The biggest source of man-made greenhouse gases are electricity and heat, and businesses are responsible for 39% of these emissions: 28% from operational emissions and the other 11% from materials and construction. With the world currently behind schedule in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to 1.5C, every business must renew its sustainability efforts – with a particular focus on those who play a hands-on role in maintaining the building.
It has been found that working with our hands makes us more creative, with greater ability to solve problems. Doing so activates parts of the brain not accessed by thinking and speaking; stimulating new ideas and understanding. One of the most important challenges we face globally is combatting climate change, so should FM teams be placing more priority on this, and how can they achieve positive change?
Reduce, reuse, reap the benefits
According to a UK government study, more than a third of businesses not taking action to reduce emissions reported there was “nothing to prevent them from doing so.” Actions reported in the study ranged from switching to LED lightbulbs (most likely, undertaken by 29%) to installing renewable power sources (2%) or installing electric vehicle charging points (3%).
While potentially seen as ‘just another thing to do’ by CEOs, it’s a different story for FMs. Take LED lightbulbs. Lasting 42 times longer than incandescent bulbs, consuming around 75% less power than halogen, generating less heat, and generally fitting into the same fixtures, making this change is good for the environment and the FM team. Re-lamping PPMs can be scheduled less frequently and reactive requests for blown lighting will also drop, allowing the team to focus on other tasks. Team feedback on operational strategy is valuable to reduce waste. How often does an engineer attend a PPM task for a filter change only to find it wasn’t necessary, but must still be done? Moving towards a predictive maintenance schedule can assist. This could be done by using sensors to assess condition, or by monitoring asset run time and triggering PPMs after an agreed number of hours to give a more precise measure of utilization than calendar months.
Sustainability for the bottom line
Businesses and consumers alike are being hit by the growing cost of electricity, fuel and materials so any measures to reduce consumption can help the bottom line. Integrating heating and lighting controls with a building management system (BMS) means they can be switched off after hours when the building is empty. Installing bicycle racks promotes cycling to work to reduce reliance on cars. Replacing paper and plastic cups with ceramic mugs and moving to paper-free admin, for example using CAFM mobile apps instead of printed work sheets, reduces waste. Even looking into the supply chain to reduce carbon miles is impactful. In fact, studies have shown that millennials, who make up a large proportion of the global workforce, are more likely to choose to work for a company that has a sustainability plan and would be willing to sacrifice a portion of their salary to work for a sustainable company.
More green choices
It’s becoming easier to make sustainable choices as commercial and public sector interest around green credentials is rising. Many governments have or will ban the sale of non-electric vehicles within the next decade, pushing organizations to start thinking about car charging points for employees and the viability of their own fleet. One Australian company, Sun Cable, plans to harness the sun in the Northern Territory (one of the most reliably sunny places on the planet) with a solar farm and transfer the energy to Singapore via a 4,200-kilometre-long subsea cable. This renewable source could supply 15% of Singapore’s energy needs. And following recent investigation into data centres accounting for a huge impact on emissions, Google now claims its cloud services produce net zero carbon emissions (and they will help customers reduce the emissions from their own cloud workload) and Amazon has promised to achieve the same by 2040.
Communication is key
FM teams are likely to have a different view from others as to what is working and what isn’t. Working with their hands combined with responsibility for the built environment means FM is well placed to take the lead in green problem solving. While the profession has risen in prominence, especially following the Covid pandemic, this is another opportunity for the industry to push the professional forward and ensure their actions not only create a sustainable workplace but a more sustainable planet.
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