The built environment contributes around 42% of total carbon footprint in the UK, presenting an influential element in the development of climate issues around the world. Half of this contribution is created from everyday home activities such as using plugs and cooking, as well as infrastructure, involving roads and railways. Therefore, corporate social responsibility, and more specifically sustainability, is becoming increasingly crucial in directing the future of global business strategy, with a focus on built space and its combined efficiency.
When it comes to the built industry, facility managers have a huge opportunity in being able to shape the built environment making them well-placed to implement environmental progress.
Focusing on what we have
In recent years, the attention of the construction industry has mainly been centralised around new builds regarding sustainability, making them more efficient alongside increased awareness regarding the importance of green practice. Government policies targeted towards improving the efficiency of existing buildings have been reduced, and rates of insulation installation have halted. However, 80% of the buildings that will be constructed by 2050 have already been built, suggesting that more focus should be applied to decarbonising older, existing stock, which is lagging behind its contemporary counterparts in sustainable development.
This means that the majority of responsibility for upgrading current building stock consequently falls into the hands of facility managers, whose authority allows them to manage costs and control functions within the built environment for which they are responsible. This role traditionally revolves around ensuring that their facility functions effectively, however, more recent duties have extended to incorporate a new environmental focus.
Improving a building to reach smooth and sustainable operation is a long process, requiring a well-crafted policy of maintenance and refurbishment. It is safe to say that it is not an easy role, some facility managers may inherit dated building systems that are expensive and tricky to maintain, demanding additional attention and work towards achieving sustainable quality.
Potential Solutions: Climate Change and Resource Use
Buildings will need to be significantly adapted to help survive climate change, especially with recent increases in drastic weather conditions. Millions of properties remain in flood-risk areas, with 10% of paving sales in 2013 being permeable, and only 15% of planning applications for flood risk areas mentioning ‘sustainable drainage’ in 2015. In the long run Facility managers need to be proactive in securing properties against potential effects of weather damage through adaptation methods such as sustainable drainage systems and flood risk alleviation. Not only will this ensure the safety of the individuals and belongings of those within the building but will also ensure the long-lasting sustainability of the building itself.
Newly constructed buildings are more energy efficient, meaning that facility managers must plan to decarbonise existing builds. 67% of total electricity supply in the UK in 2016 was used in the built environment, with rising emissions from fuel-use proving to be one of the largest tests ahead. Heating contributes 10% of the UK’s carbon footprint, with overheating being an issue, predominantly in social housing. Replacing local heating systems with improved, higher performance heating processes will improve building efficiency. Insulation can easily be incorporated into a maintenance plan, maximising resource efficiency and therefore reducing long-term costs. The initial costs for installing insulation is relatively low in comparison to the combined costs of adding insulation or cover during a components life span, or paying for the additional heating costs.
Building design and metering is a major influence in determining water usage within the built environment, changing both habits and efficiency. Relying on finite resources is expensive, with no chance of long-term success. Identifying issues in the building operation early is crucial in establishing a secure and sustainable estate, and therefore a successful business in the long-term. Facility managers should strive to recognise areas where improvement is possible, such as upgrading drainage systems or improving energy efficiency; saving money, lengthening property potential and developing sustainability. The UKGBC highlights that a sustainable built environment is one that mitigates and adapts to Climate Change whilst eliminating waste and maximising resource efficiency.
Welfare of Employees
The number of people who start to become more aware of climate change and the consequences it may have on our planet has grown steadily. The increased amount of climate strikes amongst children and youth, the fact that more than half of the UK say climate change will influence how they vote in general elections, and that more and more people are getting climate anxiety are all evidence of this. It thus makes sense that an organisation’s employees are also increasingly concerned about the environment.
Office buildings with certified green labels, which can be obtained through the work facility managers do, can boost employee cognition – the process of acquiring knowledge and processing information – by 26 percent. This is partly as a result of getting better quality sleep but also because of general employee satisfaction.
A study from the Charlton College of Business at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, showed that “there is a significant positive relationship between perceived environmental performance and employee satisfaction” whilst in contrast there was no evidence found to suggest that there is a significant relationship between employee satisfaction and a firm’s financial value.
Better employee satisfaction and increased productivity means that there’s a bigger job output. Leading the way in meeting sustainable legislation standards could thus also improve the general organisational efficiency.
In addition to improving the quality of life within the building, government legislation can be a great motivator to improve an organisation’s finances and, in turn, its productivity. The Climate Change Levy, introduced in 2001, is a tax on energy that is delivered to non-domestic users. The rates that need to be paid on gas, LPG and other taxable commodities other than electricity, increase year on year. Even on electricity, there’s still a rate of 0.00775£ per kilowatt per hour. If an organisation is part of the climate change agreement scheme and the building thus consumes less energy or uses energy from renewable sources, the taxes the firm must pay could decrease and the company could even be exempt if they have energy-efficient technology for their business.
Changing to renewable energy or even refurbishing a building using sustainable materials can be an initial cost, but in the long-term it will save a company money by lowering taxes and increasing employee productivity.
While sustainability has grown in overall importance within the FM sector, financial and physical constraints remain to be an issue for facilities management professionals. Year upon year, there are concerns about how important sustainable solutions are to senior management and whether there will be an organisational engagement. Yet, there’s plenty of evidence which shows that taking on sustainable legislations will improve the quality of life of people and improve the productivity of a business.
Effective facility management both prevents harmful emissions and secures the built environment against climatic consequences. Due to the built environments’ significant contribution towards the UK’s carbon footprint, and the requirement to improve the efficiency of existing buildings as well as new, facility managers are well-placed to implement environmental progress.
Kings Lea House, Abinger, Dorking
A once traditional 20th Century house deep in the Surrey hills was skilfully transformed by Lees Munday Architects into a contemporary family home. With an extension to give the property a new lease of life, juxtaposed against the original building, the architects selected Kebony to achieve the owner’s vision for a sustainable and family friendly home. Natural materials and finishes, including stone and timber were selected inside and out for their authenticity and the way they wear in instead of wearing out. Improving the energy efficiency of the house was also paramount for the owner, which was achieved by draught-proofing, enhanced insulation, and the installation of 21 flat black photovoltaic panels on the new kitchen roof.
House on an Island, Skåtøy, Norway
Positioned amongst rough terrain and rocky landscapes on the island of Skåtøy, Norway, sits a remarkable holiday home built by two artists whose vision was to create an innovative and peaceful retreat. Expertly designed to be in keeping with its natural Nordic surroundings, Kebony was selected to clad the exterior of the property, creating a beautiful and sustainable home which blends delicately into the rugged landscape. Renowned architects Atelier Oslo created a ruin-like structure within the home which comprises an open-plan living space, kitchen, fireplace and a micro-mezzanine level, and the use of rich Kebony wood unites the house with adjacent trees which populate the Scandinavian island.
Coastal Home, Norway
In Southern Norway, architect Thomas Nesheim’s ambitious new coastal home is the product of unique design and the use of innovative materials. Blending seamlessly into the rugged landscape, the self-build home is characterised by the extensive use of charredKebony cladding, which creates a striking finish to the rural project. The cladding allows the home to evolve throughout the day, changing colour in different lights and weather conditions and reflecting the stunning Norwegian sky at night. The home is designed to allow large amounts of natural light to spill into the home through the expansive glass windows and doors, whilst fostering the open-plan interior which fulfilled the architect’s brief.
Holiday cottage, Boeslum Strand, Norway
Located in Boeslum Strand, a seaside village in Denmark renowned for its beautiful white beaches and grassy plains, lies a charming holiday cottage which has been carefully designed by local architect, Elin Donskov, to provide a 180° view of the water. Kebony, was selected to clad the facade of the remote summer house, providing an environmentally friendly build with a natural and understated appearance. The use of Kebony cladding helped achieve a silvery, natural external aesthetic with the added benefit of minimum maintenance.
Swedish self-build, Stockholm
Hidden in the pine trees in the rural suburbs of Stockholm, architect Matthew Eastwood of Swedish firm, Tengbom, has tailor-made his very own architectural treasure for his family to enjoy. The architect wanted a natural wood that resembled similar characteristics to the adjacent pine trees for the external cladding, which is why Kebonywas selected. Not only does the house blend naturally into its surroundings without causing harm to the fragile environment, the wood is also incredibly resilient to wear and weathering. The house boasts an impressive dining room with glass walls on both sides, creating an airy atmosphere with a spectacular view, whilst incorporating plenty of natural daylight throughout the house and allowing the neighboring forest to feature throughout the interior design.
Developed in Norway, Kebony’s revolutionary technology is an environmentally friendly process which modifies sustainably sourced softwoods by heating the wood with furfuryl alcohol – an agricultural by-product. By polymerising the wood’s cell wall, the softwoods permanently take on the attributes of tropical hardwood including high durability, hardness and dimensional stability. Kebony’s sustainable credentials and unique aesthetic qualities were the perfect fit for these new homes.
Adrian Pye, International Sales Director at Kebony added: “Looking back at 2019, we are all very proud that Kebony was selected by such a number of leading architects for some of the year’s most exciting residential projects. The wood’s versatility means that Kebony is used across a huge range of buildings and products across the world, and these outstanding projects demonstrate how more and more leading built environment professionals are recognising the importance of sustainability in the realms of construction.”