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6 Practices for Sustainable Facilities Management

July 18, 2023

As the world becomes increasingly focused on sustainability, grocery stores, convenience stores, and other food retailers are playing a significant role in helping their communities get on the path to net zero. And the success of their sustainability efforts rest in large part on the shoulders of already very busy facilities managers.

With the right sustainable facilities management strategy in place, FM leaders can reduce the impact on the environment of the facilities they manage, cutting down on energy costs and enhancing their brand’s reputation while they’re at it. Keep reading for some of the most useful practices for sustainable facilities management and how to implement them.

What is sustainable facilities management?

Sustainable facilities management involves minimizing the impact of a facility on the environment. This is achieved by such practices as:

  • Reducing energy usage
  • Reducing the leakage of refrigerant gases from store air conditioning and refrigeration systems
  • Reducing the release of other gases that increase global warming
  • Reducing the use of any and all materials when possible
  • Reusing and recycling facility maintenance and repair-related materials where their use cannot be avoided

Why is sustainability important in facilities management?

Implementing sustainable facilities management practices is not just critical for protecting the environment, but it also makes good business sense. Here are some of the advantages of a sustainable facilities management program:

Reduce your carbon footprint

An organization’s carbon footprint — that is, the greenhouse gas emissions emitted directly or indirectly as part of its activities — is an index of its impact on global climate change.

By lowering GHG emissions, companies can help mitigate climate change, thereby reducing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, slowing rising temperatures and sea levels, and minimizing ocean acidification. Other positive impacts include improving air and water quality, maintaining biodiversity, and ensuring a healthy global food supply.

GHG emissions occur during the construction, operation, and demolition of every kind of facility including food retail facilities. Facilities managers’ primary impact is on the operating phase of each facility’s service life.

Cut costs

A large portion of the GHG emissions from operating a food retail facility — or almost any other facility type — is indirect. This includes, for example, the carbon released during the generation of electricity required to power our stores and the burning of fuel gases to heat our stores, cook some of the foods we sell, and make hot water to keep our stores clean.

Improving the energy efficiency of all of these processes means less electricity, natural gas, propane, and other types of energy used — and therefore reduced GHG (carbon) emissions.

Against the backdrop of rising energy costs, investing in energy efficiency–based sustainability initiatives carry the added benefit of energy expense savings. With an integrated facilities management solution such as the ones applied by City and other FM companies, retailers can expect that by the time they reduce their facility GHG emissions by 50%, they will have also reduced their energy-related operating expenses by 20%.

Enhance brand reputation

Reducing one’s GHG emissions and resulting carbon footprint as well as embracing other sustainability measures has become an important way for retailers to be competitive. A recent study revealed sustainability is rated as an important purchase criteria for 60 percent of global consumers and 61 percent in the U.S. Additionally, more than a third of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for products and services that contribute to increased sustainability.

Attract top talent

Research shows that not only are the younger generations of millennials and Gen Z willing to fork over more money for sustainable products (73 percent say they would pay extra for them), they are more likely to be happy and stick around in organizations with a demonstrated commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, which includes environmental sustainability as one of its most important elements

6 Practices for Sustainable Facilities Management

What are sustainability measures that can most effectively and practically become part of your facilities management program? Here are six ways to make retail facilities more sustainable.

1. Replace or optimize assets to increase energy efficiency

Ensuring the equipment in your facilities is energy-efficient is one of the lowest-hanging-fruit sustainable FM solutions. This can include recommissioning and upgrading existing energy-using and GHG-emitting store equipment and building systems assets, as well as replacing those that have reached the end of their useful service lives. These could include:

  • HVAC and refrigeration systems and equipment
  • Lighting lamps and fixtures
  • Cooking appliances
  • Wrapping stations
  • Materials handling equipment such as forklifts and electric pallet jacks

If the asset uses energy or otherwise releases gases of any kind into the environment, it’s worth taking a hard look at for adjustment, improvement, or replacement.

With recommissioning, key energy-using systems are inspected and tested, then repaired and adjusted to bring them into optimal operating condition. This sometimes means resolving long-overlooked issues caused by the way the equipment was operated or maintained — or even originally installed or connected.

Recommissioning equipment can have a significant impact on energy consumption and energy costs, and by extension, GHG emissions. For example, supermarkets can see a simple payback as short as six months after the first year of recommissioning. And if the corrections are maintained by an effective remote monitoring program, those savings can continue indefinitely.

In addition to optimizing and updating HVAC and refrigeration systems and equipment, upgrading store lighting systems to LED fixtures and lamps is a classic way for retailers to save on energy. In fact, many — if not most — retail facilities have already made this transition. For FM teams that haven’t yet carried out an LED retrofit, it’s helpful to know that at City we typically see an average reduction of 225,000+ KWH per year in full-sized supermarkets from simply updating all store lighting to LED fixture or lamps.

2. Implement energy, maintenance, and sustainability remote monitoring

Even brand new or newly commissioned equipment can lose energy efficiency, develop operating issues, or unnecessarily increase GHG emissions over time — it’s been demonstrated that energy use can increase by 2 percent YOY without an ongoing central monitoring program.

This is where building and refrigeration management control systems come in. A vital element in a sustainable FM program, electronic building and refrigeration control systems can provide continuous feedback on equipment operation, energy usage, and GHG emissions. In this way, not only do they help minimize consumption, but they also alert facilities managers to equipment issues before they turn into after-hours emergencies, helping to reduce repair costs, retail and maintenance staff workplace stress, and premature asset replacements.

Automation software such as City’s SPARK+ system is designed to monitor the performance of store energy using building systems and equipment on a continual basis, gathering data received from those store building and refrigeration system together with live weather data.

Energy-usage and operating deficiencies or irregularities can be automatically detected and then communicated to FM team members and other service providers so they can take rapid action to resolve whatever issue has been identified.

The impact of remote monitoring, whether manual (using trained technicians sitting in front of computer monitors) or automated (using software systems like Spark+) can have a significant impact on energy usage, store retail operations and product quality, and GHG emissions. Programs of this type can achieve savings of 10 percent or more on a permanent, sustainable basis.

3. Perform regular preventive maintenance

One of the biggest opportunities in sustainable facilities management is increasing the efficiency and improving the operating reliability of store system and equipment assets — and thus lowering GHG emissions — with the adoption of a preventive maintenance model.

Preventive maintenance is essentially a proactive approach, which involves regular, planned inspection, detection, and correction, allowing FM teams to uncover and manage issues before they become serious problems.

Paired with a robust remote monitoring program, preventative maintenance can become more targeted, with remote monitoring information informing decisions of whether and when to perform preventative maintenance. Remote monitoring allows FM teams to clean condensers when they’re starting to become clogged, not on some fixed date each year, for instance.

As an added benefit, implementing an effective planned PM program will not only reduce energy use and costs, but it can result in significant savings in emergency maintenance repairs, boost employee retention by enhancing work-life balance, and increase equipment lifespan.

4. Run refrigerant gas containment programs

Accidental release (leaks) of refrigerant from commercial refrigeration systems and equipment play a significant role in the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. This can be attributed to the fact that most conventional commercial refrigeration systems in the U.S. currently use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gasses with a GWP (global warming potential) that’s thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), commercial refrigeration accounts for about 28 percent of all HFC emissions in the U.S. So even a small leak in an HFC-based system will have an environmental impact.

For this reason, gas containment (leak reduction) programs should be a part of every PM program and leak checking a part of every technician service call. Refrigerant leak monitoring systems should also be installed so that FM teams can receive notification immediately should a refrigerant leak be detected.

One important element of advanced remote monitoring programs is their ability to use data obtained remotely from refrigeration control systems to determine when refrigeration systems are actually losing refrigerant. This means leak checking efforts by field technicians can be performed at stores that are actually leaking gas, rather than at every store on some scheduled basis. Again, we see that remote services allow FM managers to apply scarce resources with laser precision rather than with a scheduled shotgun approach.

5. Upgrade refrigerants to low-GWP alternatives

HFCs, which replaced CFC refrigerants in the 1990s, may not be ozone-depleting, but it turns out they have a high global warming potential, which means they contribute to climate change by damaging the environment in a different capacity. This has led to the development of hydrofluoroolefins (or HFO) refrigerants, which are lower-GWP. Natural refrigerants, such as ammonia (NH3) and carbon dioxide (CO2), are also being considered as alternatives in the food retail industry.

HFOs and HFO blends, which have zero ODP (ozone-depleting potential) as well as low GWP, are currently the best environmentally friendly replacement for HFCs and HCFCs in existing refrigeration systems. To learn more about refrigerant retrofits for food retail store refrigeration systems, read our guide, Low GWP Refrigerants: What Supermarkets Should Know.

6. Work with sustainability-minded partners

As Mckinsey reports, outsourced facility management services makes up more than 50 percent of the total FM market in Europe, Middle East, and North America. In particular, IFMs — integrated facilities management providers — are quickly making headway in North American markets.

By taking a comprehensive approach to facilities management, IFM providers can help break down silos and increase operational efficiencies by offering sustainable solutions under one roof, from energy and asset management to green building and engineering services, all while saving on costs. When vetting IFM providers, make sure to examine their track record for reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions and review their sustainability case studies.

Sustainable Facilities Management Solutions for the Future of Retail

It’s more important than ever for supermarkets and other retailers to do their part for the environment by reducing their carbon footprint. By implementing the strategies above, FM leaders can have a significant impact on their facilities as well as on the planet.

City’s comprehensive approach to sustainability including FM, energy and asset management, and carbon emissions-conscious professional services reduces retail store emissions significantly while lowering energy and maintenance expenses at the same time. Learn more about our sustainability solutions.

Category: Blog

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