Facilities and maintenance managers are faced with finding ways to do more with less. Cost reduction is a never-ending goal. In addition to these fundamentals objectives, many are challenged to adopt sustainable practices like reducing water usage, creating an efficient energy plan, eliminating harmful chemicals, reducing waste and developing practical recycling programs.
These 10 initiatives achieve sustainability objectives while helping to reduce operating costs of residential buildings, office complexes or university campuses.
1. Education and Awareness
Announce the initiative to create a more sustainable environment. This first step will help to achieve buy-in and explain why certain changes will take place around the facility. Many will automatically participate by reducing water and electricity consumption. The rest will respond when they see others acting responsibly.
2. Water Reduction
Besides suggestions to reduce water usage in office bathrooms, the installation of low-flow toilets and sink sensors will limit the amount of water being used. Efficient laundry facilities and dishwashers can also save up to 50% of the water used in older models.
3. Energy Reductions
Newer facilities have added supplemental power capability such as solar and wind power. But straight-forward energy conservation is an answer. Turning off lights when not needed and replacing old incandescent light bulbs with newer, more efficient CFLs (compact fluorescent) can reduce electricity usage by 75%. LED lights, though more expensive, last 20 times longer than incandescent and use about the same energy as the CFL. Installing sensors in hallways and less-used areas of the building reduces wasted energy as well.
4. Heating and Air Conditioning
Highly efficient heat pumps and air conditioning save money are expensive to purchase and install, but the payback is surprisingly short when compared with older models. To help offset the costs, governments and power companies offer rebates and incentives for adopting more efficient systems. State-of-the-art thermostats are now included that allow for remote adjustments and settings that adapt automatically to atmospheric changes. This technology eliminates costly over-compensating and inefficiency. As an additional sustainable feature, the latest air conditioning systems use newer refrigerants that are less harmful to the environment and the ozone layer.
More efficient watering systems with sensors that measure rainfall and moisture in the soil will eliminate unnecessary watering. Highly efficient drip irrigation systems are extremely effective in watering plant beds and shrub areas. Consider planting varieties that require less water and use recycled natural mulching materials and compost to help retain the moisture.
6. Rainwater Collection
Establish a system that collects rainwater for use on landscaping. This further reduces the cost of more expensive potable water usage.
7. Sustainable Cleansers
Using harmful chemicals for cleaning is bad for people and harmful to the ground water. Many producers have reformulated cleansers to achieve the same results with more favorable components.
8. Paints/Parking Lot Striping
Rather than applying the traditional petroleum-based paints for parking lot and pathway striping, the latest trend is to use soy-based paints for this purpose. BioStripe® striping paint has a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) rating which will not emit highly toxic fumes while being applied or drying.
Formulate an efficient recycling plan. Make it easy for the tenants to separate and recycle by providing the appropriate containers and announcing the pick-up schedule.
Find an available space to set up and encourage composting of organic material and food wastes. This compost will provide an eco-friendly supplement to the growing areas and will reduce the use of chemical fertilizers that can bleed into the ground water.
How does your organization contribute to making a positive impact on the environment through sustainability initiatives? Share your thoughts in the comments!