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EXCLUSIVE Green strategies to help FMs

13 January 2014

Several experts talk about environmentally friendly or green strategies that can help facilities managers overcome the immense challenges they face with respect to being sustainable in the workplace.

Being seen as 'green' is as important as ever for many companies that want their clients, partners and shareholders to know that they're doing everything possible to be sustainable. The burden for this requirement usually falls on FMs and estate directors but there are many ways FMs can overcome these challenges.

``FMs often find themselves managing environmental conditions in buildings where usage and occupancy have changed considerably since the building was designed,'' says Lars Fabricius, MD of SAV Systems. ``In parallel, they may be required to contribute to their organisation's sustainability performance by reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.''

Fabricius says in these circumstances a useful approach is to introduce local control of key comfort parameters, making the services more responsive to actual conditions in each part of the building so that energy is only used where it is needed.

A good example of this, according to Fabricius, is ventilation and the need to maintain good indoor air quality. Some ventilation systems may not have the capacity to provide sufficient ventilation as staff densities and heat output from office machinery increase, while opening windows wastes heat, allows ingress of noise and pollution and poses a security risk. In other situations spaces may be over-ventilated when they're not fully occupied - a situation found in spaces as diverse as offices with hot-desking, dealer rooms operating 24/7 and classrooms.

``In all these scenarios the introduction of local, low-noise mechanical ventilation units with heat recovery, mounted in each individual space - with a direct connection to the outside through a wall or ceiling - may provide the answer. Easily retrofitted, they're able to restore adequate ventilation in under-ventilated spaces while recovering more than 80% of the heat from stale air before it is exhausted from the building. They can also be configured to respond to occupancy indicators such as carbon dioxide levels or relative humidity to provide demand controlled ventilation in spaces with variable occupancy.''

Paul Worland, director of business development at EMCOR, says for FMs it can be a challenge to run a building smoothly, safely and efficiently while contributing to their company's sustainability objectives. In EMCOR's experience, he says, implementing a series of small and relatively simple changes in conjunction with wider strategic modifications can be particularly effective in reducing energy consumption and expenditure, lowering water use and minimising waste.

``The first step is to use only the facilities that are required. The greatest savings can be made by reducing the volume of space occupied, so space planning and zonal office space that can flex according to demands are essential. As the Carbon Trust has highlighted, 70% of cost-effective energy and emissions reductions in existing non-domestic buildings can be achieved by fairly straightforward heating and cooling measures.

``Therefore, a FM needs to assess the building's energy consumption patterns, and ensure a time and cost efficient service - for example, by installing programmable thermostats and optimising start times in line with the building's operational pattern.''

A FM can also look at managing facilities teams more effectively, such as scheduling cleaning rotas for daylight hours so lighting can be turned off earlier, and training security personnel to shut down unused equipment at night. ``An efficient waste strategy is also important in facilitating a more sustainable building,'' says Worland. ``Creating a target-driven waste policy and increasing recycling opportunities can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill by as much as 60%.''

Key to the success of many sustainable FM strategies, however, is the engagement of the building users, says Worland. ``Education days, energy and waste champions and shared access to energy consumption figures can encourage staff to support sustainability-focused activities and help generate continual improvements.''

Aneysha Minocha, associate director of energy services at GSH, says that against the backdrop of the global economic slowdown there's a fine balance that needs to be achieved between maximising the life of existing assets and upgrading to energy efficiency equipment while ensuring budgetary compliance, delivering business continuity and sustainability.

``One way to address would be to sweat the assets and avoiding upgrades while ensuring the highest possible asset efficiency and reliability. The ability to monitor and promptly affect change is critical to the success of this energy-led diagnostic approach which optimises the energy efficiency and lifecycle of key assets. This isn't to be confused with reduced maintenance regimes which, if simply implemented, could impact business continuity.''

Minocha says another approach to walk the tightrope of budgetary constraints is by capitalising on synergies that exist between various budgets such as capital replacement, energy and compliance budgets.

``Another challenge FMs face is encapsulated in the question: 'Shouldn't my FM provider be delivering this already?' While it may make perfect sense on the one hand that the FM provider should be delivering energy savings already - this is only feasible to a certain level and applicable to a limited number of activities. The traditional FM specification is usually task-orientated and input-based. By comparison, an energy-led FM solution needs to be output-based and target-driven.''

These, says Minocha, are two diametrically opposed approaches that in the normal realm of FM contracting requires re-considering the entire FM proposition as an energy- or sustainability-led solution across all activities. The best time to approach this is either when renegotiating contracts with FM partners or when considering an outsourcing proposition, she says.

Bill Pollard, deputy MD of Incentive FM, says most FMs are facing an increasingly aged property estate with shrinking tactical budgets. Adopting a sustainability strategy that addresses the core environmental and social areas can bring substantial economic benefits, he says. ``A starting point can be a sustainability audit that takes the organisational temperature - it's appetite to act - and puts a stake in the ground with respect to current metrics for utilities, material and resources consumption, waste, indoor environmental quality and site characteristics that can be used as comparators.''

Pollard says this will likely bring 'a large number of potential areas' for improvement that need to be prioritised towards the organisation's strategic goal. ``Examples include a green travel plan, encouraging flexible or home working and the use of web conferring and car sharing, energy reduction through improved building system controls, a migration to energy efficient lighting and employee environmental awareness programmes. These will all contribute to the economic, social and environmental bottom line.''

Pollard mentions resources to help FMs get started such as the Sustainability in FM Research project is a partnership between BIFM and the University of Reading under a part-programme funded scheme, and IFMA's how-to-guides. ``You might just find doing the right thing sustainably is inevitable!'' he adds.

Jackie Buckwell, environment manager at Office Depot, says corporate attitudes towards sustainability have evolved. ``They were once focused on ensuring legislation was complied with in order to meet minimum requirements. However this has now progressed to a point where decision-makers strive to go beyond tick-box exercises and demonstrate savings.''

Sustainability in its broadest sense can cover a whole of issues, however, so it is important that a business's overall environmental performance is linked to specific outputs such as waste generation, materials use, energy and water consumption and transportation, says Buckwell. She adds that companies can measure their performance by using specialist technologies that monitor energy use precisely, such as automated meter readings that track consumption levels. This kind of approach helps setting clear goals to monitor performance.

``In order to succeed a focus on implementing sustainable practices has to be recognised and endorsed at board level to ensure decisions have the full backing of senior management. However, FMs should also ensure they have open relationships with key individuals to ensure supplies or building management related sustainability needs are met without being side-lined. For this you need clear and persuasive communication with regular updates on sharing of best practice.''

On a more tactical level, Buckwell says there are several sustainability related tips for FMs. ``FMs should ensure suppliers are able to offer 'sustainable' alternative for appropriate products such as general office supplies,'' she says. ``Also ensure separate orders from the same supplier are combined to cut back on the deliveries made. In addition, suggest incentivised schemes for staff and management that reward departmental savings - whether these relate to supplies or behaviour.''

Buckwell adds that suppliers should be challenged to come up with innovative suggestions relating to providing goods and services more sustainably, whether this relates to products or deliveries or reporting. Finally, she says, ensure you have a thorough, accurate measurement process in place to gauge your success.

Stuart Rivers of Stuart Rivers Associates says green strategies that evolve and are sustainable should feature enhanced capital allowances (ECA) - a key mechanism by which businesses can claim significant tax savings and enhance their environmental credentials. ``ECAs provide an incentive for businesses to invest in energy and water efficient technologies that qualify for tax relief - 100% in the year of expenditure. Air conditioning units, boilers, heat pumps, pipework insulation, refrigeration equipment, toilets and taps are all examples of capital expenditure which attract 100% tax relief.''

To be sure of benefitting from ECAs, the key is to plan and plan early, particularly if you're involved in a new build, says Rivers. Design teams need to factor in qualifying energy and water efficient technologies that are ECA compliant from the beginning of the planning process. Not only will this deliver the biggest tax saving advantages, he says, it will also result in lower energy bills for those businesses that invest in ECA plant and fixture and fittings.

``Those involved in existing buildings and facilities can also benefit from ECAs, again by planning ahead. Moves to replace or upgrade energy and water systems should consider the specific technologies that qualify for tax relief. Therefore it's wise to ensure suppliers choose products from the government's list of approved technologies and that they provide the necessary documentation to identify qualifying expenditure and support any subsequent ECA claim.''

Ultimately, ECAs are a cash flow benefit for businesses and organisations that are tasked with meeting carbon reduction targets and sustainable development requirements.

Phil Oram, director of Premier Sustain Moves says FMs should embrace the challenge owing to 'growing corporate and public support and diminishing natural resources'. Doing so, as many enlightened organisations are now demonstrating, can deliver cost savings, improve brand perception and support staff retention and satisfaction.

``Embracing the challenge doesn't have to create more work if you partner with organisations that have developed these sustainable offerings. Making the right supplier choices can ensure sustainability is integral to your operations without becoming another onerous responsibility.''

The waste hierarchy is a useful tool to ensure waste produced is managed sustainably with options for prevention, minimisation and reuse considered prior to simply looking at recycling and recovery. For example, says Oram, when reviewing how office furniture is managed, before seeking options to recycle redundant furniture, FMs can seek solutions that support reuse. ``Options such as office chair refurbishment, desk remodelling, donation or resale should be considered as a priority as they reduce expenditure and deliver better environmental and social outcomes.''

According to WRAP's 2011 report 'Office Furniture: The Benefits of Reuse' only 14% of office furniture is reused, meaning about 1.2 million desks and 1.8 million chairs are sent for recycling and landfill each year, says Oram.

``FMs are uniquely placed to help identify sustainable options for their workplace, whether looking at energy use, purchase of consumables or defining requirements of support services. There are several sources of support available to help you embrace the sustainability challenge. WRAP, in particular, has been supporting the FM sector for some time with alternative business models for FM procurement that supports sustainability.''

Peter Stubbs, director of HSE - support services for 14forty says FMs are key environmental decision-makers and are perfectly placed to implement the strategies and procedures to improve the sustainability of a business without compromising its profitability. As an asset manager and services leader who engages with the workforce, the FM is empowered to effect changes to procedures and behaviours quickly and effectively, adds Stubbs.

He lists several sustainable strategies including vetting a supplier's sustainability credentials to ensure the use of products and services that incorporate lifecycle and corporate responsibility corporations, and waste management measures to minimise the amount of waste sent to landfill in accordance with current legislation and the associated rising costs of disposal.

He also mentions the importance of behavioural change. ``Reducing energy consumption through behavioural change and investment in innovative low-energy technology. This change in energy use and management is increasingly incentivised across industry by the continuous rise in energy prices and the government's vision of a low carbon economy.''

Then there are green employee travel plans such as lift sharing to reduce fuel emissions and bio-diversity protection to reduce loss of wildlife including non-disruptive planning of building and grounds work.

``It is increasingly widely accepted that the world's finite resources need to be carefully managed in a 'circular economy' model that simultaneously brings economic benefits. Resources such as the WRAP and government agencies are now available to provide sustainability guidance across a range of technical functions.''

Such advice, says Stubbs, combined with collaboration between FMs, clients, supply chain and industry partners can equip FMs with the coherent strategies needed to tackle today's sustainability challenges.

Elaine Preston, head of sustainability for support services at Interserve, says that in this day and age, the business case for sustainability is clear, with population growth, increasing demand on natural resources and escalating costs, companies realise addressing sustainability is crucial for long-term success.

''In particular, the green agenda has evolved in recent years; it is no longer just about turning off lights and using eco-friendly products, but is part of the wider sustainability agenda. This is about an organisation becoming a responsible operator and addressing the social, economic and environmental aspects of how it conducts business.''

Preston says that as a supplier of FM services, it's important to be able to add sustainability strategies wherever possible as part of a client's contract and bringing added value. ''It is about enhancing a customer's estate with sustainability as a springboard on which to accomplish better outcomes. But how can this be achieved? Increasingly, closed loop operations are being brought into practice for instance. Take the example of treating waste as a resource, ie waste cooking oil being collected by the catering suppliers, converted and then re-used as fuel for the catering vans.''

Another area, says Preston, is increased engagement with the supply chain. ''As a responsible operator, working with local SMEs can have a massive impact on a company's sustainability performance. Not only can it reduce carbon emissions throughout the supply chain, it can also ensure local workforces and products are used.

''Critical areas for increasing sustainability such as supporting communities, carbon measurement and resource conservation programmes need to be targeted over the coming years to ensure sustainable outcomes for the environment, the economy and society.''

One of the challenges facing FMs when it comes to sustainability, says Chris Reilly, director of GI Managed Services, is how to permanently reduce the running costs and carbon footprints of heating and cooling buildings. As heating and cooling costs are significant, many businesses are now installing various forms of renewable heating and cooling, either to completely replace conventional systems or to run alongside them.

''They can choose from a wide range - biomass, solar photovoltaic and thermal, air source heat pumps, ground source energy systems, or combined heat and power, or combinations of them. However, Reilly says, the ongoing challenge for FMs begins after the arrival of the renewable system: how do they make sure that the promised savings are really being delivered? And will continue to be delivered? Are they certain that the carbon footprint will remain low and, if it doesn't, how will they find out?

``For example, ground source energy systems, which exploit heat stored underground, have been proven to far outstrip conventional central heating, being on average four times as efficient. For cooling, they're up to six times as efficient as electric chillers. However, they have to be correctly sized, installed, commissioned and run. Remote monitoring and control is the answer: a properly designed, programmable logic control system will read performance data in real time and take intelligent decisions on how to optimise the running of a system.''

A welter of data - and those all-important KPIs - can be gathered, but on its own that isn't enough, says Reilly. ''It will only be as good as the team who designed the system and the engineers behind the monitoring screens. It is vitally important a highly-skilled resource is employed to optimise results.''

Andy Gallacher, Eaton's product marketing manager - mains lighting, says FMs should do their homework by researching their particular building or situation. ``It will be very different from the last one you researched. Try to be open and balanced, don't be swayed too much by new technology. It has its place. Look at the whole life cost rather than capital and instant savings.''

Gallacher's colleague John Robb, marketing director for mains and emergency lighting, adds: ''That's key - whole life costs often aren't considered. A luminaire has a projected lifetime and it costs to run that luminaire. So you might have a low cost of capital investment but over the life of that fitting, the costs start to mount up. Understand what it's going to cost you to run that luminaire.''


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