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Net zero continues to drive sustainable initiatives

14 July 2020

When this feature was included in the PFM 2020 list last year, a majority of people had never heard of Covid-19 or coronavirus and there were no indications that the year ahead would be dominated by the global pandemic and efforts to reduce its spread and impact.

As this issue of PFM went to press, the UK was seeing ever lower numbers of infections and deaths recorded and the focus was increasingly turning to the task of reopening facilities that were safe to work in and visit.

Despite the dramatic impact the virus and lockdown has had on daily life, there have been comments on both the reduced levels of carbon emissions seen in countries where business activities and travel has been dramatically reduced and also on how economies can recover through a greater focus on sustainability.

Responding to the PFM question in the light of recent developments, Inspired Energy director: sustainable & renewable energy Claire Markham said: “As businesses start to get back to work, it is likely that offices and workplaces will look and feel very different to pre-pandemic.

“One of the challenges for FMs will be to ensure their buildings are still operating at optimum efficiency, even if they are being used differently. With this will come a greater focus on sustainability – an issue that was gaining momentum before the pandemic, and is set to come to the fore again as businesses get back to their ‘new normal’.

“With a significant number of businesses now lobbying government to ensure the UK’s economic recovery goes hand-in-hand with the target to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050, adopting a more sustainable approach to business can help build greater resiliency in the longer term,” Ms Markham continues.

“Importantly, this is relevant for both the business itself and its wider supply chain – it’s counter-productive if an organisation has strong carbon reduction targets that are not reflected by the companies it works with.

“Pre-pandemic, the requirement for an FM firm to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability was becoming increasingly common in procurement contracts.

"Post-pandemic, we believe this will continue, particularly as more businesses set themselves ambitious carbon reduction targets.

“They will want to work alongside companies that meet their own sustainability aims, and the contract requirements will reflect this. FM firms can plan their net zero journeys by better managing their own energy consumption and procurement – whether that’s implementing energy efficiency measures, procuring their energy through a green supplier, or investing in technologies such as onsite renewable generation or electrical vehicles (EVs),” says Ms Markham.

Meeting the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will continue to be a major driver in the inclusion of sustainability clauses within contracts, says TÜV SÜD environmental engineer Beverly Quinn.

“The push towards a ‘net zero carbon’ future is at the forefront of the construction industry and being queried by our clients daily, as are ‘in use’ energy and carbon.

"Most non-domestic buildings that have achieved BREEAM certification over the past nine years will typically be subject to post occupancy monitoring for up to three years.”

The FM contract must cover various sustainability related items, such as water and energy consumption, and collecting data on occupant satisfaction.

There are, however, no mandatory targets that the FM contract must meet, Ms Quinn continues.

“It is now being recognised, that in order to move towards a more sustainable and low carbon future, energy and carbon targets must be in place. These targets must not only be accounted for within building design but must be monitored and achieved over the building’s lifetime.

“Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has stepped up in the year 2020 and introduced admirable ‘in use’ energy targets for all new school buildings. In order to receive 100% funding, the building owner must be able to demonstrate that energy usage does not exceeded 83kWh/m2/pa, with the target being 6 kWh/m2/pa.”

Ms Quinn further states that ‘in use’ energy predictions must be made during the design phases. However, it is the building owner’s responsibility to monitor and report in operation and this is where we will see a big change to services contracts.

“SFT’s ‘in use’ energy target will change services contracts drastically for school buildings in Scotland going forward. We believe that the rest of the industry within the UK will soon follow suit,” Ms Quinn concludes.

It seems that an increased focus on sustainability is likely to be result in a growing number of contracts seeing these clauses included in the future, driven by the need to meet net zero carbon targets and further supported by concern over climate change.

There have been many calls for a major shift in the way facilities of all types are run, particularly regarding their carbon footprint, and this appears likely to drive yet more focus on sustainability for the FM sector.

This can be seen to be influencing a number of initiatives within the industry, including the PFM Partnership Awards, which has included the Partners in Sustainability category this year.

It was developed as a result of discussions with the independent panel of judges, the majority of whom are FMs, having noticed how their employers and clients were turning their attention to this topic.

Sustainability was also a significant factor when the judges unanimously awarded the Overall Winner trophy to the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in the PFM Partnership Awards 2019 event, in recognition of its exemplary efforts to reduce its energy consumption and carbon emissions throughout its estate.

The judges were particularly impressed to hear that the efforts of the NLS had been recognised by the Scottish government and is continuing to be used as a model to drive further efficiencies throughout the public estate in Scotland.

Whether the sustainability message will be lost in the drive to regain as much of the lost economic ground as possible, following the Covid-19 lockdown, remains to be seen.

Although reduced levels of travel seem likely to continue, many businesses will be desperate to see their revenue streams improve and may well find that any other aspects fade into the background.

However, the use of technology has been seen by many companies and individuals to have allowed them to continue to operate effectively, despite the fact that all team members are working remotely.

These lessons should be used to drive more use of systems that deliver increased efficiency in all areas, which will see sustainability continue and no doubt emerge as an even stronger factor within all areas of FM in the future.

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