The world is growing more conscious of sustainability, and as a result, companies are looking for ways to lower energy consumption and spend less on electricity, natural gas, and water.
That said, improving the sustainability of your building and facilities can feel overwhelming.
From implementing new policies to educating employees on the importance of sustainability and convincing executives to budget for sustainability initiatives, the challenges are endless. The good news is, with a facility sustainability policy in place, your efforts can be a success.
This guide will help you understand the importance and benefits of facilities management sustainability, the impact your team can have on sustainability, and how to get started with a sustainability strategy.
What is facilities management sustainability?
Simply put, facilities management (FM) sustainability is an organization’s process of changing how its physical environment operates to minimize its harmful impact on the environment and people.
This process considers three areas—the environment, people, and the economy. After finding out how your facilities affect all three, you can develop sustainable FM practices that have a positive influence.
These practices can include: reducing electricity and water usage, implementing waste management best practices, and adopting green cleaning. These procedures will keep your buildings and facilities comfortable, safe, and properly functioning.
Why is sustainable facilities management important?
Sustainable facility management plays a significant role in supporting a company’s sustainability agenda.
It helps create a good brand image for your company, reduce energy consumption costs, promote green procurement, and care for the planet and its people (including your employees).
According to a 2021 consumer intelligence survey report by PWC, 76% of consumers are likely to discontinue buying from a brand that doesn’t practice sustainability. From the same report, 84% of employees prefer to work for a company that cares for the environment.
All that to say: incorporating facility sustainability practices into your business operations can significantly benefit your company.
What are the benefits of focusing on facilities management sustainability?
Sustainable facility management creates a long-lasting system focused on resource and energy efficiency while reducing operational costs.
The following are some benefits you can expect when adopting sustainable practices in your daily facilities management operations.
Decrease in the environmental carbon footprint
The most apparent benefit of sustainable facility management is reducing the organization’s environmental footprint. Sustainable initiatives can help lower your building’s carbon emissions from the start of construction through its entire life cycle.
Research from the World Economic Forum shows buildings consume 40% of global energy and contribute 33% of greenhouse gas emissions.
But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 30% of that energy is lost.
A facility management sustainability policy looks at all this energy waste and puts measures in place for energy reduction. Some actions include:
- Performing an energy audit
- Installing LED lighting, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Refurbishing buildings and adopting green building practices
- Upgrading old HVAC systems
- Running equipment/assets only when necessary
- Increasing the temperature of facilities in the summer by a couple of degrees
- Implementing facility management software with utility bill and data tracking capabilities like FMX that can monitor and record utility bills, help identify energy waste and realize cost savings, and show your success to stakeholders
A conducive working environment
A sustainably managed building has high air quality, security, and water standards. These factors ensure high employee comfort leading to increased productivity and benefits for your business.
A 2018 report by Stok on the financial case for high-performance buildings shows that
Also, the research estimated a profit of $3,395 per employee.
Environmental gains end up being financial gains for your business.
Green buildings typically decrease operational costs by 10% in the first year. Generally, renewable energy resources used for green buildings are more affordable than fossil fuels, which allows your team to pay back upfront costs quickly. In addition, green buildings are valued higher than traditional ones, making for an excellent return on investment.
Eco-friendly facilities management practices lead to reduced waste output and water usage.
Your maintenance team can significantly reduce its environmental impact by properly maintaining your facilities and using resources only as needed. In addition, your team can implement waste reduction strategies such as composting, recycling, and reusing to reduce unnecessary waste.
Enhanced brand reputation
Sustainability is key to improving your organization’s brand image. According to a 2021 survey by Simon-Kucher & Partners, 50% of global consumers consider sustainability a factor in their purchasing decision.
Some consumers consider sustainability to be a corporate social responsibility and don’t mind paying more money as long they’re buying from a sustainable brand. And sustainability starts with your facilities.
How can a facilities management team affect sustainability efforts?
Your facilities management team has the power to make a significant impact on your sustainability efforts. Let’s take a look at 5 ways you can make an impact.
1. Adopt green cleaning
Keeping facilities clean is one of your facilities management team’s core responsibilities.
In addition to the team following facilities management best practices, they can also introduce eco-friendly practices in the cleaning process by adopting green cleaning methods and products.
Using traditional cleaning chemicals can pose a health risk. The proper selection and use of green cleaning products will protect your employees and the environment.
Here are some guidelines to help your team create an effective green cleaning program:
- Buy sustainable cleaning products and check their certifications from organizations such as Green Seal
- Set measurable goals, for example, having 40% of cleaning products made from recycled materials
- Review your current cleaning methods and see where you can improve
Lastly, continue improving and coming up with new green cleaning ideas.
2. Perform a facilities management sustainability analysis
You and your team can audit the facility’s performance by looking at utility bills and energy consumption. From here, you can develop sustainability strategies for the future.
While conducting the audit with your team, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there specific equipment that’s operating inefficiently?
- How often does energy consumption exceed typical consumption?
- Are there anomalies in your utility bills?
- What has been your environmental impact, and how can you reduce it?
- Are your suppliers committed to sustainability?
With this information, you and your team can create a plan to reduce your environmental impact and make your facilities greener.
3. Conduct preventive maintenance
Preventive maintenance helps keep your equipment functioning well. An older piece of equipment that isn’t performing optimally can lead to greater energy consumption, higher maintenance costs, and unwanted byproducts.
Your team’s commitment to regular maintenance can keep the equipment energy usage down in the long run. This routine upkeep can help extend the lifespan of your equipment as well.
4. Use sustainable materials and resources
As a facility manager, you have a huge say in who provides you with supplies and materials.
As the team that consumes most of your company’s parts inventory and supplies, you can make a significant impact by partnering with sustainable vendors and choosing sustainable supplies and resources.
5. Update assets in the building
Older buildings weren’t designed with the natural environment in mind. Most companies only started caring about their carbon footprint impact recently.
Your team can update your building and assets by:
- Introducing motion sensor lights and replacing air conditioning units
- Adopting the use of renewable energy sources, like solar
- Replacing legacy boilers, windows, and HVAC units for quick energy savings
- Installing new cool roofing and other new technology
- Adapting facilities to a more sustainable design and infrastructure
If your business uses additional outdated equipment, such as freezers, updating or replacing those assets can also help create sustainable facilities.
How does a company get started?
Getting started with sustainable strategies can seem daunting because it involves your entire departments’ cooperation. But, it’s not impossible.
To get started, follow these steps:
1. Build a green team
The size of your team will depend on the size of your business. The goal here is to create an experienced team that is passionate about sustainability.
This will ensure the long-term success of your sustainability programs.
2. Assess your business and identify issues
With your team in place, determine your facilities’ global and local impact on the environment and community. Talk to your employees, vendors, and stakeholders, and do your research to know their effect.
After assessing your business, identify your sustainability focus areas. It’s important to go narrow with your scope of work here. Setting smaller, achievable goals for you and your team will set you up for greater success and create a positive environment around sustainability.
For example, for the first year, you may decide to only concentrate on ways your business can reduce its negative environmental impact regarding water waste. After achieving this goal, you can move on to another aspect of your business.
3. Set facilities management sustainability goals
After assessing your business, set SMART goals to help your business achieve sustainable facilities management.
SMART goals take into consideration five different elements. To make a goal SMART, it must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Learn more about setting SMART facilities management goals for your team.
4. Embrace accountability and reporting
Appoint a member of your team to track and report the performance in real time. This person should ensure the information and data is easily accessible, easy to understand, and available all the time.
A consistent review of data and reports will help you track your progress. It will also motivate your executives to add more resources to sustainability projects.
What are the challenges associated with facilities management sustainability?
The move to a more sustainable workplace can pose some challenges. The top two you might experience as a facilities manager are:
Resistance to change
It’s hard to change people’s habits. Different studies have shown that most executives struggle to understand the value benefit of sustainability. And this means without their support, you won’t have the resources to manage your sustainable facility management journey.
To overcome this challenge, train and educate your executives and employees on the benefits of sustainability.
Difficulty adopting new technology
Technology is essential to improving the sustainability of workplaces. You want technology that can provide meaningful, holistic, and timely insights into the health performance of your building.
Facilities management software is an ideal place to start. The software can track utility consumption and help your team manage sustainability projects and tasks.
Though great in the long run, adopting new technology brings a natural dip in productivity—a J curve. This change is normal; after that dip in productivity, you’ll start experiencing a rise in productivity.
Resources to help you get started
Facility sustainability can seem difficult if you don’t have enough knowledge on the topic. This blog post will help you start your journey. We’ve also compiled a list of additional resources and sites to help you.