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The FM drinking water dilemma

For FMs, monitoring the wellbeing of occupants has moved up the agenda to become just as important a consideration as ensuring the sustainability of the building they inhabit. In a new report, which FMJ carried out in conjunction with Zip Water, found that nearly 80 per cent consider sustainability and wellbeing to be very important to their role. This is why, alongside meeting green building standards, organisations are introducing wellbeing at work targets.

In a major report from the British Safety Council; ‘Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work’, one of the key provisos when looking at workplace health and wellbeing is access to fresh drinking water – other than tap water. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a daily intake of 2.5 litres of water for men and 2 litres for women, with 70-80 per cent of this coming from drinks. This has proved to be crucial to performance. According to a report by workplace consultants AWA, cognitive performance drops sharply if body water levels drop by just 2 per cent of body weight (for a 12 stone male that’s just over 1.5 litres of water). No matter how mild, dehydration can cause an imbalance in bodily functions and symptoms include headaches, feeling tired and weak, confusion and mood swings.

Unfortunately, efforts to ensure water is available and plentiful at work has led to the rise of the ubiquitous single-use plastic water bottle. This may keep people’s hydration levels up but has contributed to the estimated 16M plastic bottles which go to landfill every year, ultimately polluting our planet.

This presents FMs with something of a dilemma, ensuring that occupants always have access to plentiful and fresh drinking water, while reducing a reliance on plastic bottles. To get some answers to this question, FMJ and Zip’s water sustainability survey has looked closely into what influences FMs’ decisions when it comes to balancing wellbeing with sustainability at work. The report found that over 90 per cent believe that the FM industry as a whole could be doing more to reduce single-use plastic water bottles in the workplace and nearly three quarters said that reducing single-use plastic water bottle waste fell into their sustainability strategy. What the findings suggest is that a two-pronged approach is needed. First, ensure there is a plentiful supply of filtered water and secondly, take a more draconian approach to any prevailing habits of bringing single-use plastic bottles into the office.

The report illustrates why FMs are uniquely placed to make a real contribution to sustainability by reducing our reliance on single-use bottled water. Some FMs are beginning to impose outright bans to people even bringing them into the workplace. After all, if occupants have access to fresh refillable water, single-use plastic water bottles are no longer needed.

To download the FM drinking water report please click here.

About Sarah OBeirne

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