“Going Green” requires a resolute mindset and strong commitment. Facilities managers around the country are employing creative options to conserve energy, enhance water management and employ products made from recycled material and are themselves recyclable. Each measure contributes to a cleaner, more sustainable environment while reducing the total cost of operations.
Three major sustainability challenges of environmentally conscious facility and maintenance managers are:
- Reducing energy costs
- Water management
- Managing waste
1. Reducing Energy Costs
During a new construction project, designers and facility managers have the opportunity to introduce solutions directed toward optimizing energy efficiency that reduce operating costs while meeting sustainability goals. Collaborating with architects, managers may take a holistic approach to energy systems that meet budgetary and sustainability goals with state-of-the-art monitoring and control systems, low-energy climate, lighting and security systems.
Existing buildings may be retrofitted to meet sustainability goals. Automated systems to efficiently manage lighting, heating and cooling plus elements such as insulated windows, high-efficiency heating and air conditioning, low-energy lighting, high-tech energy control and monitoring systems and other energy saving adaptations.
Sustainable energy-saving upgrades not only reduce operating costs, but some changes can be subsidized by tax savings, grants, and rebates designed to encourage the installation of energy-saving devices.
Energy Solution: Alternative Energy Sources
A major solution created to minimize energy costs has been the introduction of alternative sources. University campuses, government buildings and commercial complexes have installed on-site energy sources, independent of the traditional grid. These have the flexibility to draw energy from a variety of sources which provides power security in case of a break in one individual source. This also allows the facility manager to “least cost source” energy by having multiple options.
Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy sources are also being used to supplement or handle the entire demand for energy in many situations. One notable example is the Idaho State Capitol Building which is heated by geothermal water. In the District of Columbia, several government buildings use solar power to supplement energy needs.
2. Water Management
Water and wastewater management are substantial cost centers in building management. Not is fresh water becoming a precious commodity in the world today, it is estimated that water management uses approximately 4% of the energy used in a typical building. So the challenge is not only to limit consumption, but also to recycle and reuse water wherever possible while ensuring that pollutant elements from chemicals and cleaning solvents are not introduced.
Water Solution: Landscape Watering Alternatives
Maintaining a beautiful exterior landscape and regulating sufficient irrigation is a singular challenge for some facilities managers. A positive solution for improving water management has been the introduction of efficient sprinkler systems using reclaimed water. These systems can gauge soil moisture content and regulate water according to need. In addition, some universities have actually replaced their existing lawns with drought-resistant grass varieties that require less watering.
3. Managing Waste
Facilities and maintenance managers have been at the forefront of waste recycling efforts. The University of Oregon estimates that food waste, yard debris and other organic material make up 23% of the overall waste stream.
Waste Solution: Composting / Zero Waste Programs
Composting converts organic waste products into valuable soil amendments to sustain future plant growth, a true recycling process.
Also, cooked, unused food left over after on campus meals is immediately transported to agencies that care for those in need.
Nationwide, universities have developed Zero Waste events whereby 100% of all materials not consumed are recycled, reused or composted.