Top IWMS Benefits

There are many benefits to Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). Here are my top picks:


  1. Streamline Processes and Optimize Resources

In every organization there are a lot of processes that help individuals to optimize their contribution to the primary process of the organizations, usually to make sales profitability. While Real Estate & Facilities Management (REFM) professionals rarely are tasked with sales primary processes, their processes can have a large impact on profitability, usually by controlling costs.  Integrated Workplace Management Systems can easily help you to streamline those processes to save time, reduce cycle times for work requests and eliminate waste, thereby lowering operating expenses.


  1. Optimize Space Utilization & Occupancy

Real Estate costs account for 10%-25% of an organization’s cost base. As cost reduction programs have made it to C-level, organizations need to have an accurate and timely view of their real estate portfolio to ensure that both current and future  organizational space demands are aligned with their supply. Facility maintenance and operations costs are largely derived from the amount and type of space in its portfolio. Therefore organizations need to optimize space utilization and not serve extra space or under-used spaces. IWMS helps you to quickly identify space vacancies or under-utilized areas of your portfolio, which can be used to improve your REFM metrics and the organization’s bottom line.


  1. Monitor Performance to Optimize Resources and Organizational Flexibility

Matching service demand and delivery is extremely important for every organization. You need to be able to monitor both in-house and service provider performance to ensure that you have appropriate resources to support the organization’s goals. In addition, you need accurate, timely data to ensure that the Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) negotiated with your outsourced partners are aligned with performance. Through  custom, easy to generate Dashboards and advanced reporting functionality, today’s IWMS empowers your organization to effectively manage service delivery quickly and accurately.


Organizations that haven’t outsourced their service delivery will benefit from the resource planning and allocation functionality that most IWMS systems provide. Team leaders can easily schedule tasks to available resources and effectively plan their workload.  What’s more, resource allocation in IWMS can enable allocating tasks only to appropriate resources and help identify gaps to justify additional resources and training development plans for staff.


Lastly, some REFM tasks can be automated by an IWMS. The system reduces the required human interaction and thus, reduces the staffing requirements. REFM organizations can do more with less. This is especially helpful during ramp-up and expansion where a 25% increase in productivity could be achieved via IWMN instead of hiring another staff member. Indeed, expected productivity gains should be a key part of any justification or ROI analysis for IWMS implementation.


  1. Minimize Human Errors

Humans make a lot of mistakes. About 80% of all Facility Management and Real Estate processes can be standardized and automated. Standardization and automation of processes in an IWMS ensures a reduction in human errors. Fewer errors also mean faster cycle times, higher customer satisfaction, reduction of redundant work and fewer costs involved with error recovery which has a direct impact on the bottom line.


  1. Enforce Organizational Policy

Every IWMS can enforce organizational policies. By enforcing policy adherence,  you ensure that people actually comply with your business goals and regulations instead of only considering them as guidelines.


  1. Never Lose Your Data or Waste Time Finding It

IWMS is a central location for all you REFM data. Better yet, the best IWMS systems are SaaS, Software as a Service, meaning that it’s in The Cloud, available whenever and wherever you have internet access. It gets better: because the software and data reside off-site at professional Cloud Providers, you never need to get I.T. approval for hardware, software, updates or changes. You control your destiny, not I.T.


With IWMS costs and implementation timelines at a fraction of where they were just a few years ago, there is no reason why any REFM organization is not using a SaaS based system today.IMG_20151111_152326


CAFM – It’s not just for big companies

In my experience implementing, training and using CAFM (Computer-Aided Facilities Management) systems, I have seen many organizations face an important issue.  Does an organization wait until they have the money and time to implement an IWMS (Integrated Work Management System) enterprise-level system or do they implement a basic CAFM now?  As consultants in Real Estate and Facilities Management (REFM), my colleagues and I at Epicus Group have helped organizations implement CAFM to get the benefits of a CAFM system now to support growing dynamic organizations. If you are a facility planning professional or are responsible for space planning and tracking and you don’t have a CAFM or IWMS system, you should continue reading because you are missing out of an important tool that will save you time and money.

 What is CAFM?

CAFM is a tool that is primarily used to manage space for companies and other organizations that understand the value of managing and optimizing the second highest cost, after people.

 What value does CAFM offer to my organization? 

Reduce operation costs     ∙      Optimize space efficiency    ∙    Improve customer service       Increase collaboration & team productivity      ∙      Produce more accurate reports quicker     Share information throughout your organization

 What is IWMS?

IWMS (Integrated Work Management System) is a complex enterprise level program that ties into financial and procurement inventory management systems. It provides facility managers with a single tool that encompasses most of their operational needs. Many former CAFM and CMMS, (Computer Maintenance Management Systems) evolved into IWMS over the past 10 years of so in an attempt to offer more functions to facilities managers. (See below for a comparison of functions.) However, along with more functionality, comes solutions comes with a high price and a long lead time as expensive I.T. consultants are deployed for the implementation and integration.  The costs, training, and time needed to successfully deploy an IWMS can be overwhelming, especially for smaller, younger operations.

System Functional Comparison
System Functional Comparison


If you currently do not have a system in place to manage your space and aid in space planning, then ask yourself:

  • Do you need all those functions to achieve the benefit of a CAFM system? 
  • Can you afford the expense and time now?

 Here are some things to consider when evaluating CAFM systems:

  • Simple vs. Complex

What level of CAFM experience and skills does your organization possess?

Can you afford the time and money to obtain trained planners?

Alternatively, how much time and effort are you willing to spend to get your organization proficient?

Will a basic CAFM solution that can be deployed quickly provide you with the tools you need today?

  • Time for Deployment 

Who will perform the drawing conversion and database set-up?

      • Do you or your staff have time to do it?
      • How much time will it take if you do it with internal resources?

How long do you want to wait for set-up: a few weeks or several months?

  • Functions and Capabilities

Do you really need all the features that a full CAFM system may offer?

Are there other functions, such as lease administration, that you need?

  • Flexibility

Will the system grow or adapt to your changing needs?

  • Cost

Do you have budget for a large, established system?

 CAFM for All – Start small, but plan for tall.

Most CAFM providers offer cloud-based offerings. Cloud services allow facility managers to outsource the provision of CAFM software and data services.  This eliminates the need for separate contracts or expertise to host and maintain physical servers. The common barrier of IT approval is also eliminated.

A CAFM system could be the best choice for smaller, dynamic companies as it enables the organization to keep pace with growth quickly and easily.  When an organization is ready for an enterprise system, your digital information is easily brought into an IWMS enterprise system.

Give us a call at Epicus Group to see how CAFM could benefit your organization.

Goals and Objectives for REFM Professionals

At Epicus Group, we are a strong proponent of managing by objectives where our individual goals are tied to the overall company goals and objectives. We tie our individual goals to six key business metrics, which I wrote about last year, “6 KEY BUSINESS METRICS (THAT EVERY REFM PROFESSIONAL SHOULD KNOW)” In that article I wrote that In order to be successful, we need to speak the language of business and learn how our world of commercial real estate and facilities management impacts these six key metrics:

  •          Market Share
  •          Revenue
  •          Operating Profit
  •          Cash Flow
  •          Quality
  •          Customer Satisfaction

In addition to understanding these metrics and tying them into your role and responsibilities as a real estate / facilities management (REFM) professional, your performance should be tied back to at least one of these metrics. To do this well, company or top organizational objectives should have clear goals and objectives that tie to each metric and then cascade down the organization to the goals of the individual.

Take a look at the goals and objectives on your performance development plan (PDP) for this year. Do they tie back to your organization’s top metrics? If not, consider the possible reasons: perhaps your organization is not taking its performance development program very seriously. Or worse, the organization is using the performance development program as a tool to cover themselves when it needs to make organizational changes. If this is your situation, then you owe it to yourself to update your PDP to reflect meaningful goals and objectives.


G&) Pyramid

You can follow these three basic steps to generate meaningful goals and objectives.

1. Determine where your current objectives fit into the following Goal Categories.

a. Revenue & profitability

b. Operational improvements

c. Individual skills & education
These three Goal Categories are fundamental to any organization and everything you do should impact one to improve its outcome. If any of your goals don’t seem to fit into one of these Goal Categories, then perhaps you need to develop some new goals. As a REFM professional where your profession touches every aspect of the company or organization, you should have little trouble matching them.

2. Once each of your goals and objectives are matched to a Goal Category, use the following table to match each one to the appropriate metric. Many goals and objectives will tie to more than one metric as the table below shows.


6 Key Metrics Table


Here are some examples that an REFM professional might have as a goal:

Support market expansion activities as company rapidly gains market share in next year by providing space solutions that meet company needs. (Revenue & Profit -> Market Share)

Ensure that operational space is aligned with revenue plans and activities for the next year. (Revenue & Profit -> Revenue)

Complete 5 capital sustainability projects with ROIs less than 3 years. (Operational Improvement -> Operational Profit + Cash Flow)

Complete “Energy Star” bench-marking to compare the energy performance of every facility over 10K SF and report energy savings opportunities by June. (Operational Improvement -> Quality + Operational Profit)

3. Now that your goals are aligned with your organizational goals, make sure that the objectives tied to them are SMART which stands for:







Note – Wikipedia lists several alternate words in the SMART acronym, but I was taught these 5 many years ago and believe they are the best. 

Everybody’s goals and objectives can be easily tied back to the top organizational goals. If this is not your situation, then it might be a good time for a discussion with your boss so that you can be sure that your SMART goals and objectives are aligned with your organization. You really can impact the success of your organization, but only if your work is aligned.


Dealing with Hazardous Materials when Closing Facilities

Most people dislike dealing with hazardous materials. Fortunately, the trend is to purchase, use and store fewer toxic materials in the workspace. Unfortunately, there is the legacy of hazardous materials left behind from a less enlightened time as well as hazardous materials used in R&D and manufacturing operations.  Since environmental management is an important responsibility of every facility manager, you need to make sure that they are stored, used and disposed of safely. When it comes time to shutting down an operation and moving out of a facility, we have a responsibility to current and future stakeholders, including future occupants of the facility to ensure that the premises are safe without risk of exposure to hazardous materials that could cause illness or even death.  Since we must deal with the hazardous waste properly, I will share my experience, how I was able to mitigate risks, minimize costs and expedite the work while making the process more pleasant.

Recently, I was asked to take over the building closure and hazardous materials removal from a company that went out of business before completing the work. The building was leased and the tenant had failed to complete the hazardous materials closure, so the fell to the building owner. Since 80% of the work had been completed by the former tenant and the landlord didn’t have extra bandwidth to complete the job quickly, they asked our company to complete the closure as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Most importantly, the building closure needed to get completed properly to ensure that all hazardous materials risks are eliminated for future tenants.

The process starts with a closure plan and ends with getting final approval from the hazmat inspector, but having closed technology buildings with hazardous materials from Silicon Valley to Japan, I know there is much more to it than that.  Let’s dive a little deeper.

1. Know what you have and keep it current

Start with the latest Hazardous Materials Business Plan (HMBP) for your site as the basis for your hazmat closure. An HMBP is a document containing detailed information on the storage and use of hazardous materials at a facility.  The purpose of an HMBP is to provide information to emergency responders, but it’s also a great tool for the basis of your hazmat closure plan.

The HMBT is your roadmap for removal of hazardous materials and building closure; use it to determine your plan of action. Therefore, obtain a copy of the latest report and compare it to your site survey and responses from the latest building operators to determine what you are up against before taking the next step.

2. Hire the Right Consultants

Finding the right consultants for your closure project is especially critical if your operation used hazardous materials during for R&D and manufacturing processes. Epicus Group has extensive experience with all types of work environments and hazardous materials. If you hire consultants with little or no experience with heavy metals, for example, and they were used in your facility, then your closure process will likely take longer, cost more and make your bosses unhappy.

In addition, work with consultants that have a good relationship with your inspector. I had an inspector once who was concerned that hazardous materials may have gotten into the office area carpet and suggested that we test multiple areas or clean the entire carpet (which the prior tenant had not done) then treat the carpet cleaning waste as hazardous waste. But he wasn’t sure and during our last walk-thru, I could see that he had a lot of respect for my industrial hygienist because he kept asking for his opinion and ideas. Ultimately, my industrial hygienist suggested that since the carpet was not likely contaminated, if we just sampled a spot on the tile floor adjacent to the carpeted area that would likely suffice. And he was right – it turned up with negligible traces, saving us a lot of time and work.

3. Partner with your hazmat inspector

Look at your hazmat inspector as a team member and not as an adversary. Listen to his or her concerns and work with them to develop solutions. Oftentimes, they look to you and your team to make the suggestions; be prepared to discuss alternatives and why you recommend one tactic over the others. The key to remember is to include your inspector in your proposed action before you act.  And of course, communicate your progress and setbacks with your inspector. With reductions in city budgets, your inspector may be stretched and stressed, so make his or her job easier by being prepared during your inspections and listen to their concerns. Remember, he or she wants to get the project completed too.

4. Develop a plan and execute

Like other projects, you will need to establish a budget and schedule that you should review with decision makers prior to executing. Add contingency to both as you should expect the unexpected to happen, like when a mysterious powder showed up during an inspection with the city (oops!). He asked us to test it even through everyone thought it was harmless. Guess what? It wasn’t! But since we had built a trusting relationship with our inspector, we were able to empathize with him and ask ourselves, “What would John want?” When we called our inspector with our recommended plan (along with an option that we rejected) he quickly agreed with our recommendation, saving us time and money.

5. Realize that something will go wrong

No matter how much you plan (and you need to have a detailed plan from the start), surprises will happen. When the unexpected happens, you will need to develop options, make recommendations, justify your recommendations and explain the cost and schedule impact of each. Once your scope change has been approved, you will be expected to execute quickly and flawlessly.

For example, during one project my team all agreed on a course of action to clean a concrete slab of heavy metals. However, after the cleaning the test results showed that the area was still contaminated. We came up with several options and a recommendation to remove the contaminated part of the floor. When I asked one of my contractors to provide a quote, he surprised me by telling me about an alternate cleaning method because he had encountered this same problem before. I presented this option to my team, the inspector and the client, obtained approvals then successfully completed the task faster and cheaper than our initial recommendation.

6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Finally, I can’t overemphasize how important it is to communicate successfully before and during your building hazmat closure project. These projects usually have high visibility and you need to keep your team focused and involved. Your boss and building owner will need to know how the work is progressing. I once sublet a building that contained numerous hazardous materials. The subtenant was very anxious to move in so there was a lot of pressure to close the hazmat plan so they could occupy the space. Even if the space is empty, the building owner will be anxious for completion because they can’t even make improvements or lease it again until the hazardous materials plan and permit have been finalized.

Hopefully my six key points will be helpful in making your next (or first) hazmat building closure project a success and have it go as smoothly as possible.  Good Luck!

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


 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.

My Picks for the Top Facilities Sustainable Trends for 2014, Part 2 of 3


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

  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 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.

  1. Higher utilization – find out your rates and hire an experienced professional to find ways to improve.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. “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.
  5. Technology tools – requirements for today’s 24/7 mobile workforce.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 yoImageur workplace to your culture.

5. Waste Management – Ef

Sustainable waste management practices can be divided into two categories:

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.

Numerous Operations and Maintenance waste reducing opportunities exist once a facility is occupied and operational. These include:
  • Recycling
  • Paper, Printing and Copying
  • Food
  • 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 ( 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.

Here is my list of the top ways that you can provide more sustainable transportation to your building occupants.
  1. 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.
  2. Car pool & van pools – anything you can do to get people out of their SUVs is good for all.
  3. Flex-time – unless you have a manufacturing operation, why force your employees to waste time and energy in traffic?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

My Picks for the Top Facilities Sustainable Trends for 2014, Part 1 of 3


In my September post, I critiqued a couple of Top Building & FM Sustainability Trends for 2013. I took a few swipes and some off the more outrageous items such as Cloud Management and Solar Power.  Now it’s my turn to list my top sustainable FM picks and risk getting swiped at.. Here it 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

Continue reading below and I’ll explain why each of these made my list. Note, this is the first of a three part post, where I discuss the top 3 trends, bold above, in this post.

Benefits of Sustainability

First, I’d like to clarify the benefits of sustainability. FM sustainable practices and benefits can be broken down into the three categories that make up the Triple Bottom Line:

  • Financial F
  • Environmental E
  • Social S

Every corporate facility manager should understand the Financial benefits of a project or activity change and be able to explain both orally and in writing why it should be approved to decision makers and stakeholders. Capital projects are typically evaluated by organizational financial leaders, such as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the return that they bring to the organization. For example, if replacing an boiler will result in saving money for natural gas, the CFO will want to know how long it will take to recover the money invested and when the savings begin. Most financial decision makers will approve facility improvements if the return on investment (ROI) is within two to three years, but this timeframe can vary from just a few months to 5 years or more. Also, depending on the critical nature of the facility and the priority of competing capital investments, it may be easier to get a sustainable project approved in a facility that supports R&D than in one that just houses office functions or one that has been deemed to be a short-term need.

As one might guess, the Environmental benefits of a project can be measured and assessed by how it will improve the planet’s environment or cause less harm. A different set of stakeholders are usually concerned about the projects and activities that the organization undertakes to improve the environment, such as customers, employees and government entities.

The Social benefits of a project or activity are generally those that will directly benefit the employees of the organization, its neighbors and the community at large.

A simple example, and one that every FM should implement, is to replace Z-Fold paper towels in restrooms, break-rooms and kitchens. Whether you choose to implement a hands-free paper roll or hand dryers, this is a pretty easy project change to justify on a financial basis. I was able to do this for a company that would only approve investments if the ROI were one year or less. The environmental benefit is obvious as any alternative to Z-Fold towels will result in less paper and waste, hence better for the environment. And yes, you can sell this one on the social benefit as it will improve the look and safety of restrooms as Z-Fold towel dispensers are notorious for dumping many more towels than needed, usually on the floor, counter and sink.

For my Top-10 list, I use the F-E-S initials to indicate where the major benefit may be and how it might be best “sold”. The lower-case f-e-s initials indicate that it is a secondary benefit. Thus, my first item, Energy Efficiency, has Fe following it, which means that pursuing Energy Efficiency projects and behavioral changes (i.e. turn down the thermostat or set points in the winter) will result in strong Financial benefits to the organization while having a secondary benefit of being good for the environment by using fewer fossil fuels, for example. The absence of a triple bottom line benefit (F E or S) for a sustainable initiative doesn’t mean that the benefit doesn’t exist, only that I believe that it would be harder to sell it via the missing benefit and its benefit is much smaller than the others,.

Here are the top 3 of my Top 10 Sustainability Trends for 2013 and why they make my list.

1.     Energy Efficiency – Fe

Every FM should have a goal to use less energy, eliminate waste (use responsibly) & increase renewable sources, if possible. I have been involved with Energy Efficiency projects before anyone thought about whether they were sustainable. With a proven history of easily meeting or exceeding the financial returns needed for these investments, most financial leaders should approve any energy efficiency project accompanied with a sound financial analysis. In addition as long as the HVAC, lighting and other FM energy industries continue to innovate, Energy Efficiency will remain a top FM trend for years to come.

Ideally, it is at the design phase for new construction that Energy Efficiency goals should be established and approved and communicated to the design team and other stakeholders. Looking beyond, pumps and light fixtures, the design team should consider these three key elements that will have a lasting impact on the building’s energy efficiency:

  • Building Envelope Siting – Please refer to my article, “Building Siting & the Building Envelope – The Developers’ Curse” from August 2013 for more information on this topic.
  • Flexibility –  Because the most sustainable project is the one you never have to do. If flexibility is built into the facility, it can eliminate or reduce the resources and waste of future projects.
  • Commissioning – Having been on both sides of the fence (project planning & design vs. operations) I can tell you that adequate commissioning is still challenging and frequently lacking. Poor or non-existent building commissioning is like buying new software without training, support or an operating manual. You hope that your FM has enough experience to optimize the new building systems, but he or she usually falls short with proper commissioning.

For existing facilities, there are a tremendous number of opportunities to improve the Energy Efficiency of your building even if the design falls short. The best place to start is by bench-marking your facility against other buildings by using the Energy Star Buildings and Plants site to determine how much work will be needed to bring your building up to sustainable standards.

Title 24 has had a huge impact in California over the past 35 years, leading to new innovation in HVAC systems, design and components as well as lighting upgrades and control systems. All these have decent paybacks and should be investigated.

Get started by finding a reputable HVAC and electrical lighting engineering contractor to partner with to help you identify specific areas of your facility that can be improved. For a nominal fee they should be able to provide you with a variety of possible improvements from No-Cost / Low-Cost fast solutions to capital improvements that may take months or years to implement.

Recently over a Thai lunch, I had a chance to talk to my friend Bob Dills, a partner at Western Allied Mechanical,  one or our area’s leading sustainable HVAC design firms, about innovative, sustainable HVAC. According to Bob, more customers are interested in radiant slab and active chilled beam designs in buildings, which greatly reduces the electrical consumption compared to pumps and compressors in traditional forced air systems. Another innovative sustainable HVAC design that his company recently implemented was a refrigerant-free cooling system that utilized only water evaporation and no compressors to provide adequate comfort to a science and technology building at a private high school, resulting in significantly less electricity consumption to operate the cooling system. As the cost of energy continues to increase, I foresee more and more innovative ways to cool commercial buildings, from recovery systems to using fewer pumps to move air and water around.

On the behavioral side, look into your electrical system maintenance and plug loads. More frequent maintenance and better load management can help reduce your electrical usage through efficiency.  With a regular communication and working program with your facility occupants you will likely find numerous opportunities to shut off or reduce equipment that are on unnecessarily.

Since the cost of energy, both via fossil fuels and renewable sources will continue to go up, seeking ways to reduce an organization’s energy costs via energy improvement investments should continue to remain a top sustainable trend for the foreseeable future.

2.     Indoor  Environmental Quality (IEQ) – Sef

With companies like Google seeking ways to keep their staff on-campus and usually indoors for as long as possible, it becomes critical to ensure that the indoor air and overall indoor environment be as healthy and hazard-free as possible. It has become routine in most U.S. corporations to insist that a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) be submitted for approval prior to the arrival of any new product, chemical or material. While one can certainly make a financial (less absenteeism due to illness) and environmental argument for initiatives to improve IEQ, the main argument is to promote the health and well-being of building occupants, Social.

There are four key ways that an FM can improve and maintain a clean, healthy indoor environment. These are:

  • Air filtration – Optimal maintenance of HVAC systems and filters can bring the indoor air quality at higher levels than even the outside air.
  • Chemicals, such as cleaning products, in the workplace should be investigated thoroughly to ensure that harmful chemicals that can cause worker illness are not used in the work environment
  • Plants – numerous studies have shown that plants in the workplace help clean the air which results in lower worker absenteeism and higher worker productivity.
  • Hazardous materials / off-gassing – there are many other ways that hazardous chemicals find their ways to your facilities, from long-term items such as furniture, which may need time to off-gas off-site to temporary items, such as using gas leaf-blowers near air intake vents.
As we discover that more and more people develop health problems from hazardous materials from man-made chemicals, Indoor Environmental Quality will continue to increase in importance for many years to come.

3.     Water Conservation – Ef

Californians are used to conserving water since the drought in the 1970s. With another dry season behind us and our current rainy season off to a late start, we need to continue to find ways to conserve water. What is different is that other parts of the country, including the usually we East Coast are also now experiencing dryer than usual weather.Therefore, I see water conservation continuing to increase as water becomes scarcer and more costly (along with the costs to pump water from distant locations).

The graph below shows that while California has seen its population more than double from 15 million in 1960 to over 37 million in 2010, water consumption has increased less than 50% and largely unchanged in the past 10 years. With no new affordable sources of water, Californians must continue to conserve water to meet future growth.

There are three areas that we can look to conserve water: Inside buildings, building grounds & landscaping, and water sources.

Interior uses

There are many areas that we can seek to find opportunities to conserve water inside buildings. Here are the most common:

  1. Low-flow fixtures – faucets, toilets, showers, etc.
  2. Water-less fixtures, mostly urinals
  3. Hands free fixtures that automatically shut off to avoid waste
  4. Process applications – HVAC and process cooling water systems

Exterior uses

  1. Gray-water – reusing waste water to irrigate landscaping. San Jose and I’m sure many other California cities now have entire gray-water infrastructure of pipes of non-potable water around R&D and areas of new development.
  2. Xeroscaping – using native plants that require less water for landscaping. If you have a lawn and don’t use it for recreation then I strongly recommend that you remove it and plant beautiful native plants instead.

Water sources

Where does the water for your facility come from? Chances are, it has to be piped from another location, which means that costly pumps are used to move your water to your location. In urban northern California, most of our water comes from the Sierra Nevada mountains, is stored in huge reservoirs, pumped to local reservoirs, then injected into the aquifer where it is finally pumped back to the surface for final use. Such a system is neither cheap or efficient, and hardly sustainable. In other parts of the U.S. where water is more plentiful, aquifers are dropping and water continues to travel from greater distances. No matter where you live, we must always remember that water is a limited resource on earth and will always need to find ways to conserve it, re-use it and find ways to eliminate wasting it.