Sustainability at Work
Internet of Things (IoT)-driven building monitoring systems are giving organizations deeper insight into facilities and asset-level energy consumption driving the facilities professionals to improve their performance.
Facilities managers remain challenged by an expectation of energy and water cost increases and relatively flat allocation of the resources they need to drive efficiency gains. Energy costs are fluctuating, technology is advancing, and organizations are continuing their push for transparent energy and natural resource conservation. As these forces work, facilities professionals are seeking new opportunities to minimize energy, water, and waste costs and report those savings back to corporate and constituent stakeholders.
Low Cost/No Cost Efficiency initiatives
The data gleaned from tech advances is helping facility managers to make more informed site-level efficiency decisions which generate utility, water and waste savings and have a direct net impact on revenue.The return on the investment in building or asset monitoring is precisely zero—unless organizations take action on the data they gather.Interestingly, while a growing volume of deeper facilities-level data helps to shed light on policy and personnel issues impacting energy and water efficiency, only 7 percent of facilities managers in the US are leveraging energy data to drive internal training and awareness initiatives.
While corporate and stakeholder expectations are putting energy and water efficiency pressure on facilities managers from inside the four walls, those managers are particularly wary of market forces on the outside.Anticipation of spiking energy prices aside facilities professionals consider lack of internal resources one of their biggest challenges. That puts resource constraint concerns ahead of those related to costs, interpreting energy data, and expanding beyond energy to water,waste and emissions management.
Waste Management: Given their vantage point on the front lines of waste hauler operations, facilities and procurement professionals are far-and-away more concerned about right sizing trash collection than any other role. The greater data transparency, reporting and third-party oversight of haulers creates a relatively new opportunity to continuously analyse and “right size” container size, location, and pickup schedules.Further, as waste diversion opportunities like composting and recycling become available in more localities;“right-streaming” is becoming an increasingly important activity.
Water Strategies: In concert with energy professionals, facilities managers are leading the charge toward low-cost/no cost water efficiency investments including faucet aerators and flush valves, which are the go-to strategy for water conservation among 43 percent of facilities professionals. Modified operational procedures such as irrigation schedules (31 percent) and behavioural modifications through awareness and training (22 percent) are distant second and third priorities, respectively for gaining water consumption efficiency.
Distributed Energy Resources: Facilities managers are exploring and adopting distributed energy resource (DER) opportunities that include, on- and off-site renewables such as, solar, wind and the integration of onsite energy generation, storage, and demand management technologies.This is another indication that pressured facilities managers are keenly interested in exploring every avenue to reduce demand and consumption. They can’t afford to turn assets off during peak times. DERs appear an attractive alternative to achieving the same result.
“Right-sizing” and “right-streaming” are precursors to zero waste initiatives, which have proven to result in a lower cost of waste disposal. Typically, the larger the volume of recyclable material hauled to a recycling facility,the lower the cost to dispose of it. Many businesses are even selling value-retaining waste as a commodity,thereby reducing or negating the cost of waste disposal and, in some cases, creating a new profit line.
Role of Facility Manager
With increased focus on energy consumption and the migration form traditional methods of energy control to that of Energy Management Systems (EMS), the role of Facility Manager is more critical than ever. But, with conflicting internal and external demands, FM’s are faced with more challenges than ever. Yet they are uniquely positioned to influence positive changes in how organizations are using, and conserving energy.
Facilities professionals are bullish on CapEx investments like LED lighting upgrades, EMS/monitoring controls, distributed energy resources (DERs) and HVAC system upgrades. It’s typical for energy efficient lighting upgrades to deliver 25-35 percent reductions in energy consumption with a simple payback of two to three years.With that being noted, signs are pointing toward the increased adoption of EMS and monitoring controls, which enable consumption visibility at the asset level. More organizations are realizing the value ofsite- and sub-meter-level data as the driver of the insight they need to make impactful efficiency improvements beyond low-hanging fruit like lighting.
The financial, social, and brand equity gains associated with energy and sustainability management are resulting in growing awareness of opportunities for cost reductions.
A Holistic Approach
Energy and natural resource consumption—and costs—fluctuate due to a variety of external forces,from supply and demand to weather and geopolitical influences. Meanwhile, carbon, energy efficiency and sustainability reporting requirements are putting more pressure on facilities professionals to manage energy and water consumption and optimize waste streams. With data-driven insight into consumption, utility and waste hauler performance, facilities managers are helping to turn energy, water and waste line items into controllable costs.
A holistic view of the organization’s utility and waste cost and consumption data isn’t just the hallmark of today’s most successful energy and sustainability programs; it’s increasingly recognized as imperative to future business continuity and facilities management.