What does good ‘Facilities Management Sustainability’ look like? And why aren’t we doing it now?

I was honoured to be invited to the EuroFM ReseCGb8As1WsAA4i1varch Symposium as a guest of EuroFM, held at the recently completed Technology Innovation Centre at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

As promised, here are my thoughts from the day, and further links to the issues I raised during the day, in conversation or in the panel presentation/debate:

  • We do not have luxury to continue being incrementally less bad, and with the built environment’s 40% negative impact, the facilities Management sector, (led by the research community) has a huge opportunity and responsibility to flip to being more good.
  • We have been talking about Sustainable FM for at least a couple of decades, but still we haven’t made any real progress. The environmental impact of how we manage facilities is huge,FM Restorative Sustainability but remains something we struggle to fully understand, to measure and to address.
  • It was good to see Restorative Sustainability language within Keith Alexander’s opening presentation – laying down a challenge to the sector to adopt different thinking for sustainable FM
  • However it was disappointing to see FM research updates or proposals that start from a very dated perspective. Starting from Brundtland’s definition is last decades thinking – and has an odd message, perhaps giving licence to do nothing …. far better to adopt Yvon Chouinard’s (Patagonia) approach – ‘ Sustainability means we give back more than we take” – Restorative or Net Positive FM!
  • I did question the “in depth studies into sustainable building schemes” that have not picked up on the relatively new thinking standards such as Living Building Challenge, Well Building Standard, Cradle to Cradle, Circular Economy and so on. FM research has to be credible and leading edge for practice to listen and adopt.
  • Research proposals presented missed the huge opportunities for FM to engage with the wider sustainability agendas, in particular on people and health issues. (Note: the days theme being People Make FM)
  • Indeed the claim that FM contributes to the health and wellbeing of people needs to be backed up with evidence. Anecdotally, it is possible that FM ( and the wider built environment) could be putting people’s health at risk – through continued inclusion of toxic materials in buildings, (PVC? Formaldehyde glues?), a lack of biophilic thinking, promoting lifts over stairways, standing desks, poor air quality, lighting quality and so on. It is on these ‘health’ issues that the Well Building Standard should be a fundamental part of the sustainable FM agenda.
  • I did note that on the tour of the 3 month old BREEAM Excellent TIC Building, prior to the symposium, many of the FM delegates commented on the ‘new building smell’ – unfortunately now an indicator that chemicals may have been used in the finishes and adhesives.CGa3mDhWgAAPrZI
  • It was good to see the work in development on Smart Cities and Internet of Things from Prof Keith Jones at Ruskin University, showing the collaborative joined up research necessary to address complex (as in complexity theory) and wicked problems of sustainable smart cities.
  • Research to Practice was the theme for the end of day panel session where access to research by FM practice was discussed. I still wonder why research is blind to social media? As an example there were only two of us tweeting (myself @fairsnape and Iain @IainMurray) – but still our tweets reached approx 20k accounts, all researchers, would I am sure, like to have seen their research message reach 20k accounts.
  • It was, as ever, a real delight to introduce Living Building Challenge thinking and the Bullitt Centre to the EuroFM Research to Practice panel session. This is where sustainable EuroFM Sustainability FM thinking needs to be, driving a wedge into the future, demonstrating what is possible, not wrestling with a dated definition of sustainability.
  • the World FM Day on 10th June celebrates Building Resilience for the Future as an online debate throughout the day – a great opportunity for the FM Research community to engage and share their work.
  • Also on the 10th June the Brightest Greenest Buildings Europe virtual expo opens – again a free to attend event giving an opportunity to learn, share and engage with others across Europe.UK_collaborative_logo
  • And, also on 10th June, (a busy day!) our Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative meets at Leeds Beckett to explore the issue of healthy and materials.

If any of the above comments seem a little negative and critical, forgive me, but the intention is to be constructively so, and after all, one of the Living Building Challenge advocacy messages is to ‘stir the pot’, … o challenge current thinking.

Related Links:

Living Building Challenge

Well Building Standard (see also Vicki Lockhart Well Building presentation here)

Bullitt Centre  @bullittcentre  and (see also my interview with Denis Hayes)

Bullitt Centre added value report: Optimizing Urban Ecosystem Services: The Bullitt Center Case Study

Bullitt Centre – From Roots to Canopy

Cradle to Cradle

Circular Economy – Circulate

Responsible Business – Yvon Chouinard

Research and Social Media: Rethinking Sustainability Research: Eight Global Challenges and  my presentation to UCLan CSD 

Restorative Sustainability: Future Restorative

Living Building Challenge UK follow @livingbldgUK

Brightest Greenest Buildings EU  – the EU Virtual Expo for Built Environment (opens 10th June)

World FM Day – 10th June – Building Resilience for the Future

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