Maxwell Stephens

Facilities Management is Key to Fulfilling Net Zero Targets

We recently looked at some of the smartest buildings in the world, and a common characteristic of these impressive properties and the communities within them is the commitment they make to reducing their emissions. The UK Government has ambitious targets when it comes to being greener, with a commitment to become ‘net-zero’ by 2050, meaning as a country we are now striving to cut greenhouse gas emissions to be as close to zero as possible. Considering the influence the FM sector has on how energy is utilized in the built environment, it’s not difficult to see the considerable role that Facilities Management has to play in achieving our net zero goals.

Increasing pressure on business

Whilst reducing carbon emissions is by no means a new concept, in recent years it has become much more of a priority for the global community. According to the Government’s Building Energy Efficiency Survey (2016) the top 5 energy consuming sectors are offices, retail, industrial, health, and hospitality, contributing 71% of total non-domestic energy consumption. This obviously puts a lot of pressure on businesses, and the FM professionals working within them, to reduce their emissions in line with government targets. From a business perspective, this pressure has manifested itself in a number of different ways, including:

Assessment and planning

Possibly the most important step in devising a net-zero strategy is the assessment and planning. To ensure success at this stage, a business needs to know as much as possible about their built environment which may include: the current status of any net-zero activities; carbon emission baselines; existing systems and capabilities/drawbacks of the built environment; resources and data available, and suitable personnel in the business who can support net-zero efforts. Having the right information and expertise at this stage ensures any plans are fully informed, as well as ensuring targets are realistic and achievable. For this kind of project it’s clear that FM professionals are a necessity at this point.

Making a Business Case

It’s all well and good developing a comprehensive and effective net-zero plan, but unless you can persuade the people who sign the cheques, the plan’s not going to go much further. The decision to implement any net-zero plans will more than likely come down to one question, how much will it cost? From our many years of experience recruiting in the FM sector, It is very rare for a FM to be in a position where budget is not an issue and the majority of FM professionals are very price conscious out of pure necessity. This in turn means they are not frivolous with their allocated budget; they are highly adept at giving justifications for any costs; and they take a long term approach to any cost/benefit analysis.

Retrofits

Research shows that around 70% of the UK’s non-residential building stock was constructed before 2000, and if the government’s net-zero targets are to be met, there will be a lot of retrofitting going on – whether that’s a light retrofit such as upgrading lighting or replacing radiators, or a significant remodel that requires fundamental changes to building structures and/or services. Any of these tasks fall well within the purview of the FM department.

Embedding the strategy

Although it’s not the sole responsibility of FM departments to embed any net-zero strategies, they certainly play a vital part in ensuring that any new processes and procedures are followed and that all stakeholders are united in their commitment to reducing emissions. Heating and ventilation usage, waste removal and recycling, ensuring lights are switched off, water usage…there are innumerable ways in which stakeholders can help reduce emissions, and FM professionals can be highly influential in changing behaviours and ensuring everyone works together to achieve net-zero goals.