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Ways to ensure a sustainable working environment with facility management

Ways to ensure a sustainable working environment with facility management

With the way we work changing and the focus on sustainability still prevalent, Facilities Management needs to continue to explore ways to ensure a sustainable working environment

Corporate sustainability, Facility management

The majority of successful and sustainably run companies have a strong Facilities Management vision and team in place. The core responsibilities of the Facilities Management team are to ensure essential built environment support to the overall business operations and the wider teams within an organisation. 

The projected growth can be attributed to both the commercial and residential sectors continuing to thrive in the region. There is no doubt that considering COVID19 these numbers may change however; in the current circumstances the Facilities Management vision is even more crucial to ensure businesses operate safely and at optimum efficiency.
Sustainability within the workplace continues to top the list of priorities within Facilities Management teams as does the necessity to hire facilities management professionals who can implement and drive forward sustainable practices.

Matt Smith, associate head of the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS) at Heriot-Watt University Dubai shares his views on some of the ways by FM can be made sustainable.

Conduct a Sustainability Analysis and Audit
A full sustainability analysis and audit draws on current practices within an organisation and highlights room for improvement and change. These can be benchmarked against similar organisation’s or by comparing via a full year on year comparison of how current sustainable practices could be improved. Studies have shown that such audits can help facilities save up to 20% of their costs on energy and water.

Examples of effective questions to be asked when preparing the analysis are:

1. What is the environmental impact and what could we be doing to reduce waste?

2. What is the business doing to reduce its carbon footprint?

3. Which of our supplies has a sustainable vison and are we doing everything to support it?

Beware of hidden toxins and plastic
Not so many years ago, distributors of commercial cleaning products would stock only a handful of green chemical cleaners, and often, there was little or no demand for these products. Awareness has since grown, and we now know that hidden toxins in commonly used cleaning products can be devastating for the environment and are linked to serious health problems for your staff. An investigation produced by Environmental Working Group revealed that from the 2,000 cleaning supplies tested in the American market, most contained substances linked to serious health problems.  However, it’s not just the toxins that we should be mindful of but also plastic packaging of cleaning materials. FM professionals should, therefore, seek office cleaning contractors who offer ecofriendly solutions which can have a long lasting and positive impact on an organisation’s sustainable vision and most importantly, employee’s health and wellbeing.

Encourage employees to adopt green policies
A challenge many Facilities Managements teams face when implanting new sustainable measures is the buy in from employees. Setting up a ‘green team’ can help encourage change, initiate new ideas and in the long-term drive sustainability. Examples of change driven by teams could be adopting a better recycling policy, car sharing, and eliminating the use of plastic utensils at work. Individuals will react in a more positive manner if they can see the sustainable changes and have taken ownership to promote long term change. Equally, leaders in an organisation must demonstrate green behaviour and be role models for the rest of the organisation.

Prioritise sustainability focused contractors
Contractors can play a role in influencing how green a project can be, both during construction and after completion. Early involvement is key here – engaging green contractors at the start of the process will enable them to advise and implement best practices such as changing to energy -saving lighting, installing solar panels, sustainable air conditioning and filtering/recycling water. By deploying these measures, the joint impact that can be potentially achieved is a more sustainable, longer lasting building at a lower cost to maintain.

Continue to embrace remote working
The environment has been able to take a breather since the global lockdown and remote working will undoubtedly be one of the elements which will be embraced post COVID19. Carbon footprints are being reduced considerably by employees not travelling to and from the office every day. According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, if employees who could work from home for 2 days a week the savings would be over $700,000 a year. In the interest of driving sustainability, for roles where results can be achieved even by working remotely, it is essential organisations encourage the same.

Use space wisely
Buildings themselves continue to be a contributor to global pollution according to the Global Status Report 2017 published by UN Environment and the International Energy Agency, building and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world. It is therefore crucial for FM to ensure all space is used wisely and most efficiently, this not only leads to a more sustainable building overall but also a happier workspace for employees if the space is optimised and designed correctly.

Heriot – Watt University Dubai is committed to advise and educate Facilities Managers of the future on sustainable practices and offers a wide range of Facilities Management Courses which include:

• Sustainable Practices in Facilities Management
• People and Organisation in the Built Environment
• Space Planning Management.

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