cause some problems. For example, their contribution to your overall energy savings is minimal overtime, because it is just as easy to replace a high-efficiency product with a low-efficiency one. Organizations often revert back to their original products over time due to budget cuts.
The best way to permanently improve your energy efficiency and move your organization into the efficiency stage is to focus on load reduction. Basically, you want to decrease how hard systems, such as HVAC, have to work to maintain appropriate operational levels. For example, one way to reduce the load on your heating system is by reducing stack effect, according to author and engineer, Ian Shapiro.
Example: Load reduction by reducing stack effect
Stack effect is the “vertical upward motion of air in a heated building in the winter,” according to Shapiro. In the winter, cold air typically enters a building through lower-level outdoor access points such as doors and windows, loading docks, and mechanical rooms. Once the air is inside, it finds pathways to rise to the top of the building. Some of these pathways include stairwells, chimneys, holes for pipes, elevator/mechanical shafts, etc. The air will then escape through an opening on the upper floor. When this air escapes it will cause more cold air to enter the building, starting the process over. The introduction of cold air into the building causes heating systems to work harder to maintain the set temperature in the building. If you can decrease the number of air pathways and entry points into your building, you’ll decrease the amount of new cold air that enters the building. As a result, you’ll permanently reduce your heating load and increase your energy efficiency.
How to get started
- Identify the pathways: Some of the more obvious ones are unused chases and chimneys and stairwell doors. Shapiro also suggests looking for holes around pipe penetrations, holes into chases for piping and wiring, as well as ductwork. Good places to look for these pathways are below kitchen and bathroom sinks and also around exhaust and supply ventilation grilles.
- Target entry points: You can further reduce stack effect by caulking and weather stripping the entry points into your building. However, it’s important to target the pathways first, as these improvements will reduce the air pressures that cause cold air to enter the building in the first place. Even as caulking and weather stripping wear over time, you’ll still maintain an appropriate load on your heating system.
How FMX can help: A computerized maintenance management system like FMX can help you plan this and other energy efficiency improvements. With FMX, you can create planned maintenance tasks like the ones above and assign them to your staff. You can also measure the success of this project by tracking heating requests from building occupants.
For additional load reduction techniques check out this article by Shapiro.
FMX’s easy-to-use work order software can be valuable in your pursuit of improved sustainability and energy efficiency. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view simple enough for your team and your occupants to use to submit, track, and manage their requests. You can also use FMX to track equipment histories, worker hours, vendor rates, and inventory.