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Seeing the sustainable light

29 July 2016

With sustainability proving to be a hot topic of conversation, we asked members of the FM sector what it meant to them.

Discussion around the subject of sustainability has revealed a number of areas where FMs have different attitudes or understanding of the concept.

It originated in 1987 within the Brundtland Report, which defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

While the majority agree with this statement, there is divided opinion over its delivery, with some stating that their annual FM budget provides no scope for investing in the equipment, software and processes that would improve the sustainability levels of their facilities.

However, every facility will generate waste of various types which requires processing in a number of different and potentially costly ways.

There are numerous reports of companies saving money on landfill charges through using waste to create energy, however, which have also reduced utility bills while raising the environmental credentials of the business concerned.

The above is just one example of the options available to FMs to raise their sustainability levels without incurring extra cost.

Although this may require investment in new equipment, there are many other alternative choices available to reduce or avoid sending waste to landfill or other expensive processing options.

PFM discussed this with our expanding LinkedIn community, with Rob Fiander one of the first to respond and explaining the reality of the situation when he managed a 200-bed hotel in Cape Town, South Africa over a 12-year period.

“Always lots of interest but no action,” says Mr Flanders, and the hotel’s approach was due to the “usual story – too busy, fast moving, quick turnover.

“Every month 10m3 of sustainable products were dumped [including] pallets, other wooden items, broken fixtures, fitting and equipment (FF&E), food and beverage equipment, I guess the rubbish pickers had fun!”

Mr Fiander states that he visited many hotels in the area and explains that while these release “lots of environmental paraphernalia to show how well they are doing” in order to make a good impression with their guests, “in reality it is not the case”.

“I am sure the word sustainability is not fully understood. Recycling is in place, but sustainability on upgrades to rooms and conferencing is not forthcoming as most of the room FF&E is actually imported. It may be different in the UK, but I doubt it,” says Mr Fiander.

A different view is evident from Wolseley UK national facilities and property compliance manager John Page, who saw a “massive opportunity” to improve things with the company when he first started.

He formed a plan and engaged the major stakeholders within the business, with the support of his managing director “who could clearly see the benefits of making sustainable changes to the head office site” in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

“I started with small things – introducing a worm farm and a building management system and once I had some successes under my belt, with demonstrable evidence that sustainability could make a difference on site and save money, too, it became a lot easier to make a case for larger changes,” says Mr Page.

It is important not to disrupt business developments, he continues, but instead look for opportunities to offer advice on including sustainable elements.

Mr Page provides the example of his company’s award-winning data centre, which includes a number of highly effective energy-saving options.

He advises that successful sustainability should include continuous improvement and enthuses about his company’s application of BREEAM in use certification.

This showed that the business case for implementing free cooling for the new data centre was not financially viable at the time of construction, although he further explains that the company will implement this when the time is right.

“Technology is changing facilities management and enabling greater sustainability than ever before. Look at F Gas regulations – we need to work differently and free cooling is one application that would work in buildings,” he says.

“Wolseley UK’s Leamington Spa head office site used to cost £4.2m a year to run. I’ve cut this cost down to £1.3m. That feels really good,” Mr Page concludes.

Oltec FM chief executive officer Olivier Cavaliere says his business aims to operate as sustainably as possible in delivery of FM services to the public and private sectors.

He believes that all FM areas have scope for sustainable practices to be incorporated, but says certain roles “lend themselves more clearly to sustainable working”.

He provides the example of security guards that play an integral part in his company’s introduction of energy-saving and environmental initiatives, which begins when a nominated member of the team undertakes environmental best practice training.

This includes modules on energy efficiencies, waste segregation and water efficiencies, he explains. “Once trained, these eco-guards are responsible for energy and health and safety patrols at customers’ sites, identifying and rectifying areas of bad practice.

They also put in place a programme to ensure the wider security team at each site subsequently all get environmental training,” says Mr Cavaliere.

“Security guards are well placed to fulfil this role as their job involves patrolling an entire site during the course of their shift,” he says.

The increasing use of innovative technology is providing further opportunities for more sustainable practices.

“We have created an innovative app to enable customers to manage their FM services from their phone,” says Mr Cavaliere.

The integrated technology is tailored to specific customer requirements and links with a 24/7 helpdesk. This includes a range of functionality, including GPS tracking, spillage, incident reporting, maps and timetables to assist in customer service roles.

“Through the introduction of the app we’ve enabled our customers to move towards a paperless system, significantly reducing their carbon footprint,” Mr Cavaliere concludes.

Further advice on how to manage the “dreaded theoretical ‘ceiling’” experienced by FMs when attempting to improve sustainability levels is provided by Honeywell Building Solutions Next Gen Services Europe services programme leader Paul Mason.

He says the application of emerging technology has lifted this ceiling in certain areas, enabling “exponential sustainability improvements to be made”.

He agrees with Mr Cavaliere that applications allow people to interact with buildings through smartphones, providing digital security technology as his example.

“This provides highly secure frictionless access control and digital pass management, similar to passing through the security gate when boarding an aircraft, which not only improves security but reduces the need for the manual management of passes and paper or plastic card losses.”

The technology can also combine with HVAC and lighting systems to reduce energy wastage and “realise huge sustainability gains,” says Mr Mason.

“By monitoring the location of building users through their smartphones, intelligent building systems can ensure that the lighting and heating is automatically switched off in areas of the building that aren’t in use.”

This can be further extended to include car parking, with employees checking availability before choosing to drive to work, avoiding wasted journeys and reducing carbon emissions, he states.

“Collecting all of this data into one cohesive analytics platform will also equip facilities managers with the information to make wider business decisions that will further improve sustainable practice,” says Mr Mason.

Additional opportunities for sustainability gains are included in government-appointed Innovate’s report, highlighting how UK commercial buildings may be producing up to 3.8 times more carbon than estimated at their design stage.

SenerTec general manager Gary Stoddart says some buildings emit 10 times higher emissions than calculated by designers.

Poor integration of new technologies has resulted in teams having difficulties with maintenance, controls and metering, he says.

“It’s important that new technologies are correctly installed and specified in the first instance.”

He refers to the “10% for luck” rule often being applied when installing combined heat and power (CHP) technology, which means that units will be oversized and not be used sufficiently to provide low carbon heat and power and return on investment.

“Specifiers should ensure that CHP units are kept as small as possible, resulting in the continuous generation of low cost, low carbon electricity which is produced as a bi-product of meeting base-load heating/hot water requirements.”

Mr Stoddart further states that systems should also be commissioned and maintained correctly, then monitored to ensure they are allowing carbon savings to be realised.

More effective use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is advised by Vivreau managing director Stephen Charles, who says this is not just about charitable work and short-term returns. Businesses which are “properly responsible” can reap long-term rewards and improve profitability, he says.

“For a business seriously wishing to be considered ‘responsible’ it would need to employ long-term sustainable plans which create economic, environmental and social value,” says Mr Charles.

He provides the example of the “great water bottle debate”, which has continued for many years over whether it is best to use plastic or glass bottles to provide drinking water in work environments.

He believes offering reusable glass bottles in meetings instead of disposable glass/plastic options is a “no brainer”.

“Facilities managers play a key role in sustainability, deciding on which equipment is used and how it is sourced. When it comes to water, not only is road transportation creating congestion and pollution, but there is also the issue surrounding glass and plastic packaging waste,” he continues.

Re-using glass bottles “will always be more efficient than recycling” and this can also deliver “dramatic impact” on a company’s carbon footprint.

Mr Charles says that the time wasted in processing deliveries and organising waste should also be considered. In support of his claim, he provides the example of San Francisco in the US, which recently passed a new law banning the use of single-use plastic bottles in the city.

He further states that the mayor of the Canadian city of Montreal is also considering a ban on plastic bottles. This has already been implemented in national parks in the US, he says, including the Grand Canyon.

“There has therefore never been a better time to be proactive and ‘go green’ by introducing a new sustainable hydration solution for the boardroom,” says Mr Charles.

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