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Articles

Sustainable Alternatives in Facilities Management

Glenn Sparks of ANEW penned this article for Ken Burkhalter's blog FM and Beyond.

In the world of facilities management (FM), sustainability has evolved from buzzword to essential component.

Sustainable practices comprise an ever-increasing aspect in the scope of FM. Energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, renewable and clean energy, recycling, water conservation, green or greener buildings, environmentally preferred purchasing, upgrading inefficient HVAC systems, LEED certification – all positively affect the triple bottom line of profits, people and planet. As the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable practices become more well-known, more FM companies will utilize them.

 

That being said, one vital sustainable practice in FM is almost unknown. What happens to the furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) when commercial space is vacated? When clients vacate commercial space, most often FFE are left behind. The traditional mindset in this situation is what’s the rush; why think about surplus FFE before vacating the space? Naturally the clients are looking forward to their new space; the old space is out of sight, out of mind. In most instances, right up until moving day it’s someone else’s worry. Standard practice is for the old FFE to be labeled as waste, picked up by a demolition crew and hauled to landfill. This mindset ignores a simple reality: waste is costly. Looking at the situation through a different lens, a company’s investment in infrastructure has great value. Think proactively, think sustainably; leverage the company’s infrastructure investment and save time and money in the process.

Construction waste accounts for about 40% of landfill. Hauling surplus to landfill is an easy option which comes at a very high environmental price. According to EPA estimates, methane produced by rotting matter in landfills is the second largest factor affecting global climate change. What can be done to amend this situation? What assurances are there that surplus will not be hauled to landfill? In most instances the old FFE still have a lot of life remaining; there are many organizations which could benefit by receiving the used but eminently usable FFE. Simply put, the effects of climate change are reduced through mitigation of methane production when surplus is creatively diverted from landfills.

An ideal entity to divert the waste from landfill and implement a sustainable alternative would be some sort of re-purposing company (RC). This RC would work closely with the architecture, design and manufacturing sectors. In the context of a commercial real estate decommissioning project, the RC would collaborate with the architect, project manager or furniture dealer to quantify the project – scope, location, and an inventory of items identified as surplus FFE. The RC would then conduct a site walk, assess the situation and issue a proposal for review and approval. Next would come the physical work, the removal of surplus FFE. The surplus would then be matched with the needs of a recipient organization such as a non-profit, charity or public agency. Upon completion of the project the RC would provide the donor organization with a certificate including metrics of diversion from landfill, or emissions and carbon footprint reduced. Also provided would be an itemized tax receipt for all surplus matched to the recipient.

A company offering such services would create a win-win situation for all involved. The donor organization could empty its decommissioned space of FFE at a cost comparable to or lower than that of hauling to landfill. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) would receive a boost, the triple bottom line would be improved. The recipient organization would benefit by enhancing its working environment, improving efficiency, expanding its operations and maximizing resources; this would allow it to focus on its vital community services. The community would thus be strengthened, and the environment would be spared the toxic effects of more landfill.

Looking further, the RC could work with corporate clients to create construction waste diversion and resource recovery programs, and raise awareness through its website and social media, presentations at schools and business offices, and short documentaries available online.

Actually there is such an entity. ANEW, a 501 (C)(3) non-profit based in Los Angeles, exists to provide companies with sustainable alternatives for their surplus furniture and other items with the priority of matching the surplus to other non-profits, public agencies and underserved communities. This practice is referred to as Social Sustainability®, uniting social responsibility with environmental sustainability. You can learn more at http://anewfound.org and https://www.facebook.com/ANEWfound.

It is encouraging to see sustainable practices becoming mainstream. Sustainability can be defined as simply living well; people, profits and planet in balance.  

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