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The Importance of Sustainability in Facilities Management by Leon Pulman, British Gas

24-11-17, 09:51

leonpullmanThe British Institute of Facilities Management has championed leadership in ethical and environmental working practises by their members and the wider facilities management community for many years.

This is reflected in the results of their annual survey which shows that 74% of Executive Managers surveyed believe that sustainability is a matter of great importance to their organisation.

This gives reason for celebration; however, it must not subsequently become a cause for complacency.

For British Gas Business, sustainability is about much more than renewable energy, although we encourage our many customers who choose to purchase electricity and gas sourced from renewable sources.

Operational sustainability is about choosing supply partners that embrace the three pillars of social, economic and environmental diligence. It's about the ability to sustain a company that does business ethically whilst maintaining tight controls on the bottom line.

Energy efficiency is a great place to start a wider sustainability campaign.† Unfortunately, it is rarely the easiest. †As many facilities managers know only too well, building occupants can sometimes feel little sense of responsibility towards estates efficiency or the quality of their working environment.

At British Gas Business, the challenge is no different. We work hard to embed sustainable practises into the everyday. From centralised recycling stations instead of individual bins at each desk to sustainable procurement in our own supply chain to awareness training on social value and modern slavery, the need to operate our business in a transparent and conscious manner is ingrained throughout our values, our culture and our customs.

For example, we work closely with customers to not only deliver the best price but to support activities to reduce emissions. This could be through self-generation using on-site renewables, such as solar PV and biomass boilers or simply choosing a supply product backed by renewable energy sources.

One area where we are often asked to provide customers with additional support is in energy benchmarking.

The collection and verification of accurate data is vital for any benchmarking exercise, just as it is for delivering operational efficiencies. That's why we developed our Energy360 platform, which gives easy access to cost, carbon and consumption data. For more detailed information, the device-level energy insight product from Centrica Business Solutions, Panoramic Power platform shows the granular information necessary to really drive down running costs.

Centrica Business Solutions, Panoramic Power is an IoT-enabled platform that transforms existing building services into smart assets. Using a simple retrofitted monitoring device, we can track consumption at circuit or even individual asset level to give ultimate insight and control over a building's energy demand.

This digitisation of energy data collection and analysis is increasingly important to facilities managers, as reflected in the survey results. This is especially true in businesses where staff are being asked to take on more and more responsibility with fewer resources.

Tools such as smart assets bridge the gap between administrative efficiency and operational efficiency. The ability to integrate patterns in energy demand with decision making around soft or hard services quickly galvanises improvements in thermal comfort, internal air quality and energy cost reduction.

Benchmarking is not just about highlighting the best and worst achievers. The data analysis process provides facilities teams with an understanding of how their buildings behave; knowledge is power.

When two premises of similar age, fabric type and usage patterns are displaying very different consumption profiles, this gives facilities teams the evidence they need to hold purposeful conversations with building occupiers, budget holders or senior executives.

This can empower Facilities Managers to pursue a targeted behaviour change campaign or undertake interventionist activities by reviewing the building services strategy to reduce energy consumption, and thereby running costs.

Embedding sustainability into facilities management is simple economics. However, the social aspects to sustainability should not be forgotten.

Social value is extremely important to British Gas Business. We have long been a supporter of the apprenticeship scheme and are proud to have led the way for many years in helping women, reformed offenders and those with accessibility challenges to select technical vocational careers, or to study STEM subjects at college and university. Our commitment to community goes much further than this to encompass support programmes, charity involvement and regular events for the society in which we live and work.

Digitisation and data analysis is hugely important but we should never lose sight of why we choose to work in the built environment.

Machines can analyse data, but they cannot make human-based decisions, nor can they carry out on-site audits and personal engagement programmes. The role of facilities manager is not threatened by the rise of artificial intelligence, instead we can use these tools to help take on the burden of tedious data processing, freeing up time to focus on reducing costs and creating more appealing working environments.

Facilities management is about providing a better quality of life for the people living, working or studying in the places we care for. Sustainability is key to creating that better world.

Leon Pulman

I & C Sales Manager, British Gas

> Download a copy of the BIFM Sustainbility Survey 2017.

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