Building managers and operators know that saving money is an important part of staying within an available budget. One way to save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a year is to make sustainable, eco-friendly changes to everyday operations. From natural cleaning products to energy-efficient windows, there are countless ways to help your organization go green this year.
There are countless technologies and products that boast sustainable outcomes, but if you’re worried about time or budget, here are five easy ways to start going green in your facilities that are simple enough to start today.
How to Make Your Building More Eco-FrienDly
1. Take a smart approach to lighting and energy usage.
A simple way to improve your facility’s energy consumption is to invest in energy-efficient lighting solutions. “Smart lighting” refers to high-efficiency lighting options — including energy-efficient light fixtures, automatic light dimmers and lighting systems that connect to occupancy sensors, motion detectors or daylight sensors. Retrofitting your facility’s outdated lighting is a great way to see a quick, guaranteed return on investment.
If funds are tight, start by upgrading standard light bulbs to LEDs, which can last 15 to 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. Or, consider installing skylights to take advantage of natural light during the day. With efficient lighting solutions, your organization will be empowered to better understand its energy needs, automate consumption and adapt to constant changes in space occupancy.
2. Reduce your building's water consumption.
Lowering your water bills is easier than you may think. Start by installing low-flow plumbing fixtures in your facility's restrooms. You may find it useful to utilize low-flow versions of flush valves, sink aerators and faucets. If your budget allows, consider installing touch-free faucets. These faucets keep water running only when a person's hands are underneath. One of the greatest benefits of touch-free faucets is preventing users from accidentally leaving faucets running for longer than intended.
Next, boost the efficiency of your building's cooling towers. Cooling towers operate by removing heat from a building's air conditioning system by evaporating condenser water. Since cooling towers are constantly losing water through evaporation, they can make up a large portion of a building's water usage. Remember to regularly inspect and repair your cooling towers and boiler systems.
3. Leverage a strong preventative maintenance plan.
Another way to make your facilities more sustainable is by implementing a preventive maintenance routine. Equipment lasts longer if it’s correctly maintained, so that means less waste from assets not being used for their full useful life, which cost you more money, and more savings because you’re not constantly replacing equipment.
The best way to implement a preventive maintenance plan is by choosing a software that can automate the process and keep detailed records on your assets. The right software lets you track an asset’s age, previous issues, maintenance history and schedule any future appointments. As an added benefit, using an automated facility software eliminates any need for paper work orders and service requests that ultimately pile up, get lost, or thrown away. Plus, your team's efficiency will likely improve and you'll eliminate paper waste in the process.
4. Find green cleaning alternatives.
Another easy way to see green results in your facilities is by choosing environmentally friendly cleaning supplies for your janitorial staff. While these cleaners have a direct impact on the world we live in (less runoff into water bodies and fewer toxic chemicals being released into the air), they can also provide a safer working environment for your team.
Just like in the consumer industry though, be wary of products stamped with eco-friendly or biodegradable, since they’re buzz words and don’t always have the data to support them. Instead, look for the EPA’s Safer Choice label, which designates a product as meeting the expectations for its Design for the Environment (DFE) program.
An easy way to track when and which cleaners are being used where is with an automated work order system that includes which cleaners should be used to meet O&M standards. These specifications, along with any supporting guidelines or product information, can be easily stored in a work order system at the asset level and connected to the central document library.
Are green cleaning products really they worth the cost?
Many suppliers are beginning to offer greener alternatives for cleaning supplies at competitive prices. In addition to helping the environment, green cleaning supplies also keep the air quality and working conditions healthier for employees, mitigating risk from exposure to dangerous substances and decreasing the chances employees miss work due to health issues.
5. Utilize energy-saving electrical sockets.
A significant energy cost that many facilities forget is “standby power draw.” This term refers to power consumed by electronics, even when they are switched off or in standby mode. Television sets, DVD players, sound systems, computers and telephones are all examples of devices that can use standby power.
Did you know that standby power can cost your facility hundreds of dollars per year? One foolproof way of preventing devices from consuming extra power is by unplugging them completely. However, facilities can also utilize automatic shutdown sockets to cut power to devices. These “smart” sockets use infrared sensors or timers to shut off power to a room that is unoccupied, or to devices that aren’t in use. Devices can also be plugged into power strips with on/off switches. When switched off, power strips ensure devices do not draw power when they’re not actively being used.
How does your organization "go green?"
Does your facility do anything unique to be more environmentally friendly? What are some challenges you’ve had to making these sustainable switches? We’d love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to comment below!