Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and that certainly applies to facilities as they transfer to greener and more sustainable operating strategies. Planning can be a challenge. Unless building owners and managers are willing or able to pay consultants hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to help with the process, it simply never gets done, and facilities continue to operate in their customary, less environmentally responsible manner.
I have nothing against for-hire consultants; they have helped countless facilities adopt healthier, more sustainable operating practices. It’s just that their price tags can keep many locations from jumping on the green bandwagon, even though they might want to. Fortunately, web-based technologies are being introduced—some at no charge—that help building owners and managers specifically with the planning stages. These technologies can help many more facilities become more environmentally responsible and sustainable in the future.
We’ve already heard what our friend Ben Franklin says about the importance of planning. When a facility decides to put together a sustainability plan, the first thing administrators must look at and fully understand is how their facility operates today, and then, with this answered, how (and why) they would like to see it operating in the future. Essentially, this is an attempt to get to the heart of a building owner/manager’s goals abouttheir facility’s efficiency and sustainability.
The ways some of these systems work is by asking a series of questions which are analyzed. An analysis is then provided. Some examples of the types of questions administrators might be asked to help them formulate a sustainability plan might include the following:
What is most important to the ongoing success of your facility?
- A greener and healthier workplace?
- Becoming more operationally lean and efficient?
- Improving worker productivity?
What is driving your facility’s focus on sustainability?
- Regulatory requirements?
- Tenant needs or attracting/keeping tenants?
- Social responsibility?
What is the primary reason you monitor (if you do) your facility’s use of water, energy and waste?
- Environmental stewardship?
- Reducing expenses?
- Public awareness and good “PR?”
As it pertains to more efficient building operations, which of the following are most important to you now?
- Increasing worker productivity?
- Reducing absenteeism?
- Monitoring the use of natural resources?
- Streamlining and reducing building operating costs?
Is certification of your facility by such organizations as LEED or Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) important to you?
- Not sure
Answering these and other questions can really be an eye-opener. First, owners/managers now have—often for the first time—a clear idea as to where things stand in their facilities today. View these results as a benchmark, and as with any journey, especially the journey to become greener and more sustainable, this provides an important starting point.
But as we mentioned, these questions also answer the whys of becoming more sustainable and help building owners/managers better understand their true priorities. Understanding these priorities, whatever they are, helps avoid confusion and solidifies future plans and goals.
For instance, answering the questions just presented along with others, these web-based systems may indicate the following examples as a facility’s key green and sustainability priorities:
- Improving health and hygiene (30 percent)
- Advancing worker productivity (30 percent)
- Reducing operating costs (25 percent)
- Enhancing the facility’s image for building users and within the community (15 percent).
I should add that if one of the reasons a facility (or business) wants to be more environmentally responsible is to improve its image or for marketing or PR reasons, there really is nothing wrong with that. In my experience, once the benefits of green and sustainability strategies are realized—such as reduced costs, reduction in absenteeism, and even enhanced worker morale—image and PR take a backseat, and building owners/managers take even more steps to enhance operations and create a healthier, more sustainable workplace, all for the betterment of the environment.
Once clarifying and prioritizing goals are in place, at little or no cost, owners/managers of organizations can begin the process of actually implementing a green and sustainability plan for their facilities. The process is usually accomplished a step at a time. But at least with a plan in hand, implementation is around the corner.
Michael Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, a global leader in supply chain optimization, providing clients with innovative process and procurement solutions to drive efficiencies in today’s leading businesses. He can be reached thought his company website.