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Sustainable support

When it comes to encouraging green retrofitting and refurbishment, Christian Mabey, Managing Director, Optima Products believes FMs should support a more sustainable supply chain

The built environment is looking at every aspect of the full building lifecycle to see where they can build as sustainably as possible. No longer does the carbon conundrum stop once the last screw is tightened and the final lick of paint applied.

The conversation goes beyond the planning and construction phase, and it’s well known that a sizeable proportion of building emissions are generated from the ongoing operation of a building (17 per cent ). This is not to mention renovation and refurbishment work which will also be undertaken during the building’s life.

All of which means FMs have a crucial role to play in both driving down emissions and reducing the carbon footprint throughout the operational phase.

We have made giant technological strides from cutting-edge digital tools, to low-impact material solutions. These, alongside modern methods of green building management are already helping FMs up and down the UK achieve carbon savings and, as a result, more sustainable buildings.

With green retrofitting and refurbishment set to become a major trend over the coming decades, in the drive towards our societal goal of Net Zero 2050, I want to take the opportunity to look at a handful of the principles which will guide approaches over the coming year.


Over the years, the retrofit sector has built an unwelcome reputation for material wastage and it’s time this perception changed. In recent years, we’ve become far better at introducing circular principles into our business models, particularly with regards to interior fixtures, fittings and finishes.

Importantly, manufacturers like us are using more green energy to power processes than ever before. Further, we’re also making more products with higher percentages of recycled materials as well as introducing leasing services to reduce raw material consumption and output.

The challenge is more about repurposing what already exists within a building and that’s why initiatives like our Take Back scheme will become increasingly important. This benefits FMs by allowing them to replace or add assets without the need to commission new stock.

As such, we’re encouraging our clients to involve us as the requirements for the space evolve. Reuse what you can, we’ll take back anything that could be reused or refurbished, and recycle the absolute minimum of the materials that remain.

Coming in at a similar, and on some occasions lower, cost than brand new stock, this offers a clear, sustainable purchasing choice for FMs. It cuts down on material waste and helps to deliver maximum value from the component for the client.


Biophilic design has increased in popularity over the last two decades and we’re increasingly seeing natural elements incorporated into retrofit projects across the board.

In the commercial office space, this trend is gathering pace, in line with an increasing societal desire to connect closer with nature, particularly in built up urban areas.

Thankfully, we’ve moved on from wilting palms and ferns sitting sadly in the corner of the room, to features such as low-maintenance modular ‘living wall’ partitions placed across the entire interior.

Furthermore, using organic surfacing materials like 100 per cent recycled cotton, unpolished timber or natural stone deliver sustainable, but easy to maintain, interiors.


Digital technology has revolutionised facilities management protocols entirely. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the operations of HVAC systems, and FMs are starting to take advantage of the latest innovations in automation to heat and cool buildings in a more environmentally friendly way.

Smart-controlled, sensor-backed components and intuitive energy management software is helping FMs think more strategically, optimising processes, reducing the need for carbon-intensive systems. This has made natural or hybrid ventilation the norm, opposed to the exception, with programmable systems able to improve air flow and quality through a building interior. Not only does this reduce emissions and operational costs, but also improves occupant health.


What’s become clear is we need to encourage more sustainable design across the board, particularly when it comes to retrofit and renovation of our existing stock, to help FMs meet their emissions targets.

Further, those involved in the building product, design and construction phase need to continue sharing their expertise and knowledge with FMs, to inform their operational and management decisions.

This will require greater engagement and clear messaging about what makes our components, fixtures, fittings, finishes and installation methods stand out, and how best to use them for maximum efficiency and sustainable gains.

It’s fair to say there are exciting, if challenging times ahead. However, we know that through establishing an ongoing dialogue with the FM community, we can achieve a greener, higher return workplace, which utilises the potential of intelligent specification and design.

About Sarah OBeirne

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