Creating a Culture of Sustainability
Many hotels and large office buildings have been among the first types of facilities to install web-based dashboard systems to monitor and measure sustainability metrics. Often management shares the information with staff and hotel guests or, in the case of office properties, with tenants and building users. By doing so, they have discovered a number of benefits.
First, for hotel and building owners, being able to demonstrate sustainability successes helps market the facility. Studies continue to indicate that consumers appreciate steps taken by hotels and other companies to be Greener and more sustainable. Office buildings that use dashboards and have implemented Green and sustainability strategies are typically viewed as better operated and often can command higher rents and enjoy less tenant turnover.
Another benefit is that dashboard systems can help create what some are now calling a “culture of sustainability.” This is when everyone in the facility—staff, clients, building users, vendors—becomes much more sustainability focused. They realize they all can play a part in reducing the use of natural resources, even if it is just by turning off unneeded lights. Each action adds up. The facility becomes Greener, more sustainable, and more profitable, and all involved begin to feel that they have helped make this happen.
Selecting a Dashboard
Now that we have an idea of what a dashboard is, how it works, and the benefits that can result, we should discuss how to select a dashboard system and put it to work. There are a number of sustainability dashboards now available. In fact, the selection can be bewildering.
As referenced earlier, a Web-based system is typically the least expensive option because there is no special software or hardware to purchase. Plus, the system can be used with any computer that has an Internet connection, which also allows for automatic updates as the entire issue of sustainability continues to evolve.
The items (fuel, energy, water, etc.) the dashboard measures and monitors can vary. Some systems are designed to monitor scores of items, others just a limited few. Either way, the dashboard system selected should monitor the following:
- Water use
- Energy consumption (electricity, natural gas, oil)
- Waste removal and recycling volumes and costs
- Fuel consumption (used by company vehicles, as an example)
- Consumables used (cleaning and paper products, ink cartridges and toner)
Beyond what the system measures, ease of use is a key concern for facility managers when selecting a dashboard. Some early systems were essentially designed to be operated by seasoned sustainability managers, IT experts, or professional facility engineers. While this may work well in certain settings, for many facility managers, the complicated interface may prove too cumbersome and end up dooming the goal of becoming Greener and more sustainable.
Finding the right system generally requires identifying what should be measured and who will be using the dashboard and then test-driving two or three alternatives. Look for a service provider that will work with you, demonstrate the program, and then allow you to use the system for a limited period. In a short time, the system that meets your needs—and does so easily—should become obvious.
Before the selection process begins, it is often a good idea to form a “sustainability team.” This team will do more than just select the dashboard and be in charge of properly inputting information into the system; these are your sustainability “champions.” Their job is to begin communicating with your staff and clients the reasons for installing the dashboard as well as the sustainability goals of your facility. These champions are instrumental in making sure a culture of sustainability grows in your facility, which is crucial to the success of the program.