We already know that the buildings we design and commission do not provide the sustainable future that we need. And when a sustainable building is created, it is not necessarily operated sustainably.
Facilities managers are in the best position to operate buildings sustainably, but there are no organisational drivers to motivate them to do so; the focus is on service delivery for the organisation that owns or occupies the building.
There is compliance to minimum standards, and we have schemes such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) that enforces the gathering of energy use information, but this is not driving sustainable practices – organisations just pay the bill as it’s a small proportion of their overall operational costs.
So what do we need to know?
We need to transfer our knowledge from academic and practice based research of how buildings operate and ensure that sustainable design intentions take into consideration how the building will actually be used.
We need to examine how buildings perform in use and understand what features can be added to improve sustainability. This requires performance measurements and understanding of how the architecture and engineering systems interact, and the impacts on each other.
We need to understand how the procurement route influences the performance of the building in use. For example, do Private finance initiative (PFI) projects, where the commitment is long-term, ensure whole life value and efficiency are serious considerations during construction?
We need to think long-term during the building design phase and improve the value of sustainable facilities management.
We need to develop better procurement practices for projects that ensure delivery of buildings that operate more sustainably.
We need to regulate building performance evaluations, especially for high-energy users. And the Landlord and Tenant partnerships need to embrace resilience and energy efficiency with commitments from both parties as neither can do it alone in this scenario.
We must also create a culture where the industry undertakes post-occupancy evaluations on a regular basis to ensure lessons are learnt and shared so we don’t keep making the same mistakes, and operators of buildings are compelled to run the facilities energy-efficiently.