Everyone, from maintenance leads to CEOs, is looking for ways to deliver environment, social, and governance (ESG) policies that move the organization closer to its sustainability goals. Everyone wants to use less resources and produce less waste while still seeing longer facility and asset life cycles. That’s no mean feat, and in many cases, you need to look at everything from supply chains to company culture.

But you can reach your goals, and the best place to start is by looking at where others have already made progress.

Before looking at the how, it’s important to fully understand the why behind the push for ESG.

Understand the numbers behind why ESG is important

ESG has a lot of math on its side.

According to a recent report, the building and construction sectors are responsible for 38% of global energy related carbon emissions.

In 2021, the U.S. alone experienced 20 storms with losses exceeding $1 billion each, numbers that are pushing business leaders to look for ways to cut down on emissions.

And the 2022 ESG trends from S&P Global predicts that government and corporate leaders are under pressure to strengthen their ESG skills and integrate sustainability into their policy and planning strategies–with the concept of climate change as one of the biggest issues.

So, the need is there, but where are the solutions? Basically, what can you do to implement ESG and where can you find examples of ESG that work?

Add climate resiliency to buildings

Because the “art and science” of construction is finding ways to both meet codes and balance budgets, it pays to plan ahead and find ways to strengthen building frames, helping to mitigate damage from extreme weather.

In its 2021 Practical Guide to Climate-resistant Buildings and Communities, the UN Environment Programme cautions that “when ill-suited to their local environment and strongly exposed to extreme climate conditions, buildings become drivers of vulnerability… leading to both human tolls and economic losses.”

Ways to integrate resiliency include:

  •       Using solar panels to generate a more efficient climate system, reducing the amount of energy used for both heating and cooling
  •       Accounting for increases in volume of intensity of rainfall when designing roofs or drainage
  •     Looking at erosion data for your building site in areas with higher flood potential or those in coastal areas, to prepare for a loss in foundation support
  •       Planning for damage during the design process with frangible or intentional design of walls or other elements to mitigate overall structural damage in the event of a disaster
  •       Collecting and repurpose rainwater for cooling or plumbing systems
  •       Using porous paving in drives and walkways
  •       Designing your layout for optimal thermal efficiency, using the natural solar position to account for heating and cooling needs and arranging rooms by use and occupancy accordingly

Although there are upfront costs with most of these initiatives, you can save over the long term. In fact, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery estimated in 2019 that investing in more resilient infrastructure could produce a $4.2 trillion savings

Strive to build net-zero buildings

Net-zero buildings should equal or exceed the amount of energy they produce with the amount of energy they use, leading to lower carbon emissions, less water consumption, and less solid waste.

The La Jolla Commons in San Diego is a 13-story example of a successful net-zero building. Lauded by architecture publication Rethinking the Future, the Commons is a 145,000-square-foot building with an exterior that’s mostly one glass curtain. The building also includes an under-floor air distribution system, low-emissive coatings that reflect infrared heat while reducing heat-gain loss, and one-site fuel cells that use methane from carbon-neutral sources, including landfills, for electricity conversion.

And Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, is an example of a net-zero building that then shares its efficiency with its community. The college’s Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies is an integrated building landscape, designed to change and improve its performance over time. The all-electric building was designed for energy efficiency, with a roof system that generates its own on-site electricity and an integrated grid that exports additional solar electricity to the City of Oberlin when the solar panels produce more than the college needs.

Practice sustainable disposal

You don’t always need a new process. Often, you can move toward your sustainability goals by thinking about old processes in new ways. Garbage is a perfect example. 

Plan your buildings so that recycling is the norm, not the exception. More and more resources are going into creating power plans that burn garbage rather than using fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity. Though part of the argument against burning garbage is the production of greenhouse gas emissions, waste-to-energy plants like one in Copenhagen are part of the development of ways to capture carbon gas emissions and store or recycle them, including as a source of heat for buildings.

Another way to use technology for sustainable waste disposal is through AI technology in dumpsters and waste sorting systems. By employing these smart systems, dumpsters are only emptied when they are full, rather than on a set schedule; the type of waste in the dumpster also is analyzed and tracked to make sure you’re not accidently mixing the wrong types of waste.

The City of Miami recently began using this strategy with the idea that a less frequent pick up schedule will also cut down on the emissions from city garbage trucks. The long-term strategy is to improve recycling rates, reduce emissions, and save money on waste management services.

Take those first steps

For more insights on creating technology rich, sustainable strategies when developing your capital plans, get the conversation started with ManagerPlus. Our team of experts can walk you through the process of setting up maintenance SOPs and schedules that can help you reach your ESG goals.

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Jonathan Davis

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