Moving to Sustainability

For facility managers, a relocation represents an opportunity to transition to more sustainable operations.

Before move-in, the vacant space can be updated with environmentally preferable products and materials. After move-in, consider maintaining the space with cleaning solutions, tools, and equipment that are certified green because they use fewer chemicals and less water than traditional equipment and products.

Green cleaning strategies help prevent the many allergic reactions attributed to the use of cleaning chemicals. The goal of cleaning is to eliminate these problems and provide a clean and healthy environment for building users.

Suppose an organization is relocating to a building that has been occupied by the same tenant for the past 10 years. Once that tenant leaves and the space is empty, the facility manager can take the following steps:

1. Assess the overall condition of the facility.
If any interior items remain, determine what can be saved or re-used to promote sustainability and what should be removed due to age, appearance, or environmentally unfriendly attributes. Always look into recycling discarded items.

2. Look into mechanical systems.
Many HVAC systems are far more energy efficient than those installed 10 or more years ago. This also applies to lighting and water heating systems, etc. Consider replacing cooling systems with systems that do not use CFC refrigerants.

3. Check windows.
If the facility has single-pane windows, consider installing more energy efficient double-pane window systems. Otherwise, check that the windows close and open properly and examine their caulking for gaps and cracks. (Shining a flashlight around the edges of a window at night is the best way to look for cracks and gaps; to detect drafts, light an incense stick and move it around windows.) The same goes for doors and skylights.

4. Conduct a water audit.
Identify all water-using fixtures in the facility; check pipes for leaks; and check water delivering/removing systems. Unless replacing faucets, showerheads, etc., consider installing aerators in all such fixtures and replace toilets and urinals with the most water efficient systems possible.

5. Landscaping.
Smaller buildings are often landscaped with vegetation selected for its appearance, with little consideration for how much water it consumes. Xeriscaping (landscaping that conserves water through plant selection, among other strategies) can reduce a facility’s overall water use dramatically, as landscaping typically uses more water than any other area of a facility.

6. Update electrical systems.
Many offices centralize items such as copiers, printers and vending machines in one area. Most of these electronics use energy even when they are turned off. To save energy, consider installing devices that can shut down the electric circuit completely when these electronics are not needed.

7. Cleaning
First, determine which areas should be cleaned. For instance, if it’s likely that the space requires new carpet, remove the old carpet and recycle it. This is far more environmentally responsible than cleaning the old carpet when it’s soon to be discarded.
Once the space is empty, select cleaning solutions for each area. All structural surfaces, such as door knobs, electrical controls and other high-tough areas, that are expected to remain in place for new tenants should be cleaned. Using a disinfectant on all of these surfaces may be overkill. Many disinfectants can have a negative impact on the user and the environment, especially if used improperly, so consider alternative cleaners.

Green certified disinfectants have been independently tested and proven to meet specific standards and criteria by such organizations as UL/Environment, indicating the product has a reduced impact on the environment. Otherwise, a quick and easy way to reduce the use of disinfectants is to determine where they are necessary, such as in restrooms, and restrict their use to those areas.

Once the facility is move-in ready, ensure that it’s cleaned and maintained in an environmentally preferable and sustainable manner going forward. Along with the health benefits for occupants, there are many benefits for building owners and managers as well. Reports have shown that green facilities help tenants improve worker productivity, as well as morale, which are both things business owners now consider when leasing a new office space.