(37) Sustainability

 Waste Management and Recycling

Waste Management World 

Wate Management


Operate the building efficiently

The design of a building will clearly dictate the range of performance you can expect. However, everyday decisions can have a huge impact as well. Some are within your purview as a facilities manager, but you will need to become a behaviour modification expert as well.


It would be funny if it weren’t so common: most buildings simply don’t function as intended. Parts of the building may be hot while others are cold. The electronic controls may not be set properly. Building commissioning is the process of checking, usually with a third party, if the building is functioning the way it was designed. Aster Publishing in Eugene, Oregon saved more than $40,000 on its annual electricity bill in part by correcting an improper economizer operation and disabled HVAC controls. These services may not be free, but they often pay for themselves in the first year.

Energy management

Probably the biggest operations and maintenance (O&M) cost a facility manager watches is energy. Certain factors are largely within your control: flushing the building with cool evening air to reduce the air conditioning (AC) load the next day; bringing parts of the building on over time so you don’t create as much of a spike in energy demand; etc.

The big headache is usually the occupants: whining about being too hot or too cold, twiddling the thermostat, sneaking space heaters under their desks, leaving lights and computers on, etc. There are actions that you can take which will have some success. For example, Tufts University in Massachusetts estimated that if all students turned off their computers for six hours at night, they could save 572 tons of carbon equivalents and $87,000. Comparing current energy use in your buildings with past records can also uncover unnecessary use. But in reality, this will be the hardest part of the job.

Find creative ways to educate and inform occupants about the impacts of their decisions. TriMet, the transit authority for Portland, Oregon’s metropolitan region, employed at least one elegant tactic – they posted the electricity bill in the lifts. No entreaties. No guilt tripping. Just information. And their energy use dropped by 20 per cent in the next month!

When doing remodels, set up better measurement systems. For example, SERA Architects in Portland, Oregon installed a separate electrical metering system when they remodelled their offices so that each would pay its own energy bills. They immediately switched to green power (at a nominal annual cost of $800 for 9000 square feet) and further divided their metering to separately track lighting, mechanical systems and plug loads. This separate metering enables them to target improvements and monitor energy use.


DSIRE is a comprehensive listing of energy-related incentives in every US state, www.dsireusa.org

.Manage waste

The first step in managing waste is to change your thinking. It’s not waste, it’s a resource.

This new mindset has allowed a number of organizations to achieve the goal of zero waste to landfill. Just imagine no dumpsters/skips!

Interface has eliminated over US$165 million in waste. They have learned how to make new carpet from old carpet, reducing their need for oil. They also have a factory powered in part by solar energy.

Xerox has saved more than US$2 billion since 1990 and diverted the equivalent of 2 million printers and copiers from the landfill. With their remanufacturing system, they take back old copiers and disassemble them. Parts that pass rigorous testing then get put in new products.

Hewlett-Packard in Roseville, California reduced its waste by 95 per cent and saved $870,564 in 1998. One action that contributed to this was switching from pallets to reusable slip-sheets to transport product.

 In 2000 Epson in Portland, Oregon reduced its waste to landfill to zero and saved $300,000. One of the strategies they used to achieve this was to buy a compactor to compress foam packaging, which was passed on as input to another manufacturer.

Excess ink is shipped off as pigment for paints. The final 10 per cent that can’t be reused or recycled is sent to a facility to be burned for electricity.

From the above examples, certain appropriate strategies become clear. Do a waste audit to see what is being thrown away. Even better, do a purchasing audit to see what you are buying - for your major purchases, consider their necessity, sourcing, recyclability and longevity. Find markets for whatever ‘residual resource’ (normally referred to as waste) you can’t prevent through purchasing practices or process changes. Many communities have a waste exchange website that helps connect potential users of various waste streams.


GrassRoots Recycling Network website, www.grrn.org

Check with your local college or municipality to see if they offer low-cost waste assessments.

Provide green cleaning and landscaping services

Many facilities contract out their cleaning and landscaping services. Whether you do the

work yourself or contract it out, seek out greener, more benign options. Many traditional cleaning products are loaded with hazardous chemicals and artificial fragrances. These often cause skin irritation and/or respiratory problems for cleaning staff and represent a significant spill risk. Such fragrances can also increase sick days for employees who have respiratory problems such as asthma. Much of this risk is truly unnecessary. There are effective green cleaning products to serve almost every cleaning need. Instead of using a strong caustic product on every surface, decide when and where the ‘big guns’ really need to be used. Most of the same points can be made for landscaping chemicals. If you use native plants appropriate to their location, the need for chemicals drops considerably. If you have any lawn, lower your standards and allow some ‘weeds’ to interrupt the monotonous carpet of green. Spray and fertilize only when needed, using the most benign product that will do the job. Switch back to raking instead of using noisy, polluting leaf blowers. Replace gasoline- or diesel-powered machines with ones using cleaner fuels such as biodiesel, compressed natural gas, hydrogen or electricity (if it is sourced from renewable).

In both cases, periodically do a chemical inventory, tallying what you use and rating the products by hazard. Make every effort to eliminate those products that pose the most threat to environmental or human health. Material safety data sheets can help you with these decisions.

When we have done chemical inventories for clients, we find that initiating the inventory often leads to other business benefits. People clean out their shelves of old, unused product so they don’t have to count it in the inventory. We often discover that the same organization buys different products from different vendors to serve the same purpose; when they combine purchases, they often get a significant quantity discount. To make the process of doing a chemical inventory easy, require your vendors to provide you with your usage information.


Green Seal has a certification system for cleaning products, www.greenseal.org

Green/Blue is working on several projects related to chemicals, packaging and design for the environment issues, www.greenblue.org

Dolphin Software has a neat database that compares chemicals for a certain function by both cost and toxicity so you can easily find alternatives that would meet your needs that both cost less and are less toxic. Go to www.dolphinsafesource.com/ and look for the Green Product

Selector under Products and Services.

King County, WA has done an analysis of a number of commonly used landscape products, rating them on a scale from high concern to low, www.govlink.org

Manage transportation issues

Add up the amount of land - both parking and access roads - that you have devoted to the car. How much more would that property is worth if it were a building site? This is your missed opportunity cost. Now figure out what it cost to build those parking areas and associated swales, landscaping and sewer lines. Add these two numbers and divide by the number of parking spaces. The purpose of this math’s problem is to make the point: there really is no such thing as free parking.

Portland State University calculated that they could not accommodate the expected growth in student numbers if they maintained the same student to parking ratio. Their existing 30 per cent public transport use – a level that would be the envy of many institutions – would have to be radically improved. As previously mentioned, they placed what parking they did provide further away from campus than the transit stops. They charge for parking and indicate the annual total on the monthly bills to shock people into the recognition of what it costs to own and operate a car; some of the parking revenue is used to subsidize bus passes and bike facilities. They provide a ‘Flexcar’ (a shared vehicle that can be rented by the hour) for people who do not have parking spaces. All this contributes to managing costs and reducing climate impact.

When it comes to transportation, the Field of Dreams movie refrain ‘if you build it [near bus stops], they will come [via public transportation]’ doesn’t work without carrots and sticks. So charge at least what it costs you for parking. If you can, subsidize bus passes and help people find alternative ways to get to work. Reserve the best parking spots for car pools. Instead of validating customer parking, consider giving drivers a free bus ticket instead. Of course, some people will still need to drive. So Quantec LLC, a small 35-person firm in Portland, Oregon, offers its employees a $9000 incentive to purchase a hybrid Toyota Prius ($150 per month over 60 months). They also buy bicycles for people who prefer to commute that way. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution, Quantec found these are effective programmes to recruit and retain good talent.

Because of the potential for cost savings and the relative size of the impacts, many organizations begin their sustainability efforts with a focus on their facilities. While you will find the biggest opportunities when you are first building or selecting a new facility, there are still many measures you can take with an existing structure. Where you are a tenant and don’t control many aspects of the management of the facility (eg you don’t have a separate electric meter or any influence over cleaning practices), consider your leverage with your landlord or opportunities to unite with other tenants to make requests for different services.


The Westside Transportation Alliance advocates balanced transportation choices, http://www.wta-tma.org/

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, www.epa.gov/otaq


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