Sustainability has been a hot-button topic for businesses this year, and as we move into 2023 it’ll continue to be a pressing issue for companies of all shapes and sizes.
Everyone has a role to play in driving sustainability within their organisation as they plan and implement ESG initiatives to tackle the issues head-on, whether that’s an individual, like facilities managers, or a department…all the way up to the board level.
While there’s a lot that can be done – sustainability is a broad church with many moving parts – the how is going to be the most important area of focus.
Why is there a need for sustainability in CRE?
Commercial real estate (CRE) contributes significantly to carbon emissions – this we categorically know. And it’s not just in the build phase. Across a building’s lifecycle, real estate consumes a lot of energy, produces a lot of waste and takes a plethora of resources to maintain. Oftentimes, the case may be that those resources are not renewable, which only compounds the issue.
Nowadays, there are more and more regulatory requirements being established in regard to the sustainability of the built environment. The reason being is that there needs to be transparency and consistency across ESG strategies in all industries, and at every level. Overseeing all of this are government bodies, who each have their own climate agenda for the coming years.
From an economic standpoint, corporate real estate is an expensive endeavour. The pandemic has shown the cost benefits of having less commercial office space while still maintaining productivity, meaning that the cost to run commercial real estate needs to become lower. One way of achieving this is through more efficient buildings – using less energy and resources drastically lowers the operating costs of a real estate portfolio or an individual space.
But it’s not just cost savings, as those regulations may have companies only working in efficient and sustainable offices down the line – that is if it becomes a mandated requirement. If it doesn’t align with a company mission, they may not get that commercial space simply due to the fact that it isn’t a green building.
We see this more and more as younger generations enter the world of work. These workforces care a lot more about the environment, so when they make their career decisions, they tend to be attracted to companies that follow sustainable practices and adhere to proper corporate social responsibility. This is especially true in the facilities management role, a field that is undergoing constant change with each passing year.
What role do facilities managers play?
We’ve discussed the roles driving sustainable change in a previous article, but it’s worth focusing on facilities managers a little more. After all, they are at the heart of making sure they keep all of their properties as sustainable and efficient as possible, green buildings or otherwise. There are several ways that facilities managers are able to do this as they assist their organisation to reach its sustainability targets. Effectively, facilities managers bring tangible action to the table, the ‘how’ we discussed earlier, and they do so in an increasingly measurable way through the use of technology and data.
What can facilities managers do to drive sustainability?
There are a number of ways facilities managers can help with the long-term plans for the buildings that they maintain. Let’s take a look at five of the easiest to action.
1. Sustainable consumables and furnishings
The first place to begin is with the items that are within the buildings themselves, starting with consumables like cleaning products. It’s a simple switch to ensure all cleaning products are eco-friendly. Not only are you helping on the sustainability front when it comes to air quality, but they also tend to be kinder on surfaces, which means they’ll last longer.
When it comes to making changes to furniture and furnishings, those constructed from eco-friendly or FSC-certified materials can help reduce the overall embodied carbon in a building. Tools like the Furniture Footprinter can help facilities managers measure the carbon footprint of their building’s furnishings.
2. Predictive maintenance
Top facilities managers don’t wait for the machinery to break down or for maintenance to happen sporadically. A lot of money can be saved when a proper maintenance schedule is implemented, or technology is used to monitor and predict when maintenance might be needed. This increases the lifecycle of a given asset, meaning fewer emissions in the procurement, installation and running of equipment.
For example, an HVAC system that is not properly maintained and in need of serious repair will consume much more energy than a more efficient one. A proactive approach will help you maintain the building and its assets so they last as long as possible.
3. Sustainability measuring & analytics
Tracking your progress and reporting on it can help boost company-wide morale. Evidencing to employees, the board, the shareholders and the customers that your sustainability efforts are taking you in the right direction and can be a real boon for companies.
Implementing smart building sensors, like Beringar’s HX2, will help give you a data-driven focus as a facilities manager. These sensors will track a range of metrics, from carbon emissions to light levels and more, displaying the data in an easy-to-understand that can be used in reporting and analytics.
No matter what, over time, all buildings will eventually deteriorate in some capacity, and routine maintenance won’t help out as much anymore. As a facilities manager, you’ll want to establish a process as well as an end-of-life process for existing equipment and machinery, ensuring that you retrofit these items and systems as necessary, with more efficient variants.
When you do your initial audit of everything and notice that there are already some items that may be suspect, it’s better to start fresh and retrofit those items immediately to save on unwanted energy waste and emission production over the coming years. A little investment now pays dividends in the long run.
5. Supporting business stakeholders
Taking everything above and packaging it for the C-levels and other stakeholders will only help to make their jobs that much easier. By providing them with the right metrics and actions, you help them with clear insights that enable them to deploy their own strategic process for the future. It also helps to make it easier to request the necessary budgets for larger items or projects as you drive forward with your sustainability goals.
How do businesses benefit from sustainable change?
You’re going to be much more energy efficient, and even having plans and sensors in place to turn off lights after office hours can shave a lot off of the energy consumption of a building. Additionally, replacing outmoded equipment with modern, efficient equipment can also significantly reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption.
Improved employee wellbeing
A more efficient commercial real estate operation means a better building for those that work inside it. It means cleaner and better-ventilated air. It means better temperature management for the whole office, and it also means alignment for these employees as being part of something bigger, helping to attract and retain talent while keeping them healthy.
Optimised real estate portfolio
With the right tools and technology in place, businesses can benefit from an efficient real estate portfolio that feeds you all the right metrics. For example, space optimisation and utilisation can be tracked to improve revenue streams, instead of having wasted space. Developing a centralised source of truth can revolutionise how a business looks at its sustainability initiatives, helping to showcase cost savings and productivity improvements, which can help to open up new opportunities for future real estate decisions.
The Facilities Management department can play a vital part in the overall mission of an organisation to achieve its sustainability goals. Just keep in mind that while strategies are important, having the right monitoring and measuring systems in place is the first step in the journey. Quantitive and actionable sustainability gets everyone on the same page and pulling towards the same goal.