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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, July 2010
WEB Exclusive story

Greening Your Facilities for Cost Savings and Good Health

Southface’s new LEED Platinum-certified Eco Office, located in Atlanta, Ga., provides an example of some smart and innovative ways to use captured rainwater. A rooftop cistern collects rainwater from the building’s solar photovoltaic array. This captured rainwater is then put to use irrigating the building’s insulating green roof and flushing the toilets in the offices below. It is also used to cool the nearby HVAC heat pump units by means of an evaporative mesh cooling system, which consists of spray nozzles that wet the mesh to create a cooler operating environment for the HVAC equipment.

Here’s what every industrial facilities manager needs to know.

By Judy Knight

n recent years, the role of facilities manager has expanded to address the complex issues of greening operations, holding the line on utility costs and implementing sustainability-focused policies and practices. As managers take on these new responsibilities, they encounter both substantial challenges and tremendous opportunities.

Overseeing the safe, secure and environmentally sound operation and maintenance of building assets in a manner that is both sustainable and cost-effective may at first seem contradictory. But what has historically been omitted from this equation is that over the lifespan of a typical building — 30 to 100 years — operating costs and the value of building occupant productivity drastically exceed initial construction and subsequent renovation costs. In effect, greening your portfolio can be a highly effective means of adding value to the bottom line — well worth the effort, planning and attention it requires.

Setting the Priorities

Some of the most critical operational issues currently facing facilities managers involve indoor environmental quality (which affects both worker productivity and health care costs) and reducing demand for water and energy, both for reasons of cost containment and carbon emissions reduction.

Many experts confirm that the U.S. building stock is responsible for almost half of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, U.S. businesses and households consume four billion gallons of water daily, while EPA projections anticipate that by 2013, water shortages will become prevalent across much of the country. Efficient water use can reduce the need for costly water supply infrastructure investments and constructing new wastewater treatment facilities — both of which require significant tax dollars to complete.

It is also noteworthy that Americans today spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, which makes indoor environmental quality an important contributor to our productivity, health and well-being. Clearly, constructing, renovating and maintaining our national building stock for optimal performance and indoor environmental quality is critical to the success today's facility manager.

Time Your Interventions

Recent research by Architecture 2030 identifies five key times in the lifespan of a facility that provide optimal opportunity for a significant building performance transformation. These times occur during a building's design when its schematics, materials and systems are first selected; during existing building purchases; during leasing and tenant improvements; during building renovation cycles; and during rebuilding following a natural disaster.

To maximize productivity and performance, building owners and facilities teams are well-advised to take full advantage of these opportunities to make major performance upgrades. Designing and renovating buildings to use a fraction of the energy and water typically consumed can be accomplished with little or no added cost through judicious site and materials selection; appropriate building form and orientation; glass properties and location; and natural heating, cooling, ventilation and day-lighting strategies.

Identifying Today's Opportunities

But even if you are not facing a transformational opportunity, there is still much a facilities manager can do to show building performance improvements and progress toward sustainability goals. Here are some low-hanging fruit to help you get going:

  1. Establish a baseline for facilities performance.
    Before undertaking upgrades or retrofits, commit to an energy audit, to tracking your utility bills and to an ongoing utility bill evaluation program in order to establish your starting point. While you may not be able to substantially affect the energy requirements of your production machinery and equipment, you can still make a significant impact by upgrading your heating, cooling and lighting strategies and equipment, and your approach to water management.
  2. Retrofit with water-efficient fixtures.
    As you evaluate retrofits of toilets, urinals and fixtures, focus on performance metrics rather than initial costs. Low-flow or composting toilets, waterless urinals and WaterSense® fixtures are affordable, perform better than ever before and generate significant water-use savings.
  3. Upgrade lighting.
    The EPA estimates that an energy-efficient lighting upgrade can cut a building's annual lighting energy costs in half, typically saving about 50 cents per square foot. Upgrades deliver a two- to three-year payback and a 30- to 50-percent return on investment. In addition to high efficiency lamps and ballasts, upgrades can include installing automatic dimmers and on/off switches, and increased use of daylighting.
  4. Take advantage of tax incentives.
    Now is the time! Federal, state and local government incentives have never been better. An excellent and comprehensive resource is the DSIRE web site , which provides information on state, local and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Other key Web resources include:
    The U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program
    The EPA's Green Building Funding Opportunities
    ENERGY STAR's Manual on Financing for Energy Performance Projects
  5. Plan now for future upgrades.
    Keep an eye on current and new sustainability trends and opportunities. Most popular today are rooftop solar photovoltaic arrays; green roofs that offset the urban heat-island effect, enhance storm water management and help to insulate buildings; wind turbines; heat capture and reuse mechanisms; and storm water management strategies. Plan your upgrades with an eye toward the synergies that are possible between approaches, and take advantage of sound in-field expertise from organizations like the International Facilities Management Association; the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers; and in the southeast region, Southface.

About Southface

Southface is a nonprofit organization that for more than 30 years has promoted energy-, water- and resource-efficient workplaces, homes and communities throughout the Southeast. Southface manages both regional and national sustainability programs, and its green building services and training classes reach more than 40,000 design and construction professionals, architects, developers and building owners annually. To learn more, visit the Southface Web site at

Story in Pictures

Southface makes extensive use of south-facing windows and daylighting in place of electric lights. This saves energy and, according to several studies, provides an enhanced work environment for employees. To make the most of incoming light, shades have been installed on the building exterior to block the heat gain from direct sunlight during the summer. Inside the building, light shelves with a reflective white coating bounce incoming daylight off the white interior ceilings and deep into the building, further reducing the need for electric lighting. When artificial lighting is necessary, Southface uses high-output T-5 lamps and dimmable ballasts. Daylight sensors automatically dim or shut off these lights when sufficient natural light is available.
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