Can facilities management finally break the back of the sustainability challenge?

The UK government has identified that buildings represent our greatest opportunity to meet the carbon reduction targets handed down from Brussels. With over 47% of UK emissions coming from the construction and use of buildings, tackling their inefficiencies is a major slice of the sustainability pie.

Subsequently, renovation schemes like the Energy Company Obligation and Green Deal have meant that the poorest performing stock can now receive funding for new insulation and replacement boilers. Changes in Building Regulations and the advent of the Green Construction Board ensure that new buildings are designed and developed to meet nearly zero carbon targets.

However, there has been relatively little intervention to tackle how buildings are used in terms of occupier behaviour. It is generally accepted that up to 20% of energy costs could be saved through efficient energy use, with minimal investment required; so why aren’t we addressing the low hanging fruit of energy behaviour?

In the home, limiting energy waste is second nature; turning off the lights when leaving a room, switching off the television to avoid standby and turning down the thermostat all create savings that we can see in our monthly statements. However, in the workplace the benefits of positive energy behaviour are not directly felt and this results in office lights left on; monitors running through the night; and air conditioning, desk fans and heaters all adding costs to the employer’s energy bill.
Energy Management is supposed to to tackle this issue but some businesses are put off by systems which require complex auditing and costly installations which generally only appeal to the larger organisations with energy-intensive operations. Tackling energy behaviour in companies still remains a major challenge and it requires an approach that can sit alongside other building services and be embedded into the workplace culture.

The facilities management (FM) sector is ideally placed to take on this task and help employers reap the rewards of energy savings. FMs take responsibility for ensuring that buildings run in an efficient way to deliver effective operation; from security to the canteen the FM is silently making sure that businesses can function. So it makes sense that FMs would be ideally placed to start addressing the increasing energy costs that businesses continue to face.

The Building Futures Group currently represents over 70% of the FM sector within the UK and we have started communicating with our members to help them embed energy efficiency behaviour within UK buildings. In some cases this will lead to changes to the fabric as well but it makes sense to start with the lowest cost improvements such as energy behaviour. If we can get everyone, from the post room to the board room, to start making little changes to their workplace behaviour then pretty soon switching off the monitor will make a big difference to the cost of running your business.

The Building Futures Group will be appearing at Energy Management Exhibition on the 19th and 20th November 2014 at London ExCel – stand B74.