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Environmental training

Nick Blake, Principal FM Consultant, BSRIA and CIRIA Co-Author and Trainer discusses the importance of environmental training to foster sustainable practice in FM

No matter what industry we work in, we all know how important it is for businesses to be aware of their social and environmental responsibilities. Occupants, visitors and the wider community have never been more conscious of environmental impacts. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, wellbeing and sustainability were at the top of the agenda for many organisations, and as we see a return of the pre-pandemic focus, organisations are asking how they can embrace this tide of change in a practical and affordable way.

Despite the wide-reaching negative effects of the pandemic over the last few months, there have been a few positives. One of the most notable silver linings is the realisation that we can make fast global changes to adapt to events that affect us all. The climate crisis and the materials shortages are two examples of how we are seeing the impacts of bad practices towards the environment.

There are examples of excellence, innovation and good practice emerging across the economy. Companies are receiving internal and external investment to innovate energy-saving phase-change materials for warmth and coolth storage, integrated smart technologies, artificial intelligence and augmented reality increasing efficiencies in maintenance, and accessing big data to manage energy consumption while maintaining performance. However, these efforts are out of reach for many companies, who will have to await these benefits which others develop.


The built environment is responsible for approximately 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint and more than half of this is from operational loads such as heating, cooling and cooking, and items that are plugged into the buildings power supply. While new buildings are ever more energy efficient, it is estimated that 80 per cent of the buildings we will have in 2050 have already been built.

What can we do in existing buildings? We need to engage the people who operate them with the process of reducing environmental impacts. At home it is the homeowner, but who can influence a commercial building’s approach? Evidently, this should come from the board in a top-down and strategic manner, and this is happening in some organisations. However, in others the board is focused on the daily activities and less aware of the greater environmental, social and governance or sustainability potential that they can offer. This is where the facilities manager can step in.

Facilities, operations and estates managers, directors and leads are key to the application of environmental good practice (EGP). A good FM should be one of the most widely known senior leaders of an organisation. They have to integrate with every part of the building or estate and at all levels. The communication skills and networks should already be in place and this is key as EGP cannot be implemented by one person; it needs to be a whole team effort. Every user of the building needs to play their part, and the FMs are in a strong position to bring together those key people.

Most FMs have not come from a sustainability background. While the wide range of transferable skills that FMs have are crucial for EGP application, an element of reskilling needs to be undertaken. FMs that are looking to effect changes to their organisation’s environmental impact are faced with an uphill struggle to research and learn new skills. Rather than knee-jerk reactions, a structured, planned and deliberate approach is required. This can only be achieved with appropriate knowledge.


In response, CIRIA has published a guide and is now offering a one-day training course for the industry. CIRIA C797 Environmental good practice in facilities management and the accompanying training course aims to be applicable to activities within the FM function of a building or site. It references UK legislation, practices and industry standards.

Both the guide and the training course apply to a wide variety of buildings, sites and activities. They are focused on non-residential buildings, and also the common areas and grounds of multi-residential buildings and non-specialist areas and activities in industrial, laboratory and healthcare buildings.

Guidance is given on activities taking place within the boundaries of the site (sometimes referred to as the ‘red-line demise’) including buildings, parking and paved areas, and outdoor landscapes. The guidance offered is a mixture of quick wins, affordable solutions and new ways of operating.

The guide and the course are aimed at people who that have sufficient knowledge of FM principles. Those wishing to apply the guidance to their buildings and sites should have good knowledge of the assets they are responsible for, the operations taking place, and the wider strategies and frameworks within which they exist.

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