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New Green Building Trends For 2021

New Green Building Trends For 2021

The construction industry has had a tough line to walk over the past year. Not only did building trends shift their focus to improving and protecting occupant health, but they also continued to make progress toward greater sustainability, even when those goals were at odds with each other. Now, as more people get used to living in a post-COVID world and the imminent danger of the pandemic subsides, architecture is turning more of its attention back to green building. This has resulted in several emerging trends for 2021, including:

1. The rise of green materials.

Green materials have existed for some time. Some of them, like wood, are traditional. Others, like volatile organic compound(VOC)-free paint, have been available for years as a specialty product. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification promotes the idea of using fewer resources. One of the ways that the construction industry can do so is by using LEED-certified construction equipment and materials. Some new VOC-free paints actually include compounds that can remove additional VOCs from the environment, improving building health. So far, 2021 is seeing an uptick in the use of these sustainable building materials.

2. An upcycling revival.

Back when shabby chic was an interior design trend, "upcycling" became chic. This is the idea of taking an old object and giving it a new purpose -- garden gates became wall decor, and rain boots became planters. Now, the damage done to supply chains by the pandemic is sparking a new interest in DIY. While largely confined to home remodeling, DIY trends and aesthetics are likely to spill over into the construction industry, including the use of repurposed building materials.

3. New ideas in stormwater management.

Building trends have been pushing for water efficiency for a while now. Interior plumbing fixtures come in high-efficiency and low-flow varieties, and some toilet models even re-use hand washing water to fill their tanks. However, one area of water management has consistently been overlooked: stormwater. Stormwater is, as its name implies, water from precipitation. Some projects are expanding the use of rainwater-catching basins for landscape irrigation. Others are incorporating porous pavement and other materials that reduce flooding. One interesting landscaping trend involves rain gardens -- a method of using layers of plants, sand, gravel, and other natural filter media to treat stormwater without chemicals. This helps remove some of the paint, pesticide, moldicides, bird feces, soot, and other pollutants that rainwater can pick up as it runs off of roofs, pavement, and automobiles before the stormwater returns to the environment.

4. A shift toward greener construction equipment.

It's easy to focus entirely on the buildings themselves when it comes to creating more sustainable construction, but the building process is also a source of pollution, noise, and dirt. Large construction equipment needs a lot of power, and that power traditionally comes from diesel-fueled generators. Unfortunately, this machinery dumps nitrogen oxides and particulates into the air, drastically lowering air quality in nearby areas. Now, however, there's an alternative: lithium-ion batteries. Powering construction equipment with electricity instead of diesel has the potential to drop machinery-related carbon emissions by as much as 80% -- from 140 tons per year to just 25.

5. "Living" building materials.

Fungi have gotten a lot of attention lately. Not quite plants and definitely not animals, they've been a source of food and medicine for ages. Now, experts think they may also form the basis for the next generation of building materials. While most of us think of mushrooms when we picture fungi, the mushroom is just a very small, specialized reproductive organ. The bulk of a fungus is its mycelium, a cottony, weblike substance that grows through the fungus' substrate. Mycelium is lightweight and completely biodegradable, but remarkably durable, mold, water, and fire-resistant. One experimental project from 2014 combined crop waste with a mycelium binder to form bricks. The project team used these bricks to construct a 13-meter tower. While this project wasn't intended to build a functioning building, the idea of using fungi as a building material continues to receive more attention.

6. Green energy generation.

Rather than rely on the traditional power grid, more building projects are incorporating renewable energy from the get-go. Architects are looking for ways to either use or create solar, wind, or hydropower, as well as tightening up building energy efficiency overall. Part of the problem with some renewables is their inability to meet the total energy needs of a building, forcing that building to tap into the grid to make up the difference. With energy-efficient construction, coupled with the means for a building to generate its own electricity, the need for extra power from the grid decreases. Some buildings can even pipe their extra electricity back into the power grid, earning income for their owners. Occupant health and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. Many new, green building materials and construction trends reduce environmental pollution both indoors and out, creating sustainable buildings with healthier occupants. With green materials, LEED certification, green energy, battery-powered construction equipment, and better stormwater management, 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for sustainability in architecture.

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7 Ways Facility Managers Can Celebrate Earth Day

7 Ways Facility Managers Can Celebrate Earth Day

It's no secret that buildings produce a lot of carbon emissions. Even after a building is built, its environmental impact is ongoing. Calculations by the International Energy Agency found that buildings are responsible for roughly 40% of carbon emissions, and 25% of global water consumption. As a result, most facility managers focus on sustainability year-round. Earth Day is a day for facility managers to showcase their efforts to run a sustainable facility, as well as get tenants and guests involved in protecting the environment. Here are seven ways that facility managers can celebrate Earth Day:

1. Add plants.

Biophilic design helps connect occupants to nature by bringing the outdoors in. Its a design philosophy that incorporates natural elements into the interior environment. Things like skylights, fountains, and natural materials help here, but one of the biggest contributors is plants. This Earth Day, facility managers can celebrate by adding or unveiling new plants, green walls, and the like. There are many species that are not only attractive but low-maintenance and ideally suitable for growing in low light environments. Managers can even give small plants away to tenants, increasing their facility's biophilia while encouraging occupants to their part in maintaining green features.

2. Call attention to everyday sustainability.

Maybe a facility uses low-flow plumbing features or has a gray water system for landscaping. Maybe it uses solar or wind power, features reclaimed or recycled materials, or relies on green cleaning products. Earth Day is an opportunity to call attention to the everyday sustainability measures that often go overlooked. Make attractive posters or handouts pointing out the facility's eco-friendly features, and highlighting any future plans to improve. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this is also a great opportunity to explain all of the measures the facility's employees are undertaking to keep guests and tenants safe. There's a lot of crossover between cleaning, biophilic design, and occupant health -- managers should take this opportunity to impress and reassure their occupants.

3. Encourage collective efforts.

Facilities bring people together, so why not use Earth Day as a chance to bring them together for the environment? Create learning materials that underline the importance of sustainability initiatives, on a community-wide and personal level. Set up community activities that are fun and educational. Encourage guests and tenants to set up achievable sustainability goals for their homes, departments, or personal lives. Set up awards and prizes for the tenants who have contributed the most to environmental causes over the past year. Host tree plantings, beach or park cleanups, nature walks, or efforts to remove invasive plants.

4. Create ongoing incentives.

It's easier for people to achieve a goal if it's measurable and there's a reward at the end. Make Earth Day every day by developing ongoing incentives for occupants to maintain and improve their sustainability. Set up an incentive program for people who take public transportation, bike, or walk to work. Do the same for departments who manage to reduce their electricity consumption. Encourage occupants to skip takeout meals and disposable beverage bottles by giving out reusable branded water bottles, lunch boxes, or beeswax wraps.

5. See where there's room for improvement, and get excited about it.

Even the most sustainable facility likely has some room for improvement. Managers should take this opportunity to see what areas could be better -- maybe switching to LED bulbs, or setting up recycling bins around the facility for occupants to use. Earth Day is the ideal time to make a plan for lowering carbon emissions, reducing trash, and cutting back on water use. Decide how to implement new sustainability measures, and get occupants excited about them.

6. Set up demonstrations.

Chances are, sales reps would be more than happy to help create Earth Day demonstrations featuring their products. Whether it's a new, ultra-efficient HVAC system, or the manufacturer of a facility's green cleaning products, they will usually be willing to highlight their product's environmental friendliness. Tap them for ideas for displays, games, and other fun Earth Day-themed activities.

7. Generate community buzz.

It's important to remember that facilities don't just impact the environment, they impact their communities as well. Set up group activities and provide media coverage. If possible, set up a family-friendly event with games, food, and prizes, with the proceeds to be donated to an environmental charity. Expand Earth Day celebrations beyond the facility itself, and create some positive buzz within the surrounding community. This April 22nd is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Don't miss this opportunity to show off what your facility is doing to improve its sustainability, get occupants involved in environmental initiatives, and plan for the future. With attractive signage and handouts, activities, and incentives to help generate excitement, you can help make your facility even more environmentally friendly.

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7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

Reducing your building's environmental impact doesn't just make sense from a sustainability standpoint -- it makes good economic sense, too. While operating an ecologically-friendly facility might involve an initial investment, it generally pays for itself in terms of energy and material savings.

The Truth About Building Emissions

When people talk about carbon emissions and air pollution, they usually mention it in terms of "cars on the road." For example, if an average family skipped eating meat and dairy for one day a week, it would be roughly equivalent to taking their car off of the road for five weeks. Even though cars and transportation pollution are the standards when it comes to visualizing the environmental impact of various actions, buildings actually contribute more pollution than vehicles do. Any time a building uses a device that relies on combustion, like an oil- or gas-powered furnace, boiler, or stove, it emits carbon dioxide and monoxide. Electricity consumption may also contribute to carbon emissions if the power source is a fossil fuel. All told, buildings contribute up to 39% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Help the Environment -- and Your Bottom Line

In most cases, carbon emissions represent waste, and waste can get expensive. Taking steps to make buildings more energy-efficient means that fewer fossil fuels are consumed to keep them heated, cooled, and powered. Lower fossil fuel consumption means a lower power bill. That's even before considering the numerous subsidies and other incentives for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint -- power and fuel companies often offer rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. The Investment Tax Credit also allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal tax burden. Reducing a facility's carbon emissions may require an initial investment, but incentives exist to help ease the transition.

The Best Ways to Reduce a Building's Carbon Footprint

There are a lot of strategies for making a facility more environmentally-friendly, some of which are more practical than others. Here are the top seven:

1. Calculate your footprint. Before you can come up with an emission reduction strategy, you need to know what you're emitting. There are tons of online calculators that will help you estimate what environmental impact your facility has, and you can contact your electricity and fuel providers to see what sources your heating and power come from. This will allow you to figure out where it's feasible to cut back.

2. Don't over-commit. You don't have to go carbon-neutral right from the outset, and trying to do so might cause more problems than it solves. It's better to make tangible strides toward reduced emissions, rather than make plans to go carbon-neutral and not follow through.

3. Handle the HVAC system. Heating, ventilation, and cooling systems are responsible for up to 40% of building emissions, so it makes sense to attack the largest source first. Switch to energy-efficient heaters and air conditioners. Program them to run at certain times a day -- for example, don't run air conditioning during the coolest part of the day, and use sensors to determine when ventilation is needed.

4. Examine your water usage. Water also contributes significantly to carbon emissions. All of the water a building uses needs to first be treated, pumped, and then heated before coming out of the tap, and all of that requires energy. Switching to efficient fixtures that prevent leaks, like low-flow toilets, can reduce water wastage. Installing rainwater harvesting and greywater systems can dramatically reduce water usage for landscaping. Using native landscaping plants or xeriscaping can further reduce water wastage.

5. Generate your own energy. Solar panels are not only subsidized with a tax credit, but they can also lower energy bills by allowing a facility to reduce its dependence on external power. There are only so many ways to reduce a building's power usage; as long as it relies on power from a carbon-emitting source, it will still result in indirect carbon emissions. Setting up on-site power generation using renewable sources helps save money on the electric bill, and reduces a facility's carbon footprint.

6. Change your lighting. Lighting requires a significant amount of power. Switch to energy-efficient LEDs, and maximize your facility's use of natural light during daylight hours. Window films can help you take advantage of sunlight, without worrying about gaining too much heat in summer.

7. Don't skimp on maintenance. Clogged filters, malfunctioning fans, and leaking pipes can make the most energy-efficient appliances be wasteful. Keep on top of regular maintenance to make sure your building stays at peak efficiency. You'll save money on water and fuel, and be able to avoid costly repairs from neglected problems, too.

Reducing a facility's carbon footprint doesn't have to be difficult or arduous. Estimate where you can cut back, use energy- and water-efficient appliances, generate your own power when it's feasible, and keep on top of regular maintenance. You'll help reduce your building's bills and help the environment at the same time.

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Ways to Green Your Vending Machines

Ways To Green Your Vending Machines

It's probably pretty difficult to picture an environmentally-friendly vending machine. By their very nature, they vend disposable products and require energy to operate -- in some cases, for 24 hours a day. That doesn't mean that facility managers can't find ways to help lower energy consumption, offering convenience to their customers, reducing their facility's carbon footprint, and helping to save money in the process. There are a couple of ways to go about this: 

1. Look for the Energy Star label.

Appliances that are Energy Star approved either meet or exceed the energy efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Much like consumer household appliances, this designation can be applied to vending machines as well. In fact, vending machines that are Energy Star approved consume up to 40% less energy than their old-fashioned counterparts -- courtesy of more efficient cooling systems and upgraded lighting, among other energy-saving features. 

If the unit in a facility is not Energy Star rated, upgrading it may be as simple as getting in touch with the vendor representative and asking to make the switch. They'll often happily upgrade at no charge. 

2. Shut them down during slow times of the day.

When it comes to energy efficiency for machines vending non-perishable items, plug load control devices can be a dream come true. These devices use sophisticated sensors to drastically lower power needs after fifteen minutes of inactivity by reducing the compressor activity. In this mode, the contents of the machines will incur only slight increases in temperature -- not enough to harm non-perishable items -- while reducing energy consumption by up to 30%. 

3. Change the lighting.

New, green lighting options offer another way to save energy. In older vending machines, lighting can use up to 150-180 watts to continuously keep things lit -- to the tune of an extra $100 per year. Electronic ballasts and newer, energy-efficient lamps can drastically reduce this consumption. 

It should be noted that lighting is pretty much cosmetic, serving only to highlight products and let customers know the machine is on. So, if energy-efficient lighting systems are not an option, it may be possible to simply turn the lights off entirely during nights, weekends, or even full-time in order to drop energy use by up to 35%. (Just make sure to let customers know that the machine is still in service.) 

4. Pick natural refrigerants.

Hydrofluorocarbons are organofluorine compounds known to be potent greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, many older vending machines still use them in their insulation and cooling mechanisms. Now, there are naturally-produced alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons that work just as well, without the risk of additional contributions to climate change. Many vendors are part of the "Refrigerants Naturally!" program, which encourages the use of these natural refrigerants. Facility managers with older vending machines can upgrade by contacting their vendors and requesting newer models, or even converter options for older ones. 

5. Explore "smart" vending options.

Inventors with Coca-Cola Japan have created a means of improving energy efficiency by not only adjusting energy consumption during off hours but also based on season and the load on the power grid. Smart "Peak Shift" vending machines allow facility managers to remotely monitor and change how the machine's power is allocated. They can alter power use from day to night, cooling beverages at night and keeping them cool during the day, and reduce their energy needs during cold winter months. 

For an increasing percentage of the population, being environmentally-friendly is important. The average customer is aware of their impact on the environment, and many of them make an effort to patronize businesses that exercise environmental responsibility. In most states in the U.S., energy use is still tied strongly to carbon emissions. Facilities that make an effort to go green not only help their bottom line by saving money on their power bill, but they can also control their carbon footprint and make a favorable impression on guests.

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Cleaning Procedures for Green Buildings

Cleaning products like ammonia and bleach are effective in killing germs and getting rid of dirt and dust. However, they also can pose a serious risk to people's health. Rather than jeopardize the integrity and wellness of your building, you can protect the health of people inside of it while disinfecting and keeping the premises sanitary by utilizing green cleaning procedures.

What is Green Cleaning?

Green cleaning involves using cleaning products, equipment, and supplies that pose no risk to the environment or human health. More facilities managers are adopting green cleaning procedures because studies have shown that most people spend close to 90 percent of their time indoors. As such, they need to be able to breathe air that is clean and safe rather than laden with chemicals and residue from cleaning products.

In fact, scientific studies have shown that the quality of indoor air is often just as polluted and toxic as the outdoor air in urban areas. People who breathe in residue from spray cleaning products and chemicals stand a greater chance of developing respiratory illnesses. This chance is magnified if the building does not have a good ventilation system in it.

Even if your building has a high-quality ventilation system, you may still want to adopt and use green cleaning procedures. You will protect the respiratory health of people in your building while still getting the clean and sanitary conditions you are expected to maintain as a facilities manager.

Steps for Green Cleaning

You might be wondering what green cleaning procedures involve and how different they are from the procedures you use now to clean your building. In reality, green cleaning is not all that different from regular cleaning. Your primary goal is to clean the premises albeit while reducing or eliminating indoor air pollution.

You can start by purchasing and using green cleaning products. These products range from recycled and soluble paper towels to carpet deodorizer and paint that are free from toxic fumes and dangerous chemicals.

Most green cleaning products today are denoted by the Greenguard certification, which means they are guaranteed not to release volatile organic compounds or VOCs into the air. They also are formulated to avoid polluting the soil, water, and other elements in the environment.

Another green cleaning tip involves using magnetic door mats at or near the entrances of your building. These specially designed mats draw dirt and dust from the bottom of people's shoes.

Less dirt and dust tracked into the building means that you have to use fewer indoor cleaning products like bleach or ammonia. Your floors stay cleaner and require less scrubbing and mopping because of these mats.

Even so, you still might want to dust mop the floors in your building on a daily basis. Rather than use a harsh chemical-laden floor cleaning product, you should use one that is water-based. A water-based cleaner protects the indoor air quality without compromising the cleanliness of the floor.

Likewise, you can avoid using an excess amount of cleaning products by using a sustainable floor coating on your building's floors. The sustainable floor coating protects your floor and prevents dirt and debris from becoming ground in them.

Your floors will require less maintenance and will not need to be spray buffed, burnished, deep scrubbed, or stripped as often. You avoid using an excess amount of chemicals on the floor while also reducing labor costs for your building.

Finally, you should switch to using a high-efficiency filter in your vacuums. Most carpets can hold up to 10 times their weight in dirt and debris. This residue gets grounded into the carpeting and is difficult for standard vacuum cleaners to pick up and remove. You may have to use harsh chemical-laden products like sprays and foams to loosen and remove the debris.

A high-efficiency vacuum filter, however, is powerful enough to remove the dirt and dust without the use of foams, sprays, and other carpet cleaning chemicals. The filter also traps the debris and prevents it from being spit back out by the vacuum into the carpeting. High-efficiency filters are typically certified green and ideal to use when you are adopting green cleaning procedures for your building.

As a facilities manager, you are expected to keep your building sanitary and clean at all times. You do not have to use products that contain harsh chemicals that could harm people's health as well as the environment. You can get the sanitary conditions you want and maintain them easily when you use green cleaning procedures in your building.

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How Efficient are Solar Panels in Bad Weather?

Solar panels are becoming more commonplace in homes and businesses across the world. They help home and business owners save money on their electric and heating bills. They also generate safe, green energy without having to use fossil fuels like coal or gasoline.

If you have contemplated installing solar panels in your building, you might wonder how they perform in overcast weather. You may be convinced of their worth by discovering their efficiency in all weather conditions even when the skies are cloudy.

Solar Panels and Cloudy Weather

A big misconception among people who do not own solar panels is that these fixtures have to be exposed to intense and bright sunlight in order to work properly. After all, they cannot generate power if the sun is not shining down on them, correct?

In fact, this belief is entirely wrong and one that solar panel manufacturers and companies are trying to dispel. They want home and business owners to know that solar panels do not require bright, sunny skies in order to function. They can still generate energy even when the sun is overcast by clouds.

Just as you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day, so too can solar panels absorb sun rays on days that are overcast. Some sunlight still gets through the clouds, allowing the panels to generate electricity and power for the building on which they are installed.

However, the amount of energy they produce on cloudy days depends on factors like how thick the clouds are. On days that are heavily overcast, the panels might generate around 10 to 25 percent of their capacity, which still would make an impact on lowering your energy bills.

Solar Panels and Snow and Ice

Another misconception among home and business owners is that solar panels will not work if they are covered in snow and ice. In fact, these panels rarely become piled up with snow and ice. They are typically installed at an angle so the precipitation slides off of them especially when they become heated after absorbing the sun's rays.

If you live in a part of the globe that experiences a lot of ice and snow, you can still get a good return on your solar panel investment. Solar panels are designed to function even when it is snowing or icing outside. They will still generate safe and clean energy that will reduce your building's carbon footprint and lower your utility costs.

Solar Panels and Cold Weather

Just as they perform well in snowy and icy conditions, so too do they function the same if not better in locations that experience cold weather. They do not require hot and sunny conditions to work as designed. In fact, studies have shown that solar panels do just as well or better in parts of the world that have colder weather.

For example, places like San Francisco, New Jersey, and New York are among the top 10 solar power locations even though these places experience colder weather than other parts of the country. The panels actually generate less energy when the weather is hot and muggy outside and the sunlight is beating directly down on them.

Solar Panels and Hail Stones

At first glance, you might assume that solar panels are delicate and fragile fixtures. They look like they might shatter into a million pieces if they were ever hit with a hail stone.

However, these panels are actually designed to withstand direct impact from debris like hail stones. They undergo mandatory testing before they are ever sold and installed in homes and businesses to make sure they can hold up in stormy weather.

Studies have consistently shown that hail stones, even sizable ones, cannot break or shatter the solar panels. It would take a significant storm to compromise the structural integrity and the generating power of solar panels.

Solar panels do not need direct sunlight and warm weather to function correctly. They can absorb light from the sun and generate safe and efficient power even on cloudy, stormy, and cold days. Their versatility allows them to be installed in many locations around the world and return a buyer's investment without consuming fossil fuels like coal or gas.

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Is Geothermal Heating and Cooling a Viable Alternative?

As a facilities manager, it is up to you to keep the costs of running your building as low as possible. As summer or winter approaches, however, you might find yourself worrying about rising energy costs. Your solution could be to install a geothermal heat pump system that can help lower utility expenses and give you a steady return on your investment.

What are Geothermal Heat Pumps?

A geothermal heat pump is an environmentally friendly system that can both heat and cool a business or home. It does not need fossil fuels like coal or gasoline to operate. Instead, it harnesses the geothermal heat from within the earth's underground to maintain a comfortable temperature in the building.

These systems are energy efficient and cost effective, allowing building owners to save significantly on their utility bills. However, they also reduce the carbon footprint of a business or homeowner.

They do not require a lot of space in which to be installed. While some systems can be installed horizontally in a field in a rural setting, systems that go into urban buildings can be installed vertically sometimes in a space as small as a dining room table.

Once installed, these systems go to work right away harnessing the temperatures from the earth's underground to cool or heat the building. With proper care, the interior parts of the system can last for as long as 12 years.

The pipes installed under the ground can last for as long as 50 years. This longevity means you get your money's worth out of the geothermal heat pump before you have to replace or repair it.

Further, most geothermal heat pump owners see savings of 60 to 70 percent off their utility costs within the first year alone. You can recoup the total cost of the system within five to 10 years after you have it installed.

Finally, building owners who choose to install geothermal heat pump systems in their buildings often have a unique opportunity to take advantage of incentives and tax credits. A number of utility companies are offering rebates to customers who install these systems in their buildings. The rebates can range from $1000 to $6000 with the average rebate being around $4000 per customer.

You can also claim credits on your taxes after installing one of these systems. You can deduct up to 30 percent of the installation cost from your taxes, helping you recoup some of the money you spent on the geothermal heat pump system.

The monetary advantages that come with geothermal heat pump systems can make this heating and cooling choice more attractive to you. You can save money on your building's utility costs while still keeping it cool or warm during the summer and winter.

Additional Information about Geothermal Heat Pumps

If the cost effectiveness of these systems has yet to convince you, you might be swayed by discovering the versatility that geothermal heat pumps can offer to customers. Along with heating and cooling your building, a geothermal heat pump can likewise be installed and used to heat pavement right outside of your building's doors. The heated pavement prevents ice and snow from accumulating during the wintertime.

Further, the rejected heat from the system can be used to heat outdoor pools, hot tubs, or fountains. You can enjoy these fixtures all year long knowing that the water in them will remain thawed by the geothermal heat pump system installed underneath them.

Finally, as a facilities manager, you might pay attention to state of the local economy. When you invest in a geothermal heat pump for your building, you contribute to the productivity and health of the economy.

All of the system's pumps and parts are made in the U.S. The manufacturers of these systems boost the local economy by creating more jobs. Likewise, contractors who are hired to install these systems benefit by hiring more workers and putting money back into the economy.

A geothermal heat pump system can reduce the costs involved with cooling and heating your building. You can keep your expenses low while helping to boost the local economy by investing in a geothermal heat pump for your building today.

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Is Switching to LED Worth It?

As a facility manager, you bear the unique task of maintaining your building's efficiency without compromising the company's cash flow. To accomplish this important obligation, you might wonder if it would be worth your while to switch from fluorescent or CFL light bulbs to LED lighting. You may be convinced by learning what advantages LED lighting can offer to your building and to you as the facility manager.

Cost Effectiveness

One of the primary benefits that comes with LED lighting is cost effectiveness. In fact, LED light bulbs are 85 percent more cost effective than CFL light bulbs.

They also burn more efficiently, lowering the cost of this type of lighting in the building and burning fewer watts per hour. In turn, you should see these savings add up relatively quickly, which may convince you that you have made a good decision in switching from CFL or fluorescent lighting to LED lights.

Easy Maintenance

Another key benefit that comes with LED lights is the ease of maintaining them. Unlike CFL or fluorescent lights, LED lights are relatively simple to change out and install.

Further, you should not have to change them out as often as CFL or fluorescent lights because LED light bulbs last for weeks longer. This fact alone makes them a wise investment if you are managing the building on a tight budget and do not have a lot of cash to spare for continuously buying and changing out light bulbs.

Improved Visual Appeal

As a facility manager, you also have the obligation of making sure the areas in the building are well-lit and visually appealing. CFL and fluorescent bulbs give out harsh glares and hot light. They may hurt the eyes of the people who come in and out of the building. Further, they may not provide the best lighting by which to read or work.

LED lights, however, are softer and more visually appealing than CFL and fluorescent bulbs. They improve the overall atmosphere in the building and provide sufficient lighting for people to read, work, and otherwise remain productive throughout the day.

When you want to provide spaces that are engaging and appealing for not only the people who work there but also the people who will visit the building each day, you may find that LED lighting is your best option. It can add to the aesthetics of the building without increasing utility costs.

Temperature Tolerance

Unlike fluorescent and CFL lights, LED light bulbs tolerate extreme temperatures without burning out or breaking. You can burn these lights in the hottest days of summer without fear of them fizzling out of cracking. They will burn efficiently without raising the costs of your summer utilities.

LED lights also burn well during the coldest days of winter and can tolerate sub-zero temperatures without freezing or burning out. Unlike CFL or fluorescent bulbs, which can malfunction during the extreme cold, LED lights continue to provide continuous and reliable lighting. This benefit can give you the peace of mind you need as a building manager during challenging weather.

Utility Rebates

As a facility manager, you also may be tasked with taking advantage of savings and rebates whenever they are made available to you. Depending on the state in which your building is located as well as its utility provider, you could be offered rebates and savings for making the switch from fluorescent or CFL lighting to LED bulbs.

The rebates would be applied to your building's utility bills or applied as discounts for utility services. You could save your company a substantial amount of money on its electricity costs.

Low Disposal Costs

Savings will also be made available to you when it comes to disposing of LED light bulbs. Unlike CFL or fluorescent bulbs, LED light bulbs are low in cost to dispose of properly. They can also be recycled and reused, which saves your company money and allows it to remain ecologically friendly to the environment.

CFL and fluorescent bulbs are costly to get rid of because many facilities charge additional hazmat fees on top of disposal costs. When you want to save on these expenses, you can switch to LED lighting.

LED bulbs have proven to be more cost effective and a smarter choice for building managers. They burn better at a lower cost. They also are recyclable and do not take as significant a toll on the environment as their CFL and fluorescent counterparts. They offer unique advantages not found with other styles of lighting today.

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Conserving Water on Your Property

Whether you want to protect the value of your property or lower your operating costs, water conservation makes sound financial sense. With rates on the rise and the risks of shortages increasing, ensuring that you use water efficiently is good for your bottom line. Installing water-smart fixtures like low-flow toilets is a fine place to start, but if you really want to make an impact, look outside. Outdoor water use can account for as much as 30 percent of your facility's water bill. The following landscaping tips can save you money and make it easier to care for your property too.

Schedule a Water Audit

When it comes to water used for landscaping, making sure that your irrigation system operates properly is priority one. Even a small problem with the pipes, fittings or controllers can impact your budget. A leak as small as 1/32 of an inch can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water every month. An irrigation professional certified in water efficiency can perform a system audit that will identify any issues with water waste. At the end of the evaluation, you'll receive a detailed report that includes improvements you can make to reduce water usage.

Maintenance Matters

Whether you hire a professional to do the job or take on the work yourself, it's important to check irrigation systems on a regular basis. Ensure that the sprinkler heads stand straight and that they aren't covered by grass or debris. Turn the system on and watch where the water flows. Make sure the water you're paying for isn't washed away on sidewalks and driveways. Sprinklers that spurt water out in a fine mist indicate that water pressure is too high. Pay special attention to pooled water and soggy soil, which can mean there's a leak in the system.

Timing Is Everything

Extensive watering costs money, and it's bad for the landscape too. Too much water results in weak growth that makes plants susceptible to insects and diseases. Set your system to water only when plants need it, and then make sure that the ground is saturated to promote strong root growth. Morning is the optimal time for watering because there is less loss through evaporation. A layer of mulch around plantings helps retain water. Watering schedules should be altered every season to account for changes in weather, plants and soil conditions.

Re-Think the Lawn

Turf not only requires more upkeep than other types of plants but more water as well. You can cut your water bills significantly by planting native plants and grasses. Once established, plants native to your area can typically survive on normal rainfall, offering opportunities to reduce your watering costs substantially. Hardscaping elements like mulch, gravel and rocks offer alternatives to lawns too. Keep turf in the areas where it has practical purposes like recreation areas and choose hardy grasses that can withstand periods of drought.

Use Smarter Technology

If your current irrigation system is hopelessly inefficient, it pays to invest in a new, modern system. From sensors that shut the system down when it rains to Wi-Fi controllers you can access on the internet, today's irrigation products can save you water, time and money. Drip irrigation systems are worth investigating too. By delivering water slowly and evenly, they eliminate water loss due to runoff and evaporation. The savings offered by these systems is substantial. Drip irrigation uses up to 50 percent less water than traditional sprinkler systems.

From grouping plants according to their watering needs to augmenting soils to better retain water, water-wise landscaping is both a science and an art. For optimal savings, many property owners and facility managers look to landscape professionals for help with water conservation. A contractor certified in water efficiency can design, install and maintain an irrigation system that will lower your water bill while adding visual appeal to your property. By demonstrating your leadership in water conservation, the results can elevate your reputation and company profile as well.

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Solar Energy and Your Facility

More than ever, it's important for facilities to consider a switch to sustainable energy sources. Solar power is one of the bog standards when it comes to renewable energy, but may not always be easy to pitch. Even though it has been around for awhile, solar energy has only really become a viable resource for commercial enterprises relatively recently. Still, it may be worth making the change to solar for a variety of reasons.


One of the main downsides to solar used to be its relatively high cost compared to other energy sources. As photovoltaic technology has improved, that cost has fallen dramatically. The cost of solar power per kilowatt hour is now equal to -- or sometimes even less -- than other sources of energy.

Solar power does require an initial investment for solar panels and batteries, which may be significant. However, once set up, solar systems require very little maintenance. In some areas, it may even be possible to sell excess power produced by the solar panels to local power companies. Depending on a facility's power consumption, solar power can pay for itself relatively quickly.

Tax Incentives

Though solar power requires a relatively high initial investment, there may be tax incentives available to help subsidize their setup. Financing options can help further ease the financial burden. As of 2016, commercial solar energy projects were eligible for a renewable energy tax credit of 30% of the total project costs. State and local governments may also offer their own tax incentives to encourage companies to switch to renewable energy.


Traditional sources of energy, like coal power, produce significant carbon emissions. Solar panels can help a facility dramatically reduce their carbon footprint and limit the amount of hazardous environmental waste produced by its operations. Since more and more consumers are choosing environmentally sustainable products and services, relying on solar power can even become a selling point for a facility. Creating photovoltaic panels still involves some carbon emissions and waste, but, once installed, their low maintenance needs and lack of emissions help offset this.


High energy demands can cause brownouts in traditional power systems, particularly during the summer months. High winds, storms, or accidents can also result in damage to the power grid, triggering blackouts that may last for days. Having a robust solar system allows a facility to continue operating despite interruptions to regular electrical service, which helps cut costs and reduce lost operating time in the long run. When coupled with their low maintenance needs, this makes solar panels a great option for facilities that don't want to have to worry about the integrity of their local power grid.


The price and availability of traditional power depends on a number of things, including local energy sources and infrastructure. Power plants that depend on coal, for example, require a means of transporting and storing it. Other energy sources, like hydroelectric or nuclear power, may not be available at all. Solar power is readily available in most areas of the world, and can be set up anywhere where there is flat, open, unused space, including roofs or empty lots.

Advances in transparent photovoltaic cells mean that it may even be possible for facilities to set up vertically-oriented solar panels set in windows. In cases where on-site solar setups aren't feasible, it's also possible to establish a remote solar farm to transfer power to a facility.

In spite of their sustainability and self-sufficiency, solar panels used to have a bad rap for their high cost, inefficiency, and high space requirements. Advances in solar technology have ensured that this is no longer the case -- solar power is affordable, low-maintenance, highly subsidized, and can be placed virtually anywhere that receives regular sunlight. This makes it an excellent choice for businesses that want to lower their impact on the environment, limit their energy demands, and reduce their overhead.

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