Welcome to part 2 of 3 of My Top Sustainable Trends for 2014. In my last post, I titled it the top trends for 2013, but since 2014 is just around the corner, I’m changing the title to reflect the new as I expect these trends to continue for the near future. The previous post covered my top three trends and I tackle numbers four through six in this one. Here again is my Top 10 list:
My Top Sustainable FM Trends for 2013
- Energy Efficiency
- Indoor Environmental Quality
- Water Conservation
- Workplace Management
- Waste Management
- Materials and Resources
- Sustainable Services
- Site Impact & Landscaping
- Sustainable Roofing
Benefits of Sustainability
In part 1 I explained why I believe sustainability is important for facilities management and described the three primary benefits of sustainability:
- Financial F
- Environmental E
- Social S
Please read my prior post for more details on each sustainability benefit. As in my previous post, I list the primary (Capitalized) and secondary (lower case) benefit for each trend. Your situation may be different and you may be able to justify any sustainable initiative by any of these benefits.
Continue reading below and I’ll explain why items 4 through 6 above made my list.
4. Workplace Management – Fse
When I mention Workplace Management to some of my friends and colleagues as a top sustainable FM trend, many have told me that they aren’t completely sure what Workplace Management means. Having spent most of my FM career over the past 20 years helping organizations to optimize their workplaces, Workplace Management seems second nature to me, and I’m surprised to find that many organizations don’t formally practice it; therefore they don’t understand how beneficial and sustainable it is.
Workplace Management is the practice of managing facilities and facility assets in a way to obtain the best possible return on the organizations’s investment. To do this, look at the workplace as an asset, a very expensive one that you want to make sure is used well. It’s like buying a computer or and expensive vehicle for work. It will cost you a lot of money to obtain the work-space, infrastructure and systems needed to make sure that it helps make some of that money back. If you buy a delivery truck, but only use it a few times a year, I’d say that you are either foolish, very rich or both. Most of us are not that fortunate, so we would want to make sure that we use this vehicle as much as possible for deliveries that our customers are willing to pay us to deliver. The workplace is kind of like that delivery truck: you want that investment to help return some of the money that it’s costing you.
Organizations spend a lot of money for rent, improvements, infrastructure and operating expenses to house their employees and their operations. If you decided to lease a large building, say 50,000 SF and only used 5,000 SF for your employees, equipment, inventory, etc., then you would not be utilizing that space or asset very well unless you were reasonably certain that you could put the remaining space to good use quickly. Most people are not foolish enough to take on too much space, but what if they used to have 8 times as many people, then had to fire most due to a business down-turn. Now you need to figure out what to do; this is where I have helped many companies to right-size their facilities to their current and future needs.
But that’s not all. Even if virtually all your desks were assigned and you had equipment, inventory and other assets in other parts of your space, you still may not be optimizing it. For example, how well and often do your employees actually work at their desks? I have written a book on strategic facilities planning / workplace management, and could go into a great detail more, but will only touch on a few beneficial highlights here.
- Higher utilization – find out your rates and hire an experienced professional to find ways to improve.
- More flexible spaces – the days of dedicated private offices and cubes are coming to an end. A room can serve multiple functions and its used should be reconfigured quickly and easily to adapt to different uses.
- More choices & collaboration areas for employees – just as you don’t spend all your time in one room doing one thing in your home, employees and other building occupants spend their day doing a variety of tasks, including collaborating, which is becoming increasingly important for successful teamwork.
- “Focus Space” – of course, employees don’t collaborate all day and need to find places where they can quietly focus on individual work. No, cubicles are not the solution. Please see my July 2013 posts for more information about Focus Space.
- Technology tools – requirements for today’s 24/7 mobile workforce.
- Telecommuting & transportation – I discuss sustainable transportation options below (Top Trend No. 6), but the key point here is that by providing your employees with alternative transportation options to/from work (public or private) you can significantly impact both space requirements as well as utilization. For example, if your facility is located near good public transit with abundant nearby 3rd party places for people to work, you may be able to reduce or eliminate some the the “Third Spaces” within your facility, such as large break rooms.
- Culture & Change Management – changing the workplace will effect your culture, so a move can mean more than just a different address. It’s the perfect time to initiate change and align your workplace to your culture.
5. Waste Management – Ef
Sustainable waste management practices can be divided into two categories:
- New Construction
- Operations and Maintenance
Anytime you can avoid a new construction project, you are usually operating more sustainability than if you undertake a project. However most sustainable projects are better for an organization than “do nothing”/ maintain status quo, so we should learn how we can implement sustainable construction practices. There are several ways to manage construction projects more sustainably.
First, goals should be established to produce less waste, especially to landfills. Not only is this a win for the environment, but with waste disposal costs forecasted to continue to climb, it will also lower your project costs. Work with your contractor to determine their waste management strategy and how they can share their cost savings with you prior to contracting the work.
BIM and off-site prefabrication are gradually becoming common practices for larger construction projects – and for good reason. By determining more precisely the amount of piping, ducts, electrical conduits, etc., prior to the start of construction you can eliminate over-ordering and project generated waste. I once worked at a company that was continuously changing lab equipment, which required frequent changes to expensive piping, such as high-purity stainless steel. Since no one could determine exactly how much would be required for each project, the piping contractor simply ordered extra inventory, then would use as needed. We could have saved a lot of money if we had ordered just what we needed for each project, especially if much of it could have been prefabricated offsite beforehand. BIM allows you to do this.
- Paper, Printing and Copying
- Paper Towels
- Batteries and e-Waste
By now everyone is not only familiar with recycling, but also practices it at some level. So how can this be a top trend for 2013? Because there is always room for improvement and we still send too much waste to landfills, I believe that we are going to get more creative with finding ways to reduce or eliminate waste, reuse what would have been tossed out or recycle items that we didn’t think possible a few years ago. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that we all had to pay to get rid of electronic waste. Today, there is a very competitive market willing to pay pretty good money for your old e-waste junk.
While our communities are making it easier to recycle by sorting off-site (single stream), I believe that duel-stream (where each of us pre-sort our waste) will become popular again because the economics will drive this. For example, in San Jose, they recently switched trash collection companies because the new one is contracted to keep something like 95% of the waste it collects out of landfills. This is great, but unless you pre-sort your waste, you are paying for this service. Thus, recycling, great for the environment but also makes financial sense and will continue to do so.
Today’s multi-function devices (MFD) do a lot more than just print and copy – they can actually help reduce paper and toner use. By requiring users to log in to a MFD (which can be as easy as waving an employee badge by a scanner), it forces users to only print what they need and not reprint documents when someone else accidentally retrieved their document. With more and more documents going to the cloud, I see the need to print finally heading towards that “paperless office” we’ve been hearing about for years.
Dealing with food waste is a huge opportunity. Composting is just getting off the ground at many larger corporate sites but there are many other opportunities for food waste, including cooking oil for bio-diesel.
Lastly, I continue to see the dreaded Z-fold towels in facilities. These enemies to the environment and your operations budget should not still exist in 2013! Many cheaper, better alternatives have been available for so many years that and facility manager worth their salary would have replaced their Z-folds in their first 6 months on their job. I did 5 years ago at a company that required an ROI of 6 months or less! I declare 2014 to be the year of the death of Z-fold towels!
6. Transportation – Se
I’m sure that many of you are surprise to see transportation on my top sustainable FM trend list. After all, aren’t we talking about buildings. We’ll, yes and no: we are talking about buildings, but buildings without people would be a ghost town. How people get to and from your buildings has a tremendous, perhaps the biggest impact on how sustainable your site is.
Automobiles continue to be a leading source of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Even with better emission standards and more fuel-efficient vehicles, the sprawling “automobile infrastructure ” has paved over excess natural land and open space. In addition, the cost to maintain sprawling development is much greater than a concentrated one. Lastly, as Jane Jacobs enlighten us over 50 years ago, interesting, diverse, mixed use environments are much more safer and sustainable than monotonous ones where most trips are via autos.
While the primary benefit of sustainable transportation is to provide a better way for employees to commute to and from work, the real, hidden benefit is the environment. Unfortunately, making the financial benefit argument is so difficult, that most organization don’t really think about it until it is too late and their employees are screaming for a better way to commute.
With the recent establishment of SPUR (www.spur.org) in the Bay Area, I believe that our metro area and others throughout the U.S. will finally bring transportation problems AND solutions to the forefront.
- Public transit – the good news is that we in this country have a lot of opportunities to
improve. Regardless, close proximity to adequate public transit should be near the top of your list when looking for space.
- Car pool & van pools – anything you can do to get people out of their SUVs is good for all.
- Flex-time – unless you have a manufacturing operation, why force your employees to waste time and energy in traffic?
- Parking – do you offer your employees with free or subsidized parking? If so, why? Consider charging them as an incentive to get out their cars or at least carpool.
- Bikes – biking to work is becoming an increasingly popular commute choice for employees. Invest in secure, weatherproof bike storage along with showers to keep up with the growing demand.
- Electric vehicles – it’s amazing how quickly electric vehicles or “plug-ins” have become. Last year I was asked to install the four charging stations at a facility, which I’m sure are well used by now.
As you can see, there are many ways that you can support sustainable transportation practices as a facility manager and the demand to do more will continue to increase.