Second hand is not second best in FM

David Stevens, Vice Chair of CIBSE FM Group and Richard Boyd, Materials Consultant at Arup, have been exploring the implications of circular economy thinking for MEP systems in buildings, in design, operation and end-of-life in a research project funded by Arup's Global Research Challenge and supported by Scheider Electric. In this post for Facilities Show, they share why they believe second hand doesn't mean second best in FM.

Circular economy

Circular Economy is a systemic response to stagnant construction sector productivity and the need to decarbonise our sector. Its principles can help FMs improve the performance of their workplaces, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consider the whole life performance of their assets and consumables. Circularisation considers a situation where assets are kept at their highest possible value for as long as possible and the absolute minimum is sent to landfill.

Demand for resources is growing and it is not sustainable to continue with a linear, new for old, economy. Second hand does not mean second best; organisations such as Warp-it, Rype Office and Reyooz (there are others) are disrupting the new office furniture market by offering products which perform as-new at competitive prices (or even for free) with lower environment impacts than new furniture – a proposition that appeals widely to FM’s.

The facilities management sector is well placed to design out waste in buildings; for instance, designing out the use of single-use plastic. Reusable packaging, as piloted by Herman Miller, could significantly reduce waste arisings from the logistics sector and reduce deliveries, with associated positive impact on air quality.

Another aspect of Circularisation that is currently gaining momentum is ‘Product as a Service’ (PaaS), where facilities managers buy ‘performance’ rather than ‘products.’ Signify’s Pay-per-lux scheme is perhaps the best known, where for a subscription fee, they provide a high performance, remotely-optimised lighting system while retaining responsibility for managing the products at their end-of-life. In Singapore, Kaer offer cooling as a service, where the cooling itself is purchased with Kaer retaining responsibility for the system performance. By keeping responsibility for end-of-life processing in the hands of the suppliers, they are incentivised to provide longer lasting, lower maintenance and easy-to-recycle equipment.

While FM’s have used MFD printing and fleet companies for years, so should be familiar with a similar model, there remains a reticence in the supply chain to invest in these new models. A strong signal from the FM sector that they would prefer to procurement building services in this way would incentivise suppliers to offer PaaS options as standard.

Will this become similar to PFI / PPP models, whereby the debt of infrastructure and CAPEX is saved (with the risk transferred to a third party) but with a continual OPEX financial burden for years to come? Will the overall costs outweigh the benefits? That is yet to be determined as the models are still developing. However we have reached a point where benefits are no longer measured in payback alone and organisations are increasingly  being judged on their commitment to the environment. 

We are reaching a tipping point; business-as-usual or tweaking around the edges is no longer an option – it’s time for all parts of the value chain, including FM, to fully embrace circular thinking.

Second hand is not second best.