Sustainable Practices Within Facilities Management

Nicole Lummis
April 22, 2024

The built environment contributes to around 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Through sustainable practices, facilities management can help change this.

In January 2021, it was announced homes and businesses would have to meet ‘rigorous new energy efficiency standards’ to lower energy consumption and protect the environment. 

This comes as part of the ongoing strategy to meet the UK Government’s ‘net-zero by 2050’ goal. The Housing Minister, Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, stated:

“Improving the energy performance of buildings is vital to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and protecting the environment for future generations to come.”

The goal is for non-domestic buildings to be zero-carbon by 2025, which will reduce the energy consumption of buildings across the country, accounting for 40% of the UK’s total energy use.

Non-domestic buildings and sites have different requirements than reducing the environmental impact of homes, so how can facilities management be made sustainable to align that work with net-zero goals? Furthermore, why should facilities management change in the first place?

  • Why Should Businesses Pursue Sustainable Facilities Management?
  • The Benefits of Sustainable Facilities Management
  • How to Make Facilities Management Sustainable

 

Why Should Businesses Pursue Sustainable Facilities Management?

Businesses are critical components of the UK’s economic environment, helping to grow and maintain the country’s infrastructure. Because of this, facilities management has a crucial role in mitigating the complex and looming environmental challenges the UK faces. 

Facilities management has direct responsibility and capability for amending the energy use and facility performance of countless organisations and businesses across the country, be they in the public or the private sector. This also includes vital processes such as recycling practices, supply chain considerations and waste management.

Today, facilities managers must ensure the design and management of workplaces are carried out with environmental sustainability in mind, alongside creating and encouraging the behavioural change consistent sustainability requires. 

To align with the UK Government’s post-COVID ‘Build Back Better’ plan, businesses need to work towards sustainable practices across the board, creating objectives the workforce can understand and support. 

In our current environment, it’s impossible to divorce sustainability from facilities management, as it covers various immediately impactful processes, such as energy consumption, water use, heating and ventilation.

However, many managing directors and other high-level management will want to see sustainable facilities management has a direct positive impact on the business. So what exactly do sustainable practices within facilities management guarantee?

The Benefits of Sustainable Facilities Management

Creating greener ways of approaching facilities management has numerous benefits. For starters, when energy-efficient facilities and machinery can be onboarded, alongside better insulation and a change in human behaviour, the costs associated with energy consumption will plummet. 

Similarly, a higher level of on-site environmental quality will improve employee satisfaction. With better thermals, lighting and air quality will come increases in user happiness, comfort and health. All of this has a direct positive effect on productivity. 

Onboarding sustainable practices within facilities management has the potential for creating advantages when it comes to:

  • Energy and water use
  • Waste management
  • Material efficiency
  • Utility costs

Building layouts can also be altered to improve facility efficiency, especially for new sites under construction. While their older designs may handicap many buildings, facilities managers can undertake the effort to utilise modern technology, such as efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, to better insulate and regulate internal temperature. 

Overall, the direct benefits for businesses and organisations will reduce the costs associated with core expenditures, such as energy bills. Additionally, companies may find intangible, holistic advantages as well, such as workplace improvements that work towards upping productivity within a workforce. 

So how can facilities management be improved?

How to Make Facilities Management Sustainable

Update Your Assets

Many buildings across the country, especially ones built for retail use, weren’t specifically designed with sustainability in mind. Older assets tend to be far more environmentally offensive than newer buildings. However, there are multiple ways of reducing the impact of building use:

  • Utilise modern insulation to reduce heating loss.
  • Upgrade lighting to energy-efficient bulbs that turn on and off with motion.
  • Consider installing improved roofing to aid in heat-trapping.
  • Utilise smart meters to keep track of energy use.
  • Replace legacy equipment such as boilers, heating and cooling systems and windows.

Additionally, energy-efficient versions of business-specific assets will also decrease energy consumption and associated costs.

Invest in Renewable Energy Suppliers

A business or organisation can reduce the carbon emissions associated with their facilities by ensuring the energy they use is sourced from renewable processes such as hydropower, wind or solar. 

Across the UK, there are many renewable energy suppliers, such as Bulb, Good Energy, Octopus Energy and Ecotricity. All supply energy generated from renewable sources alongside carbon-neutral gas.

Energy providers such as these are disrupting current energy markets and can match the prices of the bigger providers. 

Engage in Preventative Maintenance

Energy efficiency is about securing the best functioning capacity of any machines you have on-site, be they computers, packaging machines or compactors. When machines are working at their best, they do their jobs quickly and utilising the least energy. 

This is aided by preventative maintenance, which, in short, just means regular upkeep to help machines stay in tip-top condition. Sub-optimal equipment is never efficient, so maintenance keeps assets running as they should. This helps to:

  • Reduce the costs of repair.
  • Reduce energy usage over entire lifespans.
  • Extend asset lifespans.

 

Get to Grips With Recycling and Waste Management

Recycling and effective waste management helps reduce virgin material use within our economy, limits the impact of waste materials and the potential for them to harm natural environments. 

For example, take e-waste. It’s a harmful waste type when thrown away but represents a vast amount of reclaimable value in the form of precious metals that can be harvested and remarketed.

Recycling helps reduce the need for new materials and lowers the carbon cost associated with each thing we use. Even something as simple as utilising recycled paper can drastically reduce the water use associated with everyday business tasks. One tonne of recycled paper uses 24,300 fewer litres of water than non-recycled paper.

Waste management is also a key focus. Organisations can use compactors and balers to reduce the volume of specific types of waste, lower the need for waste collection trips and make waste more immediately recyclable.

These are all notable ways of reducing the impact that sites, buildings and facilities have on the environment, creating greener businesses and ensuring that the UK is better prepared to meet the net-zero target by 2050.

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