Defining sustainability

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Doug Ballon
Energy and Sustainability

In a previous blog entitled “Measure twice, cut costs”, Peter Belisle suggested that many facilities managers may not realize potential cost savings. Coincidentally, sustainable facilities management was the topic on Sustainability Sessions—Jones Lang LaSalle’s forum of our energy and sustainability practice. Our guest speaker was Nathan Gauthier, LEED AP, Portfolio Energy Manager on our Philips account, and instructor at the Harvard Extension School, who shared how sustainability fits into the nine pillar framework of facility management promoted by IFMA.

The big take away was that even with a widely accepted definition of sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations” it is important for every organization to develop customized definitions that truly reflect their specific balance between people, planet and profits.

A great example involved what type of air filters to use in an owner-occupied facility . Filters with higher MERV ratings are more effective at keeping indoor air clean, but also cause systems to run longer, requiring additional energy. Given that there is a range of MERV levels that serve both people and planet adequately, but to some degree, facility managers must weigh the relative value the company places on each one.

The only way to acknowledge and build on success is to accurately measure, analyze, and report. This process feeds a cycle of continuous improvement. If companies are serious about sustainability they must develop a comprehensive communication program that integrates and reinforces sustainable values. A green tagline in an email signature is one example as is writing a green blog itself!

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