Moving Toward Sustainable Facility Management

6 Sep 2022

Sustainability has grown to be a lot more than a buzzword – it’s a necessity and it’s here to stay, with the US green building materials market forecast to reach more than $670 billion by 2030. With businesses, organizations, and individuals alike looking for ways to "go green," many are also searching for ways to pursue building a culture of sustainability, as well as switching to sustainable facility management. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do this, and we will discuss them in this article.

Read on to find out more.

What Is Sustainable Facility Management?

Sustainable facility management can be defined as the sum of practices and processes a facility manager implements in order to make the facility more sustainable. This can include anything from using energy-efficient lighting to recycling and composting programs.

Ultimately, the goal of sustainable facility management is to reduce the negative impact that the facility has on the environment. This not only benefits the planet but can also help reduce operating costs, which is a major bonus for any business or organization.

What Makes a Facility Sustainable?

Although there is no cookie cutter recipe on what makes a facility sustainable, there are some characteristics very common among sustainable facilities. Some of the more widespread ones include:

  • Using of energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs
  • Using of solar panels to generate renewable energy
  • Recycling and composting programs
  • Using of environmentally friendly cleaning products
  • Implementation of water conservation measures, such as low-flow fixtures
  • Use of green building materials

While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common things you will see in a sustainable facility. At the end of the day, every step made towards sustainability helps -- so even if you can't implement everything sustainability entails, it's still helpful.

woman working on computer at her desk

Why Should You Move Toward Sustainable Facility Management?

OK, so we know what sustainable facility management is and some of the things that make a facility sustainable. But why should you bother making the switch?

Simply put, it's important to move towards sustainable facility management because it benefits both the environment and your bottom line. Here are some of the most popular reasons businesses and organizations choose to implement sustainable practices:

It Helps With Talent Retention and Attraction

Gen Z and Millennials, who make up the majority of the workforce, are more socially and environmentally conscious than any other generation before them. In fact, a study from 2019 showed that 10% of workers would take a pay cut to work for a sustainable and ethical company.

This is not to say that you should cut your employees' pay for the sake of sustainability. It does, however, show that if you want to attract top-tier talent, it's important to show that your business or organization is making an effort to be sustainable.

It Decreases Your Organization’s Environmental Footprint

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The more sustainable your facility is, the less of a negative impact it will have on the environment.

It's important to note that sustainability goes beyond just recycling and composting. It also includes things like using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, which use less power and generate fewer emissions. It might seem that you won’t save much by doing this, but, for example, Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) can use up to 66% less energy than normal lightbulbs (which means you will save $45 over the life of the lightbulb.) 

It Has a Positive Impact on Your Community

When you make an effort to be sustainable, it doesn't just benefit the environment -- it can also have a positive effect on your local community.

For example, if you implement energy-efficient lighting, that means your business or organization is using less power. That power has to come from somewhere, and in most cases, it comes from the local power grid.

So, by using less power, you're not only reducing your carbon footprint, but you're also helping to ease the strain on the local power grid. This can have a positive ripple effect on the community as a whole.

Furthermore, as a business, it's your responsibility to set an example in the community. If more businesses take the sustainability route, more employees will go home and make similar choices. Little by little, entire communities can be changed this way.

It Boosts Productivity

This one might come as a surprise, but sustainable facilities are often more productive than their traditional counterparts.

There are a few reasons for this. First of all, when you have sustainability measures in place, such as recycling and composting programs, it takes employees less time to dispose of waste properly. This leaves them with more time to focus on their work.

In addition, sustainable facilities are often more comfortable than traditional ones. This is because they focus on things like air quality and temperature control. When employees are comfortable, they're more productive -- that's a simple equation nobody can debate.

It Generates Savings

Last but not least, sustainable facility management can also help save you money. This is because sustainable practices often lead to lower energy and water bills. For example, things like solar panels and low-flow fixtures can help reduce your utility costs significantly.

In addition, sustainable facilities often have better building envelope, which means they're better insulated. This leads to lower heating and cooling costs.

All of these savings can add up over time, and eventually, they can help offset the cost of implementing sustainability measures in the first place. For instance, energy-efficient equipment can save you up to 75% in electricity use, which can have a significant impact on both your budget and your carbon footprint. 

woman working in a sustainable environment

Common Challenges of Implementing Sustainable Facility Management

Sustainable facility management is definitely beneficial, but it's not always a walk in the park. If you decide to shift towards a sustainable facility, you should also be aware of the challenges that come with it.

Some examples of such challenges can include:

The Cost of Sustainable Facility Management

Implementing sustainable measures can be expensive, and it might not always be possible to get financial support from upper management.

This is why it's important to do your research and find measures that offer a good return on investment. For example, solar panels might be a bit expensive to install, but they can eventually generate enough savings to pay for themselves.

Lack of Employee Engagement

Another potential challenge is employee engagement. Not all employees will be on board with the idea of sustainability, and some might even see it as a hassle or a disruption.

This is why it's important to educate employees on the benefits of sustainability and get them involved in the process. For example, you can create recycling or composting programs and ask employees to participate.

You can also make sustainability a part of your company culture by doing things like hosting green team-building exercises or offering sustainability-themed rewards.

Lack of Industry Support

In some cases, you might not be able to find sustainable alternatives for the products or services you need. For example, if you're looking for sustainable office furniture, you might have a hard time finding it.

This is why it's important to do your research and find companies that share your commitment to sustainability.

Additionally, you can also put pressure on the companies you work with to make more sustainable choices. For example, if you're looking for a new office furniture supplier, you can reach out to companies that sell sustainable furniture and let them know that you're interested in their products.

Sustainability isn't always easy. However, if you take the right steps, you can eventually create a sustainable facility that will benefit both your business and the environment.

team discussing a problem

How to Manage Your Office Facilities in a Sustainable Way

If you want to move towards sustainable facility management, there are a few things you can do.

Conduct Sustainability Analytics

The first step is to conduct sustainability analytics. This means taking a look at your energy use, water use, waste management, and transportation.

You can use this information to identify areas where you can improve. For example, you might find that your office is using a lot of energy, so you can look into ways to reduce energy consumption. Likewise, you might find that your employees travel long distances to work and that by adopting a hybrid work model, you can help them reduce their carbon emissions.

Update Assets to Boost Energy Efficiency

After you've identified areas for improvement, the next step is to take action. One way to do this is by updating your assets to boost energy efficiency.

For example, you can install energy-efficient lighting or update your HVAC system to a more energy-efficient model. You can also encourage employees to use energy-saving devices, like power strips.

Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies

Another way to make your facility more sustainable is by using eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

There are plenty of eco-friendly options on the market, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding ones that work for your business. For example, you can use recycled paper towels, eco-friendly cleaners, and natural disinfectants.

Perform Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is also important for sustainable facility management. This means taking care of your assets and making sure they're in good condition.

For example, you can create a maintenance schedule for your HVAC system and make sure it's serviced on a regular basis. You can also create a recycling program for your office, so you can recycle items like printer cartridges and toner.

Implement Recycling Practices

Recycling is another important part of sustainable facility management.

There are a few things you can do to make recycling easier in your organization. For example, you can install recycling bins and make sure they're clearly labeled. You can also educate employees on what can be recycled and how to properly recycle items.

Employ Green-Focused Contractors

When you're ready to make upgrades or improvements to your facility, it's important to employ green-focused contractors.

These contractors are focused on sustainability and will help you find ways to make your facility more energy-efficient and eco-friendly.

Final Thoughts

Sustainable facility management is a journey, not a destination. However, if you take the right steps, you can eventually create a sustainable facility that will benefit both your business and the environment. 

So, don't wait – start conducting sustainability analytics today and see where you can make improvements in your facility. Soon, you'll be on your way to a greener, healthier, and more sustainable future! 

Topics: Facility management, Culture of Sustainability

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