Facilities Managers Using New Technology to Achieve Green Goals

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on May 13, 2013

Colleges across the United States are looking for ways to become top-tier institutions through their recruiting efforts and cutting-edge program offerings. To attract the best students, they are revamping their campuses and incorporating new technologies in existing buildings that will differentiate them from comparable institutions. That means facilities managers will be integral to their plans as they develop and deploy strategies, especially when it comes to sustainability.

Georgetown University shines with solar energy

Georgetown University is one example. The school in the Washington, D.C., suburb has recently deployed a major solar energy project that includes the installation of 75 solar panels spread throughout its historic campus. Once completed, the effort is expected to save tens of thousands of dollars in energy bills.

“Georgetown is pleased to be leading the first university solar electricity project of its scale on a historic residential block in Washington, D.C.,” said Robin Morey, vice president for planning and facilities management at the university. “This project serves as a strong symbol of Georgetown’s commitment to sustainable buildings, and it demonstrates Georgetown’s local leadership as a partner in the Mayor’s College and University Sustainability Pledge.”

When campuses introduce large-scale goals for sustainability, it’s often left up to facilities managers to monitor their success. With the inclusion of measuring equipment and facility maintenance software, FMs can determine how much electricity is being used throughout multiple buildings and use those figures to calculate savings.

Central Michigan University wants students to walk the walk

The Midwestern campus recently held a meeting about a prospective $130 million master plan to make its campus more walkable, according to Central Michigan Life. The proposed ideas include green spaces, more sidewalks, create bike paths and build roads that improve the flow of traffic around the campus. To determine the optimal plan, the university has been gathering data through series of public comments, suggestions, discovery and design forums.

“What we’ve gathered is an idea on how to plan the future of our campus,” said associate vice president of facilities management Steve Lawrence, as quoted by the source. “These plan for buildings, sidewalks and bike paths could potentially serve us for the next 100 years.”

Facilities manager that have sophisticated programs like an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) can track data over time through a single portal. This is then used to compare information over longer time periods to measure changes and make necessary adjustments. Web-based applications can also be advantageous because they allow users to make changes as part of feasibility plans before finalizing ideas and creating work orders.

Public schools going green, too

It’s not just the facilities managers at higher education institutions that are being challenged to implement sustainability plans and create better environments for students. It’s also public education facilities teams, such as those in Duluth, Minnesota. Schools are going green, according to The Star Tribune, and because they are turning to taxpayers to foot the bills, they will need to plan strategically and minimize costs.

The $300 million plan in Duluth is going to renovate seven existing buildings and construct four new facilities, the source reports. Some of the changes include North-facing windows that will maximize exposure to natural sunlight and capture heat in the classrooms as well as better ventilation systems and reducing noise pollution.

“It was a hard sell,” Keith Dixon, the former superintendent of Duluth public schools, told the source about the plan that was finally approved after two years. “But even most conservative residents will agree that the costs are worth it if you can show them a return on investment over time.”

The same can be true in other organizations. FMs that are able to demonstrate the value of their renovations through fact-based reports will increase the likelihood of gaining the support of decision-makers.


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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