Sustainability in business is a broad concept, which unites three very different aspects. The economic aspect, that is, the company’s profitability; the social aspect, which concerns the business’ impact on the community; and the environmental aspect, which seeks balance with the environment. But what is sustainable facility management?
What is sustainable facility management?
Sustainable facility management seeks to ensure that each building has a greatly reduced, or even neutral, impact on the environment. Generally, this implies several changes in the daily operations, as well as changes to the structure of the building itself. One of the possible alternatives to architectural changes is to use smart sustainable technology.
However, it has been shown that sustainable facility management is not just about minimising the impact of buildings. Sustainable facility management has repercussions for buildings, people, and organisations. Therefore, it is worth exploring the benefits of sustainable facility management – tangible and intangible.
Facility Management influences working conditions and therefore productivity. A Cornell University study found that when the AC temperature was between 20 and 25ºC, workers made fewer typing errors. In fact, “fewer” is an understatement: the number of typos fell by almost half, 44%. (If you discover any in this text, it was a cold day).
As for air humidity, those who work in dry (relative humidity less than 30%) or too humid (relative humidity more than 60%) environments suffer more stress. The study also found an indirect relationship between relative humidity and sleep quality, which also influences workers’ productivity and quality of life.
Finally, a Harvard University study concluded that poor ventilation influences our cognitive functions. Poor indoor air quality – with high levels of CO2 and PM2.5 – affects both our health and productivity. So, once again, looking after workers’ wellbeing goes hand in hand with business sustainability.
In post COVID-19 Facility Management, sensors had already established themselves as a way to avoid wasting energy when no one is in the office. But now we have proof that real-time monitoring has many more intangible benefits.
Helps attract and retain talent
As we have already seen, when Facility Management focuses on the user, it contributes to productivity and well-being. A quality workplace with natural light, good ventilation and the right temperature can lead to people missing four fewer days a year. But it is not only this that makes FM a major ally in retaining talent.
People who are satisfied with their workplace are 18% more likely to stay with their company and 30% more likely to be attracted to their company than to their competitors. Some 66% of those surveyed by the Harvard Business Review state that a “workplace focused on health and well-being” is decisive for accepting a new job or deciding to stay in the current one in the long term.
From this, we conclude that sustainable Facility Management not only contributes to retaining talent, but also to attracting talent. It is a factor that employees take into consideration when they are looking for work or deciding between one job or another. And according to statistics, it is gaining weight as millennials dominate the working population.
According to Forbes, 8 in 10 millennials have an expectation that companies will commit to good “corporate citizenship”. An IBM survey found that post-pandemic, 71% of workers want to work for a company that cares about environmental sustainability. In fact, this has already been a tie-breaking factor for almost 40% of millennials.
Decreases the environmental footprint of the company
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of sustainable Facility Management is to decrease the company’s environmental footprint. It is estimated that buildings consume 40% of the energy we use and 55% of electricity. But it is also estimated that 30% of that energy is lost, meaning that most companies have astronomical energy bills and a disastrous environmental footprint.
Sustainable Facility Management looks at all this waste and explores ways in which it can be reduced. Sometimes it is enough to ‘tackle’ sources of waste – for example, through a more efficient HVAC system or with technology that monitors equipment in real time. In other cases, deeper changes are needed, such as refurbishing the building or installing renewable energy sources.
Green Star certified buildings in Australia have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 62% compared to other buildings. In India, they save 40-50% of energy and use 20-30% less water. As for South Africa, they have reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions by 30-40%, while water remains at 20-30%.
Generates savings for the company
But environmental gains also turn into financial gains quickly. In the United States, buildings certified as “LEED” – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a programme developed by the “US Green Building Council” – have maintenance costs 20% lower than conventional buildings.
Moreover, as renewable energy becomes more affordable than fossil fuels, the return on investment is not long in coming. The price of electricity generated by solar power has fallen 89% in 10 years, while wind power has fallen almost 70%. In the future, renewable and non-polluting energy sources are still likely to be competitive.
Return on investment
Throughout this article, we have seen that sustainable Facility Management contributes to the company’s profit. It increases productivity, which allows you to increase revenue. Besides, it reduces employee turnover, so companies can save on training new members. And it obviously generates energy savings, which lowers monthly expenses. Finally, because the public values sustainable companies, it brings notoriety.
A 2018 report, “The Financial Case for High Performance Buildings“, suggests a 3% rise in productivity, a 5% increase in talent retention, and a 30% reduction in absenteeism. In the final calculation, there is a profit of $3,395 per employee and $18.56 per square foot. The return on investment is 6.29% per year.
On the other hand, if you are trying to attract investors, ESG criteria have more and more influence. In 2021, an IBM survey revealed that 48% of investors take sustainability into consideration and 21% plan to do so in the future. The majority, 59%, intended to buy or sell shares based on these factors over the next year.
Positive impact on the community
We’ve already mentioned that more sustainable buildings have a positive impact on employee productivity and wellbeing. But if you don’t work in an office building, this might not mean much to you. So, we want to give you a different example about the impact of buildings with green areas. Please note, green areas can be trees around the building, vertical gardens, or plants on balconies.
An Australian study found that patients in hospitals with ‘green infrastructure’ had 8.5% shorter hospital stays, recovered 15% faster, had 11% fewer secondary infections, and also needed 22% fewer painkillers. Buildings with green areas contribute to the well-being of those who occupy them and have a positive impact on the community.
Furthermore, green buildings can reduce the temperature inside cities by 2°C. All it takes is 7% of roofs to be green to reduce urban heat islands! So, it’s another example of how sustainable Facility Management connects the organisation with its community.
On the other hand, there is also public recognition. A 2021 study found that 85% of consumers have changed their consumption habits in the last 5 years in favour of sustainability. Some ⅓ are willing to pay more for sustainable products from sustainable companies. So, when you prioritise sustainability, you are just fulfilling consumer expectations.
What conclusion do we come to? That the smart thing to do is to invest in sustainable Facility Management. But, if you want to enter the smart Facility Management revolution, you need the right technology!