My Picks for the Top Facilities Sustainable Trends for 2014, Part 3 of 3

Introduction

 Welcome to the third and final part Top Sustainable Trends for 2014. In my last post, I covered top threads four through six; now we’re on to the homestretch: numbers seven through ten. I applaud and thank you if you made it through the prior to posts.

Here again is my Top 10 list:

 My Top Sustainable FM Trends for 2014

  1. Energy Efficiency
  2. Indoor Environmental Quality
  3. Water Conservation
  4. Workplace Management
  5. Waste Management
  6. Transportation
  7. Materials and Resources
  8. Sustainable Services
  9. Site Impact & Landscaping
  10. Sustainable Roofing

 Benefits of Sustainability

 In part 1 I explained why I believe sustainability is important for facilities management and explained 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 that 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.

Her’s my final four:

7.     Materials & Resources – Efs

While the environment is the big winner when you switch from toxic chemicals and products containing hazardous materials, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), you can actually save a lot of money, largely due to contributing to the health of your employees and other building occupants. Other companies will soon follow sustainability leaders like Google, who search and deploy the most sustainable products for their workplaces. In Google’s case, Social is the big reason as they are sincerely concerned about the health effects from toxic and hazardous materials in the built environment.
Here are some basic sustainable things that every FM should implement that require some work, but can usually be justified.
  1. Green labeling – ask your vendors for it – there, that won’t cost you a dime. Make sure that the green or sustainable material labeling is certified by a thrid party and is not just an industry “rubber stamp” to make their products look green. Also, be sure to ask for MSDS, which list all the chemicals of products before allowing them in your facility
  2. Travel distance – seek local sources. Ghandi said it was a sin to buy something from someone farther away then from someone nearby. Maybe, but it certainly is better for the environment and your local economy to procure items locally than from half way around the world.
  3. Embedded Energy – this one gets a bit complex and I honestly don’t know how one calculates the total energy used to produce and deliver a product. Therefore, ask your supplier. If they don’t know, then ask another one. The information is out there, you just need to look for it.
  4. Food – I could (and maybe will soon) write an entire article on food for the workplace. In brief, look for sustainably grown (organic if possibe) food that is mininally procressed and produced as local as possible.
  5. Small, Diverse suppliers– simply put, diversity is good. We’ve all seen pictures of mass produced buildings (think suburban sprawl in this country or fomer Eastern Bloc concrete apartment buildings. You wouldn’t want to live in any of those, so why whould you want your employees to work in one? You may pay a bit more when you give some of your business to small suppliers, but most of that money will stay in the community verses Fortune 500 type companies that usually don’t have that local connection and 90% of their money typically goes elsewhere. Check out this great book that I read late last year, “The Unwinding: an Inner History of the New America”, for more examples about the benefits of small local suppliers.
  6. Employment practices – so you found a great deal on office chairs made halfway around the world. OK, how are they treating their workers? Is it consistent with your sustainability goals or even your “good corporate citizen” values?
  7. Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough changed the way that I thought about all products, not just those for the workplace. Essentially, we need to determine what will happen to products at the end of their initial intended useful life – reuse or re-purpose or have them biodegrade quickly rather than dumping them into landfills or worse, scattering them around the globe, swept under the rug for someone else to deal with.
  8. Natural (virgin) vs. recycled – we usually think that recycled materials are better than new ones. However, there are times that a sustainably produced new product is better than a recycled one. For example, when considering copy/print paper, how much embedded energy is used to use recycled content? Also, what chemicals are used for each process and where does it come from? See Items 2, 5 & 6 above.

8. Quality of Services (Sustainable Services) – Sef

Most likely, you are not completely sure what I mean by Quality Services and how this might be a sustainable trend. In the world of Facilities Management, much of what we do and how our customers experience our profession is through the services that we provide. This really is the foundation of FM and must be mastered before you will be considered for other, more complex assignments and responsibilities. Little things can have a huge impact on how your customers perceive your services. By providing more sustainable services, which are becoming ever more important to our customers, we can oftentimes add to the service quality. Here are some examples:
Cleaning products & practices – since our building occupants spend so much time indoors, little things like strong cleaning smells can greatly effect employee productivity and service impressions as can, of course, the lack or perceived lack of cleanliness. Beyond looking at quality and responsiveness, which are fundamentally important to a clean workplace, using non-toxic chemicals and efficient means to remove dust and dirt can improve your customer perception of your workplace. Consider moving cleaning from after hours to normal work hours as this will show your occupants that someone really is cleaning their space and will reduce the amount of after-hours lighting, which will help save money.
Document management – how many storage rooms do you have at your facility? How many of them contain boxes of old paper records which are needed yet rarely accessed? Best practice is to implement a document scanning and archiving system which eliminates the paper documents altogether. If that may not possible, then research document storage companies to store your documents off-site. I recently did this for a customer where we stored about 1,000 boxes off-site that were being stored in a building that was being closed. There were no start up costs – the document management company inventoried all the boxes, moved them and set up a web-based database for free. In addition, there was no rent for the first year! They make their money primarily when someone needs to access and deliver an historic document, but even that fee was quite reasonable. What makes this sustainable is that you have just freed up hundreds of square feet, thereby possibly avoiding procuring more space and / or building more walls for rooms.
Food – In addition to the items that I mentioned in item 7.4 above, look at how you serve food to your employees. Reusable mugs, plates and silverware are a lot better for the environment than throwaway ones. Implementing washing reusable ceramic mugs while eliminating paper or Styrofoam ones is easy, fast (especially if you already have dishwashers) and sends a positive sustainable message to your workplace occupants.
Other site services that you can offer in more sustainable ways include office supplies and paper (where you can investigate sources as well as material content), mail, shipping & receiving (eliminate waste and look at packaging material, copy and printing services (lots of ways to reduce waste), meeting reservation (optimize usage avoid building more) and the materials used for hard-scape maintenance.

9. Site Impact – Ef

In August 2013, I posted an article that I titled, “Building Siting & the Building Envelope – The Developers’ Curse”  where I detail the problems with today’s buildings where the developer does not consider either the siting of the building (for optimal solar gain/avoidance) or how the building envelope is constructed. We are slowly starting to see siting and the building envelope getting back into the construction conversation, so I’m optimistic that we will begin to see more solar sited sustainable shells in the near-term.
Here are five more Site Impact sustainable trends to look for (or implement):
  1. Landscape maintenance – look at the plants in your landscape: are they compatible with your climate? Also look at how you maintain them. Eliminate in-organic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, including Round-Up. Ask your landscape maintenance contractor for MSDS sheets for everything they use.
  2. Rainwater run-off is getting a lot of attention with new projects where Bio-Swells are becoming more common and even mandated as a means to limit and reduce rainwater run-off into urban and suburban sewer systems
  3. Road, sidewalk & parking surfaces – hard surfaces prevent absorption of rainwater and allows the oil and pollutants from autos and vehicles to easily enter the storm drainage systems, which usually flows and pollutes rivers, lakes and seas. When possible, use more permeable surfaces, such as crushed gravel, which work quite well for sidewalks.
  4. Exterior lighting – Light pollution is gaining more attention and will result in more mandates for sensors to turn off exterior lighting when no motion is sensed as well as lights that direct down rather than upward or outward into adjacent properties where it may not be wanted.
  5. Traffic – even in these so-so economic times, traffic levels seem to be higher than ever. Facilities Managers are increasingly being tasked with helping their organizations reduce traffic and provide better alternative means for their employees to commute. Solutions to be considered are: ride sharing / car pool programs, shuttle buses, locating facilities near good public transit, bicycle lockers and showers and discount packages for public transit.

10. Sustainable Roofing – Ef

I have been involved with a considerable number of roofing projects lately as Silicon Valley’s commercial buildings age. (at least the ones that don’t get torn down first). Most roof warranties are between 10 and 20 years) and any 25 year old roof is overdue for a full replacement.
For flat commercial facilities, the four most popular types of new roofs are:
  • TPO – Thermoplastic Polyolefin single-ply roofing have gained tremendous popularity in the past 10 years. See graph. And for good reason: the seam strength is reported to be 3 to 4 times stronger than EPDM, plus it’s white finish reflects abundant solar rays thereby reducing the “heat island effect” as well as keeping the building interior cooler than dark roof surfaces. Also, there are no plasticizers added and TPO does not degrade under UV radiation.
  • PVC roof installations, meanwhile have barely gained market-share over the same 10 year period. One reason is that it is subject to “plasticizer migration”, which causes the sheets to become brittle. However, the most likely reason that PVC roofs have not gained popularity is due to the significant environmental hazards from the toxicity of the manufacturing process as well as the noxious compounds released in a fire such as hydrochloric acid fumes and byproducts including dioxin, a potent carcinogen.
  • EPDM – Ethylene propylene diene monomeris a synthetic rubber most commonly used in single-ply roofing because it is readily available and relatively simple to apply. However it is one of the most costly to install and generally does not have the solar reflective qualities of TPO and PVC. Hence its popularity continues to plummet.
  • BUR & Modified Bitumen –   Once the most common new roof type, Asphalt BUR roofs have been around a very long time, but are becoming increasingly less popular (along with Modified Bitumen). If well maintained, these roof types can have extended lives by applying foam coverings, which also makes them more reflective. However, it’s been my experience that most of these roof types are not consistently well maintained and replacement becomes the only option available. When they are not well maintained, these materials tend to fail rather quickly. Lastly, when compared to other roofing systems, installation of asphalt roofs is more energy-intensive and contributes to atmospheric air pollution (toxic, and green-house gases are lost from the asphalt during installation), making this roof type a poor choice for the sustainably minded FM.

For commercial buildings, a  few other sustainable roofing options exist, such as metal, shingle and tile roofs, but none are practical for large commercial buildings, typical in urban and suburban areas. Lastly, I’d love to see more solar PV and vegetative roofs, but the costs continue to make these choices no more than novelty installations as both require a sub-roof, generally one of the four common types listed above.