Ways facilities managers can optimize wellness and sustainability
The role of a facility manager has changed over the years, with the primary responsibility being to maintain workplace efficiency through maintenance. In recognizing the growing awareness of sustainability, FM consultancies, and FM account managers within corporations are increasingly providing a more sustainable business approach to FM.
In facility management (FM), the discussion of sustainability includes considering the development phase of planning, designing, constructing, renovating, operating and demolishing a building and how the building can be adapted to fit with the purpose of its users, optimizing its resources ensuring sustainability. The FM role is important beyond the remit of a caretaker who, for example, fixes practical problems and changes light bulbs. However, this requires the FM role to take a strategic position to influence and direct change in relation to both the owner and the core business organization. Here are some ways how standards can match the elements that affect sustainability. Going beyond physical changes to a building, this highlights the importance of organizational plans for resilience and wellness.
People spend approximately 90% of their time in enclosed spaces – in homes, offices, schools or other building environments. During this time, inhalation exposure to indoor air pollutants can lead to a variety of poor health and well-being outcomes.
In huge organizations, building materials, furnishings, fabrics, cleaning products, personal care products and air fresheners can all emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) into the indoor environment. Outdoor air pollution can also influence indoor exposure when pollutants diffuse indoors through building envelope openings, so there is a need to simultaneously address outdoor air quality.
Achieving the goal of clean indoor air requires both professionals and building users to engage in the implementation of adequate approaches. Although indoor air quality can be properly managed primarily through eliminating individual sources of air pollution and through adequate design solutions and human behavior modification, some buildings require installation of a specific treatment method or technology. Regular maintenance of selected air treatment systems is critical to ensure their optimal operation and expand their “life expectancy”.
Facility managers should seek to implement holistic design strategies to promote clean air and minimize human exposure to harmful contaminants in order to maximize benefits to productivity, well-being and health.
Here are some ways in which air quality can be managed by facility managers
Fundamental Air Quality- Ensure a basic level of indoor air quality that contributes to the health and well-being of building users.
Smoke-Free Environment – Deter smoking, minimize occupant exposure to secondhand smoke and reduce smoke pollution.
Ventilation Effectiveness – Prevent indoor air quality issues through the provision of adequate ventilation.
Construction Pollution Management – Minimize the introduction of construction-related pollutants into indoor air, remediate construction-related indoor air contamination for human health and protect building products from degradation.
Operable Windows – Increase the supply of high-quality outdoor air and promote a connection to the outdoor environment by encouraging building users to open windows when outdoor air quality is acceptable.
Air Quality Monitoring and Awareness – Monitor indoor air quality issues as well as inform and educate individuals on the quality of the indoor environment.
Source Separation – Preserve indoor air quality and maximize olfactory comfort in occupied spaces through the isolation and proper ventilation of indoor pollution sources and chemical storage areas.
Active VOC Control – Mitigate volatile organic compound (VOC) levels through the implementation of advanced air filtration/purification strategies.
In addition to providing hydration for building users, water plays a large role in other aspects of building design and operation. It is frequently used in heating and cooling systems, irrigation, pools and baths and general appliances. These instances are associated with various concerns for contamination.
Additionally, if water from any source wets building materials that are not intended to come into contact with water, it sets up prime conditions for mold growth. Careful building design and an operations team responsive to inspections and sensors can mitigate the risks from water in these other aspects of buildings.
Facility managers should aim to increase the rate of adequate hydration in building users and reduce health risks due to contaminated water and excessive moisture within buildings through better awareness and maintenance of water quality and management.
Water Contaminants – Provide access to drinking water that complies with health-based limits on contaminants.
Enhanced Water Quality – Provide access to drinking water without unpleasant taste, odor and appearance.
Moisture Management – Limit the potential for bacteria and mold growth within buildings from water infiltration and condensation. Establish an effective management program that prevents or adequately controls the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria.
Integrating daylight and electric light to create lighting strategies focused on human health, along with traditional requirements for visual acuity and comfort, can lead to healthier and more productive environments. Understanding the specific needs and preferences of users in a space is integral to creating effective lighting environments. For example, patients in a hospital ward have different lighting requirements than individuals in an office environment. Understanding user needs in a space is key to creating a healthier space. Environments that take into account these lighting strategies and user needs can contribute to the improvement of the overall mood and increase the productivity of employees.
Pursuing a renewable energy supply strategy that optimizes long-term supply and fuel price stability while preserving an ability to test and take advantage of other potential fuels is essential.
Light Exposure – Provide access to indoor light exposure.
Visual Lighting Design – Provide visual comfort and enhance acuity for all users through electric lighting.
Enhanced Daylight Access – Support circadian and psychological health through indoor daylight exposure and outdoor views.
Companies should aim to promote movement, foster physical activity/active living and discourage sedentary behavior by creating and enhancing physical activity opportunities through the spaces where we live, learn, work and play. The impact of changing the global physical activity narrative is substantial.
Active Commuter and Occupant Support – Promote active commuting through site amenities that support cycling and walking to the workplace.
Site Planning and Selection – Promote active living and physical activity by selecting sites that offer diverse amenities and uses, are in close proximity to mass transit and offer pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure in the surrounding area.
Physical Activity Opportunities – Encourage regular physical activity and exercise through no cost physical activity opportunities and education.
Active Furnishings – Discourage prolonged sitting and sedentary behaviors by providing active workstations and furnishings to as many people in the building as possible.
A comfortable thermal environment that satisfies all occupants is challenging to achieve due to individual preferences and possible spatial and temporal variations in the thermal environment. Therefore, there is a need for a holistic approach to thermal comfort that can satisfy the individual preferences of all building users. Correctly sized HVAC equipment is essential for optimal thermal comfort. Building HVAC systems should be designed to monitor and control for variations in indoor temperature, radiant heat transfer through the building envelope, relative humidity and air movement. Ultimately, the design should enable the people who live, work, learn, and play to easily make system adjustments for individual thermal preferences. Facility managers require to take a holistic approach to thermal comfort and provide a combination of research-based interventions to help design buildings that address individual thermal discomfort and support human health, well-being, and productivity.
The fortification of façade elements can ensure that exterior noise intrusion is subdued much to the benefit of occupant comfort, health and productivity. Adding mass and glazing to partition elements, sealing gaps at connections and doors and providing airspace between enclosed spaces bolsters sound privacy and increases occupant comfort. Replacing areas of hard surfaces in a space with absorptive materials can reduce reflected sound energy and better facilitate acoustical privacy or, conversely, improve speech projection. Consistent background noise levels can be introduced into a space using a sound masking system, thus improving the signal-to-noise ratio in favor of acoustical privacy between occupants.
Facility Managers should aim to provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to addressing the concerns of acoustical comfort through research-based design considerations that buildings can accommodate for the purposes of improving occupant health and well-being.
Mental health is a fundamental component of human health across all stages of life and is vital for the physical and social well-being of all individuals, communities and societies.
Organizations need to implement design, policy and programmatic strategies that support cognitive and emotional health through a variety of prevention and treatment efforts. In combination, these interventions have the potential to positively impact the short- and long-term mental health and well-being of individuals of diverse backgrounds throughout a community.
Designing built spaces in a way that enables all individuals to access, participate and thrive within the systems and structures of each community is essential to shaping individual and collective health outcomes.
Organizations need to implement strategies that address public health issues through a social determinants framework, focusing on the social components that drive and shape health to form built spaces that truly create a foundation for healthy environments.
How can an organization invest itself in activities that is reflected in the following
Sustainability Strategies and Goals:
1. Become a Net‐negative Energy Consumer
Employing energy conservation efforts, modernize aged building systems and nurture a culture of conservation to reach the goal of consuming less energy on the facility.
Sampling of strategies to be pursued over the course of the decade:
- Update building design standards to lower the impact of growth.
- Pursue aggressive energy conservation opportunities.
- Building HVAC systems will be upgraded employing more energy efficient designs
2. Green Energy
It is important to pursue a renewable energy supply strategy that optimizes long‐term supply and fuel price stability while preserving an ability to test and take advantage of other potential fuels. As we transition from our dependency on fossil fuels, organizations will increase the use of biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, landfill gas, gasification and other emerging energy alternatives to achieve the goal of 40% renewable energy consumption.
Sampling of strategies to be pursued over the course of the decade:
- Develop a renewable energy supply strategy which optimizes long‐term supply and fuel price stability – while preserving an ability to test and take advantage of other opportunity fuels.
- All energy consumed on the facility must be focussed on being produced from renewable sources, including landfill gas, gasification and direct combustion of biomass.
- Wind, photovoltaic and gasification will become increasing contributors to the fuel mix.
3. Decrease Our Production of Waste
Fostering a culture oriented to reducing waste, increasing recycling, facilitating composting of organic waste, and enhancing green purchasing practices will help achieve waste diversion.
Sampling of strategies to be pursued over the course of the decade:
- A comprehensive recycling program should be developed and initiated.
- Modify buildings to facilitate recycling.
- Green purchasing practices, designed to reduce waste, will be implemented.
- Waste minimization practices will be incentivized and facilitated at departmental levels.
- Facility food service and composting operations should be retooled to both minimize and capture food waste.
4. Reduce the Carbon Impact of Transportation
There should be a focus on reduction in per capita emissions of fossil fuel‐produced CO2 from organization-related transportation and travel.
Sampling of Strategies to be pursued over the course of the decade:
- Carbon‐efficient fuels and technologies will be increasingly employed.
- Implement vehicle management practices for passenger and freight systems to improve the greenhouse gas efficiency of vehicles.
- Demand management programs will be expanded to reduce the vehicle miles traveled by single occupant vehicles used for commuting.
5. Increase employee Opportunities to Learn and Practice Principles of Sustainability
The organization has to provide students with educational opportunities that elevate their knowledge of and problem‐solving skills in environmental, social, and economic sustainability. These opportunities will include career‐related certificate and/degree programs, and sustainability‐related research experiences.
6. Develop Partnerships to Advance Collaborative Initiatives, both Academic and Operational
Companies should continue to create and nurture partnerships with communities, businesses, government agencies and other organizations with the goal of understanding and meeting the ever increasing need for environmental, social and economic sustainability.
What are some of the ways organizations can commit to sustainability?
- Biomass Fuels/Zero Coal
- Building Commissioning
- Building Design
- Campus Trees and Landscape
- Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
- Energy Control Center
- Energy-Efficient Lighting and Control Systems
- Enhanced fault Detection and Diagnostics
- Green Cleaning
- Recycling and Waste Reduction
- Rainwater Management
- Sustainable Energy Discovery District
- Vehicle Fleet