How Facilities Managers Can Support Sustainability

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on March 27, 2013

Earth Day is fast approaching. On April 22nd, individuals and consumers will celebrate the day, which is themed “The Face of Climate Change,” by implementing green strategies throughout their normal practices.


“Many people think climate change is a remote problem, but the fact is that it’s already impacting real people, animals, and beloved places all over the world, and these Faces of Climate Change are multiplying every day,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.

To spread the message about the real impact of climate change that are already taking hold, the Earth Day Network is gathering pictures that depict these impacts and turn them into an interactive digital display that can be shared in recognition of the event.

Ways Facilities Managers Can Support Sustainability

Participation doesn’t have to be on a grand scheme to be effective. Workplaces across the United States can make a difference by taking the first steps toward becoming more sustainable. Firms with facilities maintenance teams that have integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) already in place might find it’s easy to monitor and measure their sustainability progress. Companies that don’t already have this technology in place may find that investing in facilities management software is a major stride in their efforts to become more environmentally sustainable.

“There’s this theory that you have to pick one: economics or environmental performance. That’s nonsense. Innovation is the way you can have both. Companies that don’t get this, really risk becoming irrelevant to the marketplace.” said Mark Vachon, vice president of GE’s ecomagination

Cut back on paper consumption

It’s estimated that offices in the United States go through around 700 billion sheets of paper every year, which translates to 3.7 million tons of weight, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Paper and paperboard are some major contributors to waste in landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency says this represents around 40 percent of all the garbage that is transported and disposed of.

Storing paper is also expensive, the source adds. By going “paperless” and getting rid of 14,000 file cabinets, the Owens Corning company managed to save $30 million in real estate lease costs.

Facilities managers that can use a web-based application to monitor and report on all of the operational processes throughout their organizations can achieve both of those goals. Rather than keeping paper trails of move changes, supply order forms and maintenance requests, managers and their staff members can keep track of everything through an online portal that shows up-to-the-minute information when it’s needed most. Because they don’t have to keep records in file cabinets, facilities teams can cut back on storage space as well.

Find ways to monitor and restrict energy use

Facilities teams with IWMS programs can also make strategic plans to conserve resources. Asset management software shows FMs whether equipment is functioning effectively or consuming too much energy. These programs also demonstrate each asset’s history so FMs can make informed decisions about the best time to retire a certain piece that is performing poorly and replace it with a new model that runs efficiently and requires less energy. This is good for sustainability goals and the company’s bottom line because green HVAC, tools, equipment and lighting translate to huge savings on utilities bills.

In fact, the Oregon Department of Energy Quality reports that lighting systems account for 30 percent of electricity bills in retail, office or institutional facilities, the source adds. Using a space utilization program enables FMs to monitor offices, conference rooms or entire areas of facilities so they can turn off lights in spaces that aren’t currently being occupied.

While these might seem like relatively small steps, reducing paper consumption and waste, switching to sustainable solutions and reducing consumption can provide vast savings in the long run and significantly reduce a firm’s environmental impact.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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