Climate change is an issue no one can ignore, but what role can facilities management companies play in helping their customers incorporate more green solutions into their business plans? Brij Thankey, CEO of Precision FM, explores
The UK government has pledged to achieve net zero on greenhouse gases by 2050. As a part of this, they are urging businesses, especially SMEs, to cut their emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero themselves by 2050.
Suppose businesses want to focus on eco-friendly solutions. In that case, facilities management companies are well placed to be able to advise how to incorporate climate change resilience into everything they do.
What exactly is climate change?
Climate change is a sustained global and regional change in weather patterns, and while the effects of climate change vary according to region, they generally include:
Elevated sea levels
Longer frostless periods
Shifting patterns of rainfall
More frequent heatwaves and droughts
Despite the efforts of the global community to mitigate climate change, we must address its impact on our daily lives, especially as its effects are expected to be evident for generations.
Incorporating smart technology to mitigate the environmental impact of buildings
Consider the vast impact electricity has on our world today, and it’s clear why we’re adopting smart devices that use much less power. Appliances such as LEDs use very little power and therefore produce less waste.
Other key energy-saving aspects of smart technology include timers, remote control and automatic switch-off. Instead of leaving appliances on when not needed, smart devices can detect when nobody is in the room and turn off the lights to save power.
Reactive lighting can be configured further so that only occupied spaces are illuminated; for example, someone sitting at a single desk in a room can have that area lit. There’s no need to illuminate a whole office for one person. But simply mitigating the causes of global warming is not enough. As our climate becomes more erratic, the next step is to build resilience.
Businesses may feel that adopting new measures to tackle the problem will cost them more. Still, facilities management companies can help advise how resilience initiatives mitigate the consequences of climate change but can also help reduce operating costs.
Addressing climate change concerns in building management requires research and thorough planning. As weather behaviour varies and the impact of global warming varies by region, there is no silver bullet.
We suggest that the first step is to undertake a vulnerability assessment. As facilities managers, we understand our properties’ operations and how our clients do business. We’re well positioned to evaluate how all manner of properties and facilities might cope with, for instance, severe weather and to identify any weaknesses.
It is also essential to identify evolving legislation around building resilience or the introduction of further public financing towards green initiatives.
While the exact solutions for premises will vary depending on location and the facility’s needs, below are some general ideas for improving resilience in energy use and water consumption.
Implementing IoT solutions to improve energy efficiency
As one of the leading causes of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, it’s no surprise that reducing energy use is a central focus for building resilience and sustainability.
Implementing IoT solutions helps improve energy use in buildings by lowering energy consumption. The fewer energy buildings use, the more resilient they will be if they’re cut off from the national power grid.
Integrating Building Management Systems (BMS) to reduce energy consumption is already gaining ground as the standard way forward.
Alarms triggered by BMS software can be sent straight to the FM company’s switchboard, and an engineer can be allocated to the incident. With room reservation software, meeting rooms and offices can be automated only to be powered when used.
In this way, the burden of resource management can be shared between the FM company and building owners, leading to reduced emissions and to increased savings.
Other measures include using renewable energy systems, such as installing solar energy units to provide backup power. The key is to reduce a building’s dependence on one particular energy source.
The importance of managing water consumption
Rising temperatures and increasing heatwaves increase the likelihood of droughts, making water conservation a vital element of building resilience. In times of drought and water scarcity, a building that is less dependent on water and has a water recycling plan is intrinsically more resilient.
Like energy efficiency and utility optimisation, managing your building’s water demands and usage can make it more resilient to a changing environment. Incorporating water recycling into a structure will make it more robust in water shortages.
Additional water use options include using cisterns to collect and store water for irrigation in the summer and reducing water-intensive refrigeration appliances. Even adjusting the landscaping surrounding the facility to fit drought-tolerant vegetation can play a role in conserving water without compromising the overall appearance.
FM is at the forefront of improving a building’s ability to cope with weather changes
While many businesses have put sustainability at the heart of their business operations, for some, taking steps to achieve these goals can seem daunting. Facilities management companies can play a key role in being at the forefront of solutions for improving buildings’ abilities to cope with weather changes.
We can’t solve climate change alone, but we can do our bit as part of the global community to help reduce its negative impacts for the good of all.