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Is your building 'environmentally conscious'?

"Environmentally conscious" describes those who have an understanding and appreciation of the effects that their actions have on the earth -- the soil, the air and the water -- as well as on people. As environmental consciousness continues to gain world-wide attention, the importance of environmental responsibility and accountability also expands into the business

For businesses, the issue of environmental responsibility is extremely complex as it pertains not only to the products they sell and corresponding packaging, but also to their facilities and day-to-day operations. Various aspects of a facility may need to be altered in order for it to be "environmentally friendly."

The challenge of creating an environmentally sound facility is not easy to meet. As environmental legislation increases and tightens, the act of non-compliance can be costly. Not only does the possibility of steep fines exist, but failure to implement effective "green designing" principles also can result in negative public opinion.

According to "Saving the Earth is Everyone's Business," an article by Paul Seibert that appeared in the Nov./Dec. 1991 issue of Facility Management Journal, the first activity that a company must undertake to ensure that a facility is environmentally responsible is to develop a plan of action that incorporates the following: Determine the current situation by talking with customers, peers, departmental managers and/or a consulting firm, and identify areas that need improvement; develop policies that are specific to each area; gain top management support in financial backing, manpower and commitment; develop specific responsibilities, such as who will manage, monitor, inventory and report the task; ensure accurate waste-and cost-accounting systems; and develop a corporate culture that rewards staff for minimizing waste and developing technical innovation.

Companies should examine numerous areas to ensure that the design and operation of facilities are ecologically responsible. These areas may include: Energy Conservation -- This is vital to the cessation of global warming. The most detrimental gas fueling global warming is carbon dioxide, which comes from transportation vehicles, electric generation and heating. One Way to exercise control over the level Of carbon dioxide in the air and the amount of energy consumed is careful evaluation of the site selection when planning and preparing a facility. For instance, consideration of the proximity to public transportation or replanting trees cleared from a particular site.

Energy-efficient lighting is another means through which facility managers can minimize energy consumption.

Building designs that take advantage of natural light should be implemented. In addition, it is advantageous to operate HVAC systems only when necessary. Other options to be considered include naturally cooled systems and installing tinted glass windows to reduce the strength of sunlight.

* Recycling -- In establishing an effective recycling program, companies should make recycling containers easily accessible to all employees by placing them throughout the facility. Businesses should establish plans for recycling materials that include paper, aluminum, steel and rubber, as well as establishing a policy of purchasing recycled materials. This policy could apply to everything from stationery and lumber to fiberboard and refurbished furniture.

* Air Quality - The toxic emissions of various building materials, including paints, wall coverings, cleaning agents, fire extinguishers, carpets and furniture, contribute to air pollution. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are one such outgas of many materials that contribute to the chemical breakdown of the earth's ozone layer. It is important to utilize CFC-free insulation, foam pads, upholstery and other produce as much as possible. Another factor that affects air quality is ventilation. Facility design should foster air exchange low to the ground and integrate generous amounts of fresh air with recirculated air as well as utilizing high-quality filters in the air filtration systems to sift toxic gases out of the air.

* Water Conservation - With the drastic decrease in water tables, it is vital that natural resources be utilized as much as possible. Two effective ways to control water consumption are correctly positioning trees and shrubs, and installing an efficient plumbing system that contains low-flow toilets and lowflow faucet heads.

* Relocation -- Since environmental dangers cannot be sold with the site, corporations must be environmentally aware during a shutdown. As outlined in Gordon M. Betz's article "Environmental Responsibility in Plant Closing," in the February 1992 issue of Plant Engineering, the following features should be evaluated at closing: hazardous material presently onsite, underground storage facilities, transformers, building equipment and insulation, soils and residue on building and equipment surfaces.

As concerns for environmental responsibility sweep across the globe, businesses must take the lead role in devising comprehensive plans that lead to compliance with not only the environmental legislation and societal demands of today but also those of tomorrow. Concern about environmental problems, such as global warming, energy consumption, ozone depletion, unsatisfactory indoor air quality and water conservation, is not going to subside. These important issues, and others like them, are predicted to be even more visible in the future. As a result, businesses must prepare for them today. Numerous agencies and professional organizations, including the International Facility Management Association, are available to help facility managers and their organizations secure information on environmental legalities and updates and provide direction for implementing a highly effective environmental plan.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Rondeau, Edmund P.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 19, 1993
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