Sustainable thinking - a wider role for the FM sector

Sustainable Facilities Management often centres on the FM’s role in managing buildings, for instance, improving the energy management of a site, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill or procuring greener furniture and fittings.

But sustainability means much more than the achievement of BREEAM certification. There is a much broader definition. Take for example, the sustainable procurement of service contracts, which, by ensuring an open and transparent procurement process do not expose contractors or clients to unnecessary risk. Or the commitment of an organisation to improving the wellbeing of its people by looking after their mental health, encouraging them to eat more healthily and by promoting physical activity?

It also involves the societal impact of FM. This can encompass any manner of ways in which FM services are managed; from how the staff who deliver the services are trained and treated to the impact the facilities contract can have on the wider community.

One of the key remits of the FM role is in providing a healthy working environment which sustains the people who occupy the space. This is why there has been increased interest in the impact of the WELL certification standard which is intended to advance the health and well-being of building occupants by appraising a whole range of factors such as air, water, nourishment, light, movement and thermal comfort.

Because the standard has been perceived as difficult to achieve, on May 31 last year, the WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched the WELL version 2 pilot. This updated version of the standard aims to makes achieving a wellbeing rating that bit more accessible. The pilot programme looks at whether an existing building could meet the standard’s requirements without major capital expenditure. It asks, how might a WELL space create equal opportunities for all and how do we ensure that those on the outside benefit as much as those on the inside?

A six-month public comment period is coming to an end and the results will be of great significance for anyone in the built environment who is interested in improving the experience of those occupying a building. It’s also worth noting that in 2018, BRE who are behind the BREEAM rating and the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) published a new, improved briefing paper that outlines how projects may achieve both a certified BREEAM rating and WELL Certification.

The FM sector has also been busy addressing the other sustainable goals outlined above. The supply chain sustainability school, brings a collaborative industry approach to developing sustainability competence in procurement, and draws facilities management (FM) service providers and their clients together to address the environmental and social impacts of the built environment.

All these efforts go way beyond the most obvious targets such as reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. They address deeper societal issues; from developing strategies to help improve the lives of low paid workers, utilising smaller, local suppliers, to ensuring the FM sector responds to legislative changes such as the Modern Slavery Act and the Apprenticeship Levy.

And it’s why the FM sector has a much wider sustainable role to play in supporting responsible businesses, improving the lives of staff, clients, customers and benefiting society as a whole.

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