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// Sustainability

Leading a sustainable future

As businesses are returning to the workplace, the role of facilities management teams has never been more important.

Mainstay Group Facilities Management Account Director Debbie Penn tells us about the changes that can be made in the workplace to help the environment.

While all of us are (hopefully) doing our bit for the environment, workplace facilities management professionals can become strong sustainability advocates. And this is even now more important as the workforce returns to the office.

It’s widely recognised that people now want different things from their buildings, as many companies are continuing to see reduced capacity at their sites, and so are calling for a need for workplace reconfiguration to enable a flexible working environment.

Travel plans will need to be looked at, particularly as many local authorities are exploring levying charges on workplace parking spaces. There is also the added incentive to promote the reduction of single occupancy vehicle use, not to mention the impact of rising fuel prices.

Emerging integrated technologies will have a major impact on the workplace, with the growth of ‘connected buildings’, where real time data will be used to optimise building efficiency. For example, for our client, one of the largest UK insurance providers, we have put in place a simple online system, where people can book their desk space. We’re also ensuring the allocated spaces only based in certain areas, so we’re only heating or cooling the areas which are actually being used – which of course, has significant cost and environmental benefits.

Active energy management will be key for many, including the exploration of heat pumps to reduce the need for boilers, and the installation of solar panels. Energy monitoring software tools will become more popular, as well as systems to reduce water use. Waste management will also increasingly come under sharper control, particularly around food waste.

Green roofs and walls are ‘growing’ in popularity for winter insulation and summer cooling, as well as improving air quality. In fact, the entire environment of the workspace will become ever more critical, as office workers need to understand how the air they are breathing has been conditioned. It is vital that we give our own workplace management teams a clear understanding of the measures and controls in place for fresh air management – and the tools to allow them to confidently explain what we are putting in place to ensure that the working environment is safe.

From security to cleaning, from maintenance technicians to facilities managers, we’re now the glue that holds the workplace community together. This is a revolution for our industry, with our roles shifting from operational to strategic, and to cultivating effective, flexible, cohesive, safe, and cleaner, greener, working communities.