Delivering sustainability

Benefiting from the experience of facilities managers — Ian Fielder.
Ian Fielder of the British Institute of Facilities Managers argues that the experience of facilities managers in operating buildings day by day has a key role to play in designing sustainability into new and refurbished buildings and delivering corporate social responsibility. The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) represents over 11 000 FM professionals — the people who ensure that offices, hospitals, universities, retail centres, council halls and even police stations are maintained, serviced, improved and run efficiently for the benefit of their occupants and those to whom services are provided. Facilities management encompasses multi-disciplinary activities within the built environment and the management of their impact upon people and the workplace. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability have become more prominent in the business world in recent years. This has been driven by a number of factors, including increased Government legislation, rising energy costs and the media attention drawn by environmental issues such as climate change. CSR is essentially about how business takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way it operates — maximising the benefits and minimising the downsides.

The regular checking of systems as part of facilities-management contracts carried out by specialist companies such as Inviron plays an important role in ensuring that buildings continue to operate in an energy-efficient manner.The regular checking of systems as part of facilities-management contracts carried out by specialist companies such as Inviron plays an important role in ensuring that buildings continue to operate in an energy-efficient manner.

Facilities managers have a key role to play in contributing to CSR, as they can translate the high-level strategic change required by senior decision makers into day-to-day reality for people in their work or living space. Facilities managers know how buildings work in practice, and the facilities management approach emphasises sustainability, long-term thinking and life-cycle costing. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and improving energy performance is a key component of sustainable development — and just one example of where facilities managers are on the ‘front line’. Facilities managers can help to achieve organisation and Government targets on energy-efficiency and reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions as they control heating and cooling systems, lighting and, increasingly, all electronic appliances and information technology in their buildings. Early involvement The lack of awareness of the role of facilities managers means that their understanding of how buildings are used during their operational lifetime is not always brought to the table when new buildings are being designed. This means that project teams are losing out on a valuable perspective and insight into the long-term uses of a building. Facilities managers can advise project teams both in the private sector and the public sector — testing assumptions about how buildings are used and tabling issues that are often overlooked. BIFM advocates the greater involvement of facilities managers in new-build projects, in order to design-in how a building will actually be used throughout its lifetime. Facilities managers are the only professionals able to combine whole life-cycle thinking with a practical understanding of how buildings are used. Facilities managers could bring this to the table in development proposals, yet their views are very rarely sought. Consulting with facilities managers should be considered best practice in sustainable design, ensuring that how a building will be used in practice during its whole life cycle is factored in at an early design stage. Facilities managers can advise how a building will actually be used by its occupiers, rather than how it is designed to be used. Consulting facilities managers would be an easy way to ‘user test’ a building design and ensure that energy-efficiency measures are fully effective and not undone by other aspects of the design. Existing buildings Of course, only a small percentage of the UK’s building stock is replaced in any year. According to Government figures between 2001 and 2003, completed commercial build represented only 2% of total stock. Existing buildings are therefore of enormous importance in addressing energy demand and contributing to reducing carbon emissions.

With corporate social responsibility and sustainability having come to prominence in recent years. the services of specialist facilities-management providers have a growing role to play. The dedicated energy-management bureau of GSH Group in Stoke on Trent, for example can help clients reduce carbon emissions and make saving savings in energy costs.

Each and every building that we see around us can be used either in an energy-efficient manner or in a wasteful one. Cumulatively, the effect in either direction is substantial. Facilities managers who have inherited buildings with poor energy performance should be involved in any refurbishment projects from the outset so they are able to prioritise efficient energy management throughout the whole building. BIFM believes all buildings should be assessed not just on their design performance but also on their performance in use. We strongly support the introduction of operational ratings under the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (alongside asset ratings, which measure design expectations) as a means of measuring the actual in-use energy performance of a building. Information & training BIFM provides its members with advice on training and continuing professional development. The institute is calling on Government to provide greater emphasis on information and training to encourage the take-up of energy-efficiency measures and renewable energy options. The BIFM is currently leading a knowledge-transfer project in sustainable facilities management in association with the University of Reading, supported by the DTI and sponsored by furniture manufacturer Kinnarps. This project will identify and organise information on sustainable FM practice and develop practical tools for those managing buildings. Ian R Fielder is chief executive office with the British Institute of Facilities Management. Management.
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