Commercial buildings, including office spaces are responsible for over 40% operating expenses borne by the business. It is estimated that office and residential buildings will contribute to 8% of the total global energy by the year 2050. It is also estimated that commercial buildings all over the world alone will release 3,800 megatons of carbon by 2050. This is why sustainable practices in construction as well as maintenance and management are of paramount importance.


What is a sustainable building?

Sustainable buildings are those that are designed, constructed, and maintained or managed in a way that minimizes their impact on the environment. Green or sustainable buildings are focused on protecting and conserving the environment at a local front. They are designed to use less energy and employ sustainable maintenance strategies for preventing wastage. A lot of people think that sustainable buildings come out to be expensive in the long run. Whereas, in reality these buildings prove to be more energy efficient and can have a lower overall cost with the right approach.


Why do we need sustainable buildings?

Green buildings used to be avoided because of added expenses. However, now sustainable buildings actually help in reducing the overall cost. They reduce energy consumption and also increase overall revenue. Clients and customers favor businesses that employ sustainable practices.


What are the principles of sustainability?

Sustainable building principles incorporate different elements that are aimed at net-zero impact. These are a few pertinent principles that are usually part of all kinds of sustainability initiatives:

  • Using renewable technology and energies
  • Reducing waste
  • Reducing wastewater
  • Using ethical materials
  • Reducing pollution and carbon emissions
  • Creating a safer and cleaner working environment through sustainable facility maintenance, such as improving indoor air quality by replacing air filters as scheduled
  • Using environmentally friendly and green methods and processes for construction and maintenance


Why Is building maintenance important?

Building maintenance and management may seem daunting for leasers or companies that own large buildings. It may even seem superfluous to some, especially when the building is functioning and running smoothly. However, there are several reasons that make consistent and proper building maintenance necessary and imperative. Every building tends to lose its efficiency over time because of natural causes, such as daily occupant use, climate, mechanical obsolescence and other factors.

These issues may devalue user experience and create an unhealthy or dangerous indoor environment if left unresolved. Building owners or managers may start incurring higher costs or sudden maintenance expenses because of frequent damages and disrepair. With the entire world working towards a greener future, sustainability has become part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Building maintenance is an important component of sustainability that is being driven by governments all over the world. In addition, organizations and consumers feel better in dealing with a business that uses sustainable practices, even if it is for managing their commercial properties. This is one of the reasons why facilities management is increasingly adopting the triple bottom line that takes into account social, environmental, and economic benefits.

What Are The Elements Of Sustainable Buildings?

Sustainable buildings don’t just include green materials, but also include green practices while carrying out repair work or preventative maintenance among other things. The right maintenance engineers are necessary to ensure that your facility minimizes its carbon footprint and environmental impact. These are a few important elements of sustainable buildings:

1. Enough insulation

Insulation allows a building to retain heat, which directly reduces energy consumption. Your building maintenance engineer will monitor insulation installation in walls, floors, and ceilings. They will also add modifications, such as drywall where there is less insulation.

2. Tight Ventilation

If you want to lower your HVAC energy consumption, you need fewer gaps in the building envelope. Carpentry is an important aspect of air tightness. You may need to hire facility engineering contractors to find out potential air gaps in the building and block it to lock in conditioned air. Loss of conditioned air is loss of money.

3. Natural Light

You can reduce your dependency on artificial light by maximizing the amount of natural light entering the commercial facility. While you may still need light bulbs, you can reduce their usage by installing skylights and floor to ceiling windows.

4. Use green materials.

Once a building is constructed, it falls on the maintenance supervisor to ensure that all maintenance activities are performed in a sustainable fashion. The work order system should include sustainable practices and methods. For instance, only EPA certified cleaning solutions should be used by janitors, even if the job is outsourced.

5. Sustainable Structural System

There are several types of structural systems that can be employed to construct a building. For instance, building owners can choose a timber frame, insulated concrete framework (ICF), brick and block, block and block, and monolithic clay blocks among others. You would need to choose the right structural system at the blueprints stage.


Sustainability and building maintenance

Sustainability as a culture needs to emanate from the highest management levels. There should be a willingness among the employees to ensure the building remains green. Each process, product and procedure should be evaluated by an experienced facilities maintenance engineer to ensure compliance with sustainability guidelines. These guidelines are focused on eliminating and reducing wasteful and environmentally harmful actions.

Facilities maintenance becomes an important focal point once the building is complete and commissioned. This involves keeping the facility in its original state. Strategies are developed for reusing, recycling, conserving, and cleaning.

Work orders are made for specific tasks, such as regular maintenance of the HVAC system, boilers, and plumbing among other operations of equipment. It is the responsibility of the facility maintenance supervisor to ensure that purchase of building materials and replacement equipment is done as per sustainable guidelines.

Budgetary restrictions have always been an important consideration in facility maintenance and management. This is why maintenance supervisors need to employ critical thinking to come up with unique solutions. Coordination is also an integral component to sustainable building maintenance. Fortunately, materials producers in recent years have recognized the importance of going green to offer products that are less damaging to the ecosystem.


Why do we need maintenance engineering in sustainable buildings?

Maintenance engineering is a major part of sustainable maintenance. Without proper maintenance, equipment cannot function properly. In addition, any equipment that does not function properly will contribute to environmental waste and harm. If you don't perform annual maintenance on your HVAC system (which contributes to 30% of any building's energy use), it won't operate properly. Ducts and air filters will get blocked resulting in excess intake of energy.

You would also have to deal with unexpected repairs that would require additional materials. Waste of resources adds to a commercial building’s environmental impact. Consulting engineers and architects constantly strive to reduce the energy use of a building for conserving valuable natural resources and reducing air pollution. Maintenance engineers perform another critical function of anticipating and preventing breakdowns through preventative maintenance.


How can building maintenance reduce a building’s energy use?

Organizations of today are increasingly focused on ways to cut down their utility and energy expenditures. This is to improve corporate sustainability programs. Facilities management team can play a great role in achieving utility savings goal and cutting back on energy costs. For instance, regular planned preventive maintenance on HVAC units, air handlers and windows can identify energy leaks.

This provides insight into equipment performance and ways to improve the performance with replacement and repairs. Every equipment has unique schematics and specifications. This makes it necessary to employ or contract an experienced team of facilities maintenance engineers. Building maintenance staff has the run of the place after-hours. They can be trained to turn off lights that are not in use.

Custodians can be trained to turn off all equipment when they finish a room and move on to the next one. Security personnel can be asked to double check whether all equipment is turned off. Operating costs can also be reduced by running equipment and systems more efficiently. For instance, you can consider replacing single speed motors with variable speed drives in your HVAC system if it is an older model. This will prevent the motors from working at full capacity at all times and reduce the energy load of the building.

Building managers and owners can discuss ways of reducing energy consumption with a qualified building maintenance engineer. You can significantly reduce energy consumption by adapting your building and all equipment.


How your maintenance team can reduce energy use

Maintenance team plays a major role in reducing the carbon impact of a building. For instance, they can use green cleaning products and techniques to make the building more sustainable. These are a few other ways your facility maintenance team can reduce energy usage:

1. HVAC Systems

The team can ensure all upgradations, maintenance and repair work is carried out in time. This can ensure the HVAC system runs at full efficiency, which will reduce the overall energy consumption.

2. Lighting

Lights and other electrical fixtures are usually left on by workers and other staff when they leave the building. The cleaning or maintenance staff can be instructed to switch off everything that is not in use. According to experts, this little step can lower utility bills by almost 10% in a year.

3. Controls

The facility maintenance supervisor can place robust controls and measures in place to save energy usage. This can be in the form of tweaking thermostat temperatures to keep the indoor temperature comfortable while reducing energy consumption. It can also include controls, such as turning off the coffee machine in the pantry when not in use.


How building maintenance impacts energy use

Green and sustainable building is a team effort. It includes everything from designing and construction to maintenance. Increasing energy consumption is a major component of climate change. Adequate and timely building maintenance measures can reduce utility bills, energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Energy savings is a two-fold approach – reducing the amount of energy consumed and using renewable sources. Facilities maintenance team plays a critical role in the first approach. Steps can be taken to prevent unnecessary energy wastage.


Benefits of building maintenance (time/cost/labor)

A lot of businesses think that facility maintenance work is a waste of time and money. However, these are a few critical benefits of building maintenance:

1. Save time.

You don’t need to worry about equipment failure. You can save time by outsourcing maintenance tasks to an experienced asset management company.

2. Reduce Cost

Repairs can be expensive when not performed in time. You can ask the maintenance team members to employ energy conserving methods that will overall reduce costs.

3. Protect labor

It is the responsibility of a building owner or manager to ensure all occupants have decent air quality and working conditions. Timely maintenance of different systems and equipment can ensure good working conditions for everyone.


Maintenance engineering to make sustainable buildings operate

Building maintenance engineering is important for making sustainable building operate. A building can be constructed in a sustainable and green manner. However, without adequate measures, controls and maintenance practices, the building will cease to remain sustainable. Maintenance engineers take into account various blueprints, schematics and diagrams to understand how a particular facility function. Their next step is to work closely with the facility maintenance team to employ green and sustainable practices.


Building maintenance checklist

These are a few important maintenance tasks that should be part of every sustainable maintenance checklist:

  • Waste reduction
  • Improving indoor air quality
  • Resource conservation
  • Responsible procurement
  • Alternative transportation
  • Cleaning audits
  • Tips For Building Maintenance
  • The following tips can help you ensure that your building follows sustainable practices:
  • Train everyone on sustainability methods and principles
  • Monitor equipment and asset performance
  • Employ preventive maintenance techniques
  • Employ ‘smart’ technologies
  • Work with environmentally responsible materials