Sustainability Revisited

The term sustainability in the context of a facility can be aptly thought of as three components known as the triple bottom line: economy, environment and social responsibility. Your facility must operate efficiently and economically at both capital and operating levels. It must result in as little harm to the environment as possible and practical. It must function as intended to provide services to your customers and jobs to your community. A three legged stool if you will.

This is very clear and makes sense as a high level concept but how does it translate into goal setting and practical business planning at the facility management level of an enterprise? Many organizations espouse these values but do not bring them down to ground level where each one can not only be addressed but all three integrated into a plan. Further questions may come to mind as well:

Which is more important as a priority? How does managing my facility relate to social responsibility in any meaningful way? When I add in the fact that I have separate capital and operating budgets and approval processes how then can I consider the triple bottom line? I will have no capital budget for next year, so how then to build sustainability into my organization?

My goal of this short text is not to help you answer these questions all at once, but to demonstrate the possibilities and how they relate to facilities. Priority one for any enterprise has to be its core mission, values and business objectives. In order to meet these objectives you probably need some bricks and mortar, a facility in which to operate, be it a hospital, a university campus, a manufacturing facility, an office building. That collection of masonry, wiring, mechanical systems and furnishings needs to provide a proper indoor environment for your employees, warm dry space for materials and inventory, a place for your customer to come and do business. In other words it must provide the right level of facility performance. Performance comes first, nothing else should ever take higher priority, else you may not be able to function properly as an enterprise.

Ok, we have priority one, what is number two? Normally cost efficiency. So here is the switch. Cost efficiency and sustainability are actually tied together. They can go hand in hand. This is the great story about conservation.

Consider for a moment that all three sustainability parts – environment, economy and social responsibility can be achieved if they are integrated. One does not have to be in competition with the other. Each can complement the other.
In the interest of time we now need to leap ahead, else we will be mulling over this three legged stool all day. Here are some discrete and actionable steps which you can take to start incorporating sustainability into your facility planning:

  1. Survey your facility to assess all sub-systems and their components. Classify each one in terms of condition and expected remaining useful life. Develop a prioritized list of these items and their expected costs.
  2. Develop an FCI for your facility (FCI = Facility Condition Index). It is the ratio of deferred maintenance and capital renewal to the asset value of an ‘as new’ facility. Share this information with your executive management team.

Now you have an assessment of what it takes to keep your facility functional and operational for the long term. However this assessment will invariably lead to capital budget requests. At least now you know.

Next develop a survey of energy consuming systems together with a list of potential improvements. This list will have overlap with the capital renewal list, but it will also point to a way to pay for some of the capital improvements. It will also help you prioritize some replacements which on the basis of condition may not need replacing for a few years, but on the basis of energy could offer a good payback if done now.

If done together, the condition assessment and the energy survey can help you form a plan to restore your facility to proper functionality, in good, sustainable  condition, while consuming less energy. Does that sound like it meets the triple bottom line?

Caution – do not attempt without high quality professional support!

There are a number of firms which are very good at providing facility condition assessments. There are a myriad of engineers and auditors providing energy audits. You can guess in advance that hiring one of each will not produce the results you want and need. AERA professionals understand this facility ‘equation’. We have many facilities on our project CV: Acadia University, Lakehead University, Hamilton Health Sciences, Queensway Carleton Hospital, Saskatoon Public Schools, Calgary Board of Education, CN Rail to name a few.

Call an AERA professional today.