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Facilities Managers: Sustainability is your job too

Cormac Crossan, Commercial Real Estate Business Development Director at Schneider Electric UK&I, on why sustainability is a function of facilities management.

Many of us have heard the staggering fact that the buildings and construction sector accounts for almost 40 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. But did you know that up to 80 per cent of a building’s energy use, and therefore carbon footprint, results from its operations?

This may seem daunting at first. But it also presents a huge opportunity for facilities managers (FMs) to play a major role in creating green buildings, driving value for customers and occupants, and closing the gap between well-intended green building design, and the often less sustainability reality of building operations.  

After all, as building end-users grow increasingly serious about sustainability, they’ll look to FMs to help identify where they can make a difference. To satisfy these stakeholders and meet environmental KPIs, FMs must prepare now by embracing smart building technology.

The  issue with buildings

To be truly sustainable, buildings, both new and old, need to change. Over 70 countries, including large polluters like China, the US, and the European Union, have already set net-zero targets, covering around 76% of global emissions. Now, there’s increasing pressure from governments and consumers on building owners to do the same. In fact, major built-up areas like London, New York, and Tokyo have already committed to net-zero by 2030—with building owners potentially facing steep penalties if they don’t comply.

An important place to start is the building performance gap. In terms of energy efficiency, buildings often don’t perform anywhere near as well once in use as they were predicted to in their design stage. Some buildings can consume up to ten times more energy than their compliance calculations expected.

One of the largest factors contributing to this gap is a lack of monitoring and feedback following occupancy. Without the right tools, inefficiencies are rarely identified, and occupant behaviour isn’t corrected. So, what tools do FMs need to close this performance gap in both new and retrofitted facilities?

Install energy management technologies

The struggle for energy efficiency has become a well-established global issue. As a result, the market for energy management solutions is now similarly mature and poses a low technology risk for building owners looking to reduce energy costs while boosting stakeholder satisfaction.

But while 70 per cent of respondents to the IWFM 2021 Sustainability survey highlighted energy and carbon footprint reduction as a building priority, 62% said they don’t have access to the data needed to help clients meet their facility sustainability objectives. Digital is key in bridging this gap.

Analytics monitoring services allow FMs to uncover key insights into a building’s operations by continuously scanning its energy systems, highlighting inefficiencies, and identifying areas of optimisation to be actioned by stakeholders. These digital tools can also allocate a cost to any faults and generate comprehensive reports that offer a complete picture of the building, its systems and assets, and performance against KPIs.

Any green technology solutions being considered should offer a three-prong approach. Then, the business, the occupants, and the operators can all take steps towards stronger sustainability—and other efficiencies, too.

Leverage building optimisation software

Workplace management systems also help FMs to monitor and optimise occupancy characteristics, like space utilisation or lighting levels. First, these digital systems collect and analyse important building data. Then, they send the curated analytics to a central dashboard, and begin adapting the workplace to improve occupant well-being, enhance output, and reduce operating costs. These are all common issues that busy FMs wouldn’t have the time to analyse themselves – but digital optimisation tools speed up the process and free up time to actually make the necessary changes.

For instance, these systems can instantly identify underutilised meeting rooms, helping occupants free up valuable space and reduce applicable energy consumption. Or, they can monitor temperature and humidity and automatically adjust HVAC levels, boosting occupant comfort for greater productivity and a potential reduction in energy waste. With these management systems in use, UK offices can expect huge returns on investments.

Efficiency is the new competitive advantage

If FMs want to improve internal operations, developing an optimisation strategy is now crucial. And with access to a range of technologies, FMs and building owners can instantly act on facility insights and embed sustainability within their organisations. The gap between building design and operation is too clear to ignore, and with the digital tools available today, there’s no reason it can’t be closed.

2050 is fast approaching. With almost half of all companies already setting and implementing clear net-zero strategies, the best time to join them was yesterday. The next best time? Today.

CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Cormac Crossan

Cormac Crossan is Commercial Real Estate Business Development Director at Schneider Electric UK&I.

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