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Get the Green Light to Go Greener: Next Steps to Reducing Your Facility's Carbon Footprint

Sophisticated tools and methodologies are needed to find the best solutions for sustainability and get the go-ahead to proceed with green facility projects.

Bob Sawhill, CFM, eBusiness Strategies (Summer 2012)
Too often, environmental quick-wins have already been implemented and low-hanging fruit picked, which further challenges facility managers to identify, prioritize, and decide on best-value environmental projects. Meanwhile, these "green" projects compete for the same funds as other facilities projects, further complicating decisions to allocate scarce resources to the "right" projects. Therefore, more sophisticated methodologies and tools are needed to get the management green light to fund the best solutions to go greener.

Current Situation and Problem
In the past decade, the green spotlight has intensified on corporations and, thus, facility managers. Corporate-driven initiatives are now propelling corporate social responsibility, brand recognition, employee attraction/retention, and a marketing need to increase profits. Environmental sustainability indeed improves revenue, reduces expenses, and improves the workplace for the employees. That should motivate everyone to get onboard, regardless of his/her personal position on "saving the planet." In fact, IFMA's study on "Exploring Current Trends and Future Outlooks for Facility Management" rated "sustainability" as the number-one trend in 2011, up from number four in 2007.

Many studies and statistics clearly show that the primary contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption is buildings. As a result, buildings are the greatest opportunity for carbon footprint reductions and sustainable solutions. Who's in charge of these buildings? The facility manager and corporate real estate leaders are accountable.

The Challenge for Leading Practice Solutions
With financial pressures to do more with limited resources, greening the planet while reducing costs, sustainability becomes a formidable task with no apparent best path or clear next steps. Navigating through complex piecemeal data, competing priorities, and lack of the right information often triggers decision-making vertigo. Without the right guidance and methodologies, "going green" can turn a facility manager pale. Savvy solutions need the sophistication of leading practices and enabling tools to simplify and focus overwhelming data into actionable insights. These solutions are comprised of (1) measuring and managing environmental sustainability, (2) optimizing opportunities to do the right projects, and (3) integrating solutions to take it to the next level.

1. Measure and Manage
An old and wise adage states, "You can't manage what you can't measure," which is fundamental to managing the corporation and workplace, as well as environmental sustainability. Realistically, most environmental sustainability programs are struggling just to launch data collection and measurement. However, to take effective strides, complex data must be transformed into useful information to measure current performance, identify opportunities, and assess best directions.

Reporting and benchmarking internally and with industry organizations, such as LEED, EnergyStar, or World Resource Institute's Greenhouse Gas Protocol, is a key to success and a determines what data gathering is needed (outputs defines inputs). Streamlining data collection is a foundational element to efficiently and accurately measure sustainability. Performance management methodologies drive strategic alignment, analysis of key performance measures, and action to deliver the right results. Balanced scorecards, key performance indicators, accountability, and analytical tools to slice and dice information are key components to manage performance. Additionally, workplace performance management detects and identifies opportunities to investigate for improvements.

2. Optimize Opportunities
Analysis and evaluation capabilities enable decision-makers to prioritize projects and focus resources on the greenest solutions. Identifying opportunities feeds the project pipeline and comes from many sources, such as performance management, condition assessment, energy audits, sustainability assessments, day-to-day maintenance findings, or capital planning. To analyze and assess the project opportunities, various techniques and tools are utilized to optimize the project portfolio. The methodology of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) drives alignment and project value.

3. Integrate Solutions
Best practice leaders do not manage environmental opportunities in a sustainability silo. Instead, environmental projects and green practices need to be managed and combined with all workplace activities to optimize all opportunities with the same scarce resources and funds. Thus, the bar gets set higher to manage environmental sustainability with comprehensive facilities processes powered by integrated tools.

The concept of the high-performance workplace integrates engaged work force, sustainable facilities, intelligent infrastructure, and technology enablers to create a comprehensive solution. Intelligent buildings are the next-generation of building automation to foster proactive issue resolution with real-time measurement and operate buildings at peak efficiency. Leading practices and solutions integrate people, process, and technology to support workplace management decision-making, planning, operations, and service delivery.

Next Steps to Reduce Carbon Footprint
Where are you at? Where do you stand on the following issues?

  • How do you measure up? Can your organization measure how green it is or manage to greener actions?

  • Can you get the right decisions made? Can your organization optimize project portfolio to get the right results?

  • Where are you headed? Does your organization have a roadmap to take the workplace and sustainability to the next level?

Take the first steps to measure results. Then progress to larger strides in opportunity assessment. Strive for agile leaps in process alignment enabled by integrated technology. Effectively deliver sustainable value and reduce environmental footprint. Get the green light, go green, and get to greener.
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