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FM sector: helping to reduce global emissions

Responding to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has remarked that as buildings account for approximately 30 per cent of carbon emissions, the built environment will be a “vital catalyst for change in the wider economy”. What more can the facilities management sector do to help reduce global emissions; not just in terms of energy management, but by implementing a range of sustainable initiatives?


Looking into the new IPCC report the message is clear. Following a “business as usual scenario” is not a sustainable solution and can contribute to dangerous climatic change. Companies are required globally to limit, reduce and minimise their impact on the natural environment. On a national level, goals and targets are set by central government following international guidelines such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the IPCC latest report’s global targets and recommendations for action.

In the UK, European and national regulations impose minimum compliance requirements on both buildings and businesses’ environmental performances which are incrementally tightened to support the delivery of the national energy and sustainability targets.

At the same time, optional standards and certification schemes, such as the ISO 14000 family, BREEAM, LEED and WELL support the assessment of energy and sustainability targets on a business level. Protocols and frameworks – such as BSRIA Soft Landings and the use of BIM FM – assist in the precise delivery of projects, addressing key business requirements and ensuring that all decisions made during the project lifecycle are based on improving both operational performance and meeting the client’s expectations.

Initiatives such as the Science Based Targets (partner organisations who are driving ambitious corporate climate action) allow companies to make climate change informed decisions and transition into a lower-carbon state. Such approved assessment methods and all have all an important role to play in delivering FM energy and sustainability targets and goals.

The adoption of FM sustainability and energy assessment routines requires optimisation of existing processes, increased data capturing and frequent evaluation of performance through better systems’ controls and diagnostics. In that sense the FM business case / benefits to the client become directly linked with cost savings and smarter operational models.

Key outputs such as proactive and no reactive maintenance procedures, reduced energy consumption, leaner, cleaner and better monitored processes not only improve brand reputation, the user experience and potentially their health and wellbeing but also assist in delivering a better informed, resilient and future ready FM business model.

Nevertheless, it is important that appropriate assessment methods and evaluation tools are used and that skills and knowledge gaps in the FM sector are identified and
addressed so this does not turn into a “check box”
exercise. Facilities managers need not only to be in a position to translate data into useful information, identify KPIs and assess the appropriateness of necessary interventions but they also need to provide clarity and co-ordination during change.

Establishing appropriate internal feedback loops with clear definition of what success might look like is essential to achieving energy and sustainability goals set as well as communicating benefits to the client. Advanced technological solutions and the Internet of Things is expected to allow facilities managers to better informed decisions but a pre-requisite is that the sector is adequately trained and informed on the various aspects of sustainability and energy initiatives, their implementation methods and the evaluation of success.


The IPCC report shows that we have a 12-year window to change. Not one individual, one sector or one country, but all individuals, sectors and countries.

As the custodians of buildings, the opportunity lies at the door of the FM sector to make a real difference in cutting building-related carbon emissions and ensuring assets are more than just well maintained and compliant.

Poorly focused energy efficiency legislation provides little guidance to building owners in driving change. With ESOS, for example, what could have been a much-needed benchmark for recording and reporting actual building performance, akin to a DEC for the commercial sector, can be seen as little more than a tick-box exercise.

The FM sector needs to rise to the challenge to ensure we deliver exceptional building performance and reduce carbon emissions. The industry must integrate new technology and new data-led strategies to ensure that energy waste is removed and guide customers into making informed decisions about the future of their assets.

There is no magic bullet, no new technology to instantly cut carbon emissions. IOT, energy monitoring and smart buildings are only tools. It’s the interpretation of the data, analytical decision-making and driving a physical change that will deliver the tangible results we need.

An engineer who arrives to work at 7am, works hard all day and finishes at 4pm, without having had access to building data, will only ever see a fraction of what is happening. Assets should be monitored 24 hours a day, so when something changes, it can be investigated and resolved swiftly.

Building owners and occupiers have to think about the long-term lifecycle of assets, and how building performance will change in the future. As FM engineers, we must champion a move away from thinking of the building and the operational aspects as two separate things.

About Sarah OBeirne

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