Reducing building emissions for facilities managers

Facilities managers (FM) are on the frontline of the battle against climate change. Residential and commercial properties consume some 40% of global energy. What is more, 85% of the emissions from buildings happen during the asset’s operational stage (construction and demolition count for the rest). This means that the decisions FM professionals make can have a major impact when it comes to reducing building emissions.

If you are looking to reduce your portfolio’s carbon footprint, this article covers the key things you need to know.

Low emission building

Energy performance of buildings – regulations and standards

There are several energy performance regulations, standards and targets that FM professionals should be aware of when it comes to reducing building emissions:

  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPC): EPCs are valid for 10 years and give a building an energy efficiency rating on a scale of A-G. EPCs must be updated and maintained by the facilities manager. The current minimum rating for energy performance is E, and the UK government periodically raises the target.
  • Legally required inspections: Certain kinds of equipment which affect building CO2 emissions must be frequently checked against environmental standards. HVAC systems, for instance, need to be inspected every five years.
  • Certification: You might choose to get your assets independently verified and accredited by a standards-setting body like BREEAM which assesses the environmental performance of buildings.

 

Due diligence: See PlanRadar’s due diligence features

Facilities managers can help with reducing building emissions

Responding to climate change can often feel overwhelming. Nevertheless, research shows that FM professionals can play an important role in reducing humanity’s carbon emissions.

One case study at a UK university campus between the years 2000 and 2014 showed that a combination of low- and no-cost strategies, maintenance, retrofits and continuous improvements cut energy usage by half. This was achieved by implementing relatively simple changes. And with new technology, it is easier than ever for FM professionals to start cutting their building carbon footprints.

Zero emissions buildings: Read our guide to sustainable architecture

Reducing building CO2 emissions might be easier than you think

The original design of a building will have the greatest bearing on a facility manager’s ability to reduce carbon emissions. It is of course normally more difficult to go about reducing building emissions for older structures. But, as building designers focus more on achieving the goal of zero emissions buildings, this should become easier over time.

There is no ‘silver bullet’ solution for reducing building emissions. But the following steps can help towards cutting your portfolio’s environmental impact.

1. Establish your baseline energy usage and emissions

Determine your energy usage across the portfolio and how much is used by different equipment (i.e., emissions related to lighting, heating, kitchens, HVAC, etc.). Once you have established a baseline measure of your carbon emissions you can then begin making changes which will reduce your output. One useful tool to start doing this is the EC3 calculator which you can register for here.

2. Get the whole organisation on board

It is far easier to make a change when your colleagues and tenants support the drive towards reducing building emissions. Communicate your targets and explain what individuals and teams can do. If, for example, you run an office block, send round an email to all tenant companies to explain the new strategy. It might also be worth putting posters up.

3. Low hanging fruit

Once you have established your baseline energy usage, it is likely that you’ll notice several sources of energy consumption which could be easily reduced. This might include things like:

  • Switching energy supplier to a provider who uses renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
  • Replacing old incandescent light bulbs with LED lighting instead which last many years longer and uses up to 75% less energy.
  • Adjust pre-set temperatures on things like HVAC systems and fridge freezers. Increasing the temperature in a fridge by just one degree Celsius could represent an energy saving of 3-4%. Or reducing the thermostat temperature in buildings by just one degree can potentially save thousands of kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.
  • Put stickers on walls reminding people to turn out lights when they leave a room or to avoid overfilling kettles. This can help ‘nudge’ people to save energy.
  • Use smart meters which tell you exactly how much energy is being used at any one time and even which devices consume the most.

 

Focus on HVAC: Tips for more sustainable cooling and heating

4. Implement continuous improvement strategies

There are many more sophisticated investments you can make which will help with reducing building emissions. This includes things like:

  • Using sensor-based lighting which turns off when rooms and corridors are not being used.
  • Invest in insulation which should reduce your heating bills.
  • Use IoT sensors to detect if areas of an office are in use and automatically turn off lights or HVAC systems when not required.
  • Design a green roof on your building which can reduce energy usage while encouraging biodiversity.
  • Instal heat pumps which are normally more efficient when compared with traditional electric heating

 

5. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance

Perhaps one of the most effective ways of reducing a building’s carbon footprint is to keep all equipment and structures fully maintained. Regularly inspecting things like HVAC systems and ensuring they are working efficiently will reduce the need for replacement. That represents both a financial saving and avoids the carbon cost of manufacturing too. Digital maintenance solutions can make it even easier to keep things working efficiently:

  • You can automate reminders of when inspections must take place and assign tasks to the appropriate contractors.
  • Track and collect data, and produce reports on maintenance activities and costs.
  • Communicate with contractors and ensure that all tasks are completed on time and to standard.

PlanRadar can support your facilities maintenance and building inspection tasks, ensuring that all equipment and systems are monitored, and problems fixed on time. Learn about PlanRadar’s game-changing maintenance solutions.

We’re all responsible for cutting building CO2 emissions

Everybody can play their part in reducing carbon emissions. And, because facilities managers are responsible for the way large, multi-occupancy buildings use energy, they have a particularly important role in achieving society’s net-zero goals. By implementing some simple initiatives around maintenance, repairs and continuous improvement, you too can help make a real difference to the planet’s future.