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June 2018 Board Meeting

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Sustainable Facility Management

In the modern age of information, society has come to terms with humanity’s destructive impact on the environment. A large majority of scientific experts and lawmakers argue that policies need to be implemented to reduce this man-made ecological impact. A growing number of consumers agree, and they have made the conscious decision to make more responsible choices about the companies they give money to.

Facility managers have always needed to remain compliant with the laws and societal standards, and it appears that sustainability policies are quickly becoming a new societal demand from companies. Adopting these business practices gives your business a competitive advantage over other businesses, but it does come at a cost.

What is Sustainability?

Broadly defined, sustainability means utilizing our resources in a way that both meets present needs and focuses on long-term stability. The Brundtland Commission explains that refraining from “compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” is paramount to sustainability.

In a world where humanity’s life-support resources are declining and the demand for these resources is increasing, sustainability seeks to more responsibly utilize these valuable resources to maintain an ecological balance. Forum for the Future lays out five of the key aspects of sustainability including care for the environment, respect for ecological constraints, equity, partnership and quality of life. In summary, sustainability is an attempt to protect the environment while simultaneously driving innovation, improving human health and maintaining our way of life.

What is Sustainable Facility Management?

Sustainable facility management describes the method of managing your company’s business, resources, people and infrastructure in such a way that it optimizes the long-term environmental, economic and social stability. Facility managers influence sustainability when making decisions about environmental management, during building construction and when conducting maintenance.

Some sustainable business practices include tracking your energy use, assessing water consumption, prioritizing energy improvement, managing your carbon footprint and reducing your facility’s baseline energy use. As a facility manager, you’ll need to understand any relevant policy regulations or governmental energy efficiency goals. As governments on the state and federal level make policy changes in favor of sustainable business practices, your business will need to remain compliant.


The most important benefit of maintaining sustainable business practices is improving the overall quality of life for all citizens. Many organizations choose to focus on sustainability as both a goal and mission, and the practice is often embraced as part of the company’s brand. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and Eco-friendly.

Consumers are making more responsible decisions about the products they purchase, so including sustainability as an integral part of your business will have a positive impact on the public perception of your company and boost profits.

Another advantage of sustainability is that companies are at a competitive advantage and may even receive government benefits due to their environmental policies and practices. Ideally, enhancing your company’s productivity, profits, safety standards, health and efficiency are always top-priority goals. Enforcing sustainable goals as a part of facility management will be beneficial in various areas of your business.


While all the advantages of sustainable facility management practices sound unbeatable, they do come at a cost, and that cost is relatively high. The most commonly reported challenge faced by facility managers when it comes to sustainability is the high expectation of energy and water costs and a lack of available funding.

Eco-friendly building materials, supplies and products are typically more expensive, and the cost reduction in energy savings usually isn’t enough to quickly offset the upfront expenses. 

In the study of ecology, sustainability is defined at the ability of biological systems to say diverse and survive indefinitely. Facility managers that adopt sustainable business practices gain a competitive advantage, boost their public perception and help protect the environment for future generations. While these practices do come at a cost, they are typically seen as the responsible choice for today’s businesses.

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The Pros and Cons of an Open Workspace

Silicon Valley is well-known for its incredibly successful global tech companies. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have all revolutionized facility management styles with new solutions like the recent open-office trend. Facility managers around the globe take note of the management styles and trends coming out of Silicon Valley because of the apparent success of these businesses, and the open work space trend has quickly become the new normal.

The International Facility Management Association reported that by 2014 around 70 percent of American offices had low or no partitions to facilitate a more open work space. An open office creates both advantages and disadvantages in the work space. Facility managers should weigh their company’s goals and look at the evidence presented to decide if an open work space environment is a potential solution for their business. 

Benefits of an Open Work Space

The number one reason facility managers consider moving to an open work space is because it is much more cost-effective than private offices or cubicles. Shared workstations mean less overall financial investment into private desks, individual rooms, materials and other building costs. Additionally, facility managers consider strategic motives like improving social support, cooperation and communication between team members when considering an open work space.

Silicon Valley titans like Yahoo!, Facebook and eBay argue that an open office design facilitates fairness, transparency, productivity, communication and innovation. Communication between employees improves, and different team members will be more engaged with one another with an open work space design.

Research indicates a phenomenon called “culture collision” occurs when a chance encounter between workers boosts each employee’s creativity and sense of community. These culture collisions are proven to boost overall office productivity rates.

Without assigned offices and cubicles, an open work area is more flexible than traditional designs. More employees can operate in an open space, and the layout can be rearranged as needed. This allows for maximum space utilization. Another positive aspect of an open work space design is the eco-friendly energy implications.

Open offices are the green choice because the design reduces the strain on heating and cooling systems, gives more opportunities for broad daylight windows and involves less construction waste. Another important reason facility managers are opting for an open work space design because it is both aesthetically pleasing and trendy with the newer millennial generation. Business owners report that an open work space design leaves a positive impression on clients, whereas the traditional cubicle-style design is often seen as old-fashioned. 

Consequences of an Open Office

One of the most glaring disadvantages to having an open office design is the increase in noise level and distraction for employees. It has been repeatedly cited in many studies that simple noise impairs concentration and cognitive performance.

Matthew Davis, an organizational psychologist, reviewed over one hundred studies relating to office design to research the psychological effects on employees from an open office design. His published findings show that an open work space means an increase in uncontrolled disruptions, higher levels of stress, lowered concentration levels, lowered productivity and a decrease in worker satisfaction. 

Facility managers recognize that a sense of privacy boosts productivity, but an open office removes this aspect. An often-cited study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that around half of all open office workers were unhappy with the lack of sound privacy, and 40 percent complained about a lack of visual privacy.

Additionally, more open space leaves employees more vulnerable to contagious germs. One study comparing different office designs found that employees who worked in open offices took more time off due to illness . Another study published in the 2014 Journal of Ergonomics confirmed these results. 

Silicon Valley seems to have reinvigorated the open office movement, yet it may come as a surprise that open office designs were the norm back in the 1950s and 1960s. An open floor plan may be a good fit for some businesses, but it’s not a good option for every company.

Facility managers need to consider that every employee works differently, and the potential advantages and disadvantages to an open work space are highly dependent on various job functions and the company’s overall goals. While large tech companies like Google that rely on innovative ideas and collaboration greatly benefit from this open office design, facility managers should carefully consider their options before jumping on-board with the trend.

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Women as Leaders in Facility Management

Women in Facilities Management

Women are leading the way in facilities management

There has been a sharp uptick in the number of women taking on leadership roles in the field of facility management over the past decade.

According to a study by the Commercial Real Estate Women Network, the number of women in leadership roles in the building management industry has grown from 32 to more than 36 percent since 2005, and that number is expected to increase as many facilities professionals reach retirement age.

The field is also attracting more women who are leveraging their experience in commercial real estate and making the career switch to what had previously been a male-dominated industry.

This growing diversity is especially important in the field, which has at its core is about people and helping them to thrive. Facility managers exert a lot of power and control over the physical environment that people work in each day, and that environment directly impacts worker productivity, health and well-being, according to experts. In addition, bringing people from diverse backgrounds into the field means more ideas along with an increased chance for selecting the right one.

Why women are successful in facility management

There are numerous reasons why women are successful in the field of building management. They leverage their emotional intuition, intelligence and self-awareness of how their actions impact those around them to solve problems and diffuse crises that occur in the work place.

Women are self-managers with strong time management skills who usually have a daily "to do" list and work to ensure those items are checked off. That is especially important in facility management, where the daily list of "to dos" is virtually never ending.

Women also bring strong social and listening skills as well as empathy to the workplace, allowing them to guide their staffs while increasing productivity.

How to be a successful female facilities manager

Just like their male colleagues, female building managers can take proactive steps to keep their careers on track. among the things you can do are:

  • Do not neglect your education, whether you gain it through experience, attending continuing education classes and seminars or by reading trade journals for 20 minutes each day. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to tackle problems as they arise.
  • Network with other facilities managers, both male and female, so you can keep up to date on the latest trends in the field.
  • Do not be afraid to do anything that you ask your staff to do. Learn about plumbing, electrical systems and heating and ventilation. Put your knowledge to the work by pitching in alongside your staff. And, ask questions if you do not know something. most contractors are happy to share what they know.
  • Remember that the field of building management is a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week job that you can never walk away from. Be reachable to your staff through phone calls and texts, especially when you are away from the office.

Problems women face in the field

The demands of being accessible all day, every day make many female facilities manager feel the pressure of balancing work with home life. Pursuing this career is a way of life that many embrace or do not. Be sure to train your staff and hire the additional help you need when necessary to maintain work/life balance.

Getting contractors and vendors to accept a woman as boss in a male dominated field also has some challenges. Cultivate good working relationships with them in order to build mutually respectful and serious professional relationships.

As more women than ever before enter the field, they are changing the face of the face of the facilities industry. Coming from diverse backgrounds, educational levels and skill sets, women are establishing themselves as leaders in what had been a male dominated industry by using their problem solving and communication skills to leverage their career path and open doors for those who will follow in their path.

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