For global companies that face the challenge of embedding green design into the thinking of a vast network of operating personnel, project managers, design institutes and construction contractors, one particularly successful strategy involves creating a common set of “sustainable engineering guidelines” and making these accessible through a company-wide, online portal.
While a commitment to green design is often shared, bringing this to life often requires overcoming practical considerations. Construction companies tend to be comfortable with traditional building designs; procurement may not have pricing agreements for sustainable materials and everyone will be concerned about bringing a project in on time and on budget. Each of these tendencies can work against the inclusion of green design in existing buildings and new construction.
There are several considerations when building a platform that will ensure a consistent approach to green design across a global organization.
First, Operations and Engineering representatives from across the company should work with their engineering vendors to offer analysis that helps create shared guidelines. This analysis should answer common questions as to the best approach to take when confronted with environmental tradeoffs.
For example, how do you answer the common dilemma of choosing to install paper towels versus hot air blowers in facilities’ restrooms? Both approaches have their advantages and colleagues will likely be choosing among multiple competitive vendors.
The engineering solution may be surprising. After significant investigation and debate, for instance, PepsiCo analysis revealed an answer: If you can create an effective compost program for waste paper, then paper towels edge out hot air blowers in terms of net sustainable impact.
Second, organizations often require similar answers to questions that are answered in an inconsistent way – for example, which lighting application is ideal in which circumstance, what is an acceptable level of fly ash content in concrete walls, under what conditions are variable speed drives not desirable.
When left to the local design institute or construction company, the application of sustainable guidelines can vary significantly – especially across international locations. This lack of consistency delays, and can even undermine, the transformation to green design. Offering a corporate point of view, in the form of common standards, creates the direction and clarity that helps move a company’s sustainability strategy forward.
Third, the portal should be visually organized in a way to give the user access to company endorsed international solutions. It is vital that all interested parties can rapidly find what they are looking for and especially helpful to integrating these with an electronic reporting tool, such as Microsoft SharePoint software.
In PepsiCo’s experience, a simple and effective organizational structure is set around Categories, Guidelines and Solution Sets. Categories include Site Selection, Building Materials, Water Stewardship and Lighting Systems. Guidelines organized by Planning, Design, and Construction activities, largely mirror those found in the USGBC LEED program, with some customization for manufacturing operations. Solution sets are in the form of a menu of customized projects that have been proven in the field. Additional resources include training videos, company access to useful external websites like BuildingGreen.com, and forms and score sheets for tracking LEED certification.
Fourth, users of the Sustainable Engineering Guideline Portal will also notice that this tool can be invaluable in reducing the time and cost associated with LEED certification. Not only can the portal contain on-demand LEED training for users, the commonly used documentation needed for point certification can be collected and be made available to users of multiple projects.
As many of us have experienced, the consulting charges associated with LEED certification can be prohibitive on smaller projects or in international locations. By establishing a common database of solutions and documentation, an organization can build short cuts to reduce the consulting fees and time associated with a certification upload. For example, a non-smoking policy is fairly standard on all new sites – there is no need to create customized documentation for each LEED project.
Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, the interest in Sustainable Engineering Solutions is not contained to subject matter experts. In PepsiCo’s experience, making the guidelines easily available prompted thousands of employees to access the web site. Casual users have researched everything from green office furniture vendors and ideas to reduce energy for office temperature control to innovative ways to establish recycling and composting programs in their plants and offices.
If your organization is interested in embedding green in your DNA, companywide sustainable engineering guidelines may be the answer.
David Walker is Director of Environmental Sustainability for PepsiCo, www.pepsico.com