How Facility Management Can Lead the Way in Emission Reduction

Published on 4 Aug, 2023read time 6 mins
Airplane flying over skyscrapers

As the world is dealing with the challenges of climate change, businesses are starting to recognise the need to reduce their carbon footprint. Buildings account for 40% of the world's emissions, with 70%-80% of these emissions resulting from day-to-day operations. The management of emissions produced by buildings is one area where significant progress can be made. Facility management plays a crucial role in reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions in the built environment, which are direct and indirect emissions produced within an organization's control. In this article, we will look at the vital role of facility management in emission reduction, as well as a few effective strategies that facility managers can implement.

What are Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 Emissions?

Before diving into the ways facility management can contribute to emission reduction, let's understand the two primary types of emissions: Scope 1 and Scope 2.

Scope 1 Emissions

These are the direct emissions produced by a building or facility itself . They are caused by on-site activities such as the burning of fossil fuels for heating, cooling, or cooking. For example, if a building has its own natural gas furnace or uses diesel generators for electricity, the emissions produced by the combustion of these fuels are called scope 1 emissions.

Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 emissions include indirect emissions caused by the use of purchased electricity, heat, or steam. Although facility managers may not have direct control over these sources, they can work with energy suppliers to obtain renewable energy and reduce their carbon footprint.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions for buildings are indirect greenhouse gas emissions that occur as a result of the building's activities but are not directly controlled by the building. These emissions are frequently related with the entire life cycle of the building, including raw material extraction, production, and transportation, as well as waste disposal throughout construction and operation.

The Contribution of Scope 1 and Scope 2 Emissions to Building Emissions

The contribution of scope 1 and scope 2 emissions to the overall emissions of buildings can vary depending on various factors such as building type, energy sources used, and location. However, in general, scope 2 emissions tend to have a larger contribution compared to scope 1 emissions.

Scope 2 emissions, which are indirect emissions associated with purchased energy, typically make up a significant portion of a building's overall emissions. Power plants that generate electricity using fossil fuels often cause higher emissions because buildings consume electricity from them. Scope 2 Guidance from the World Resource Institute states that "Scope 2 represents one of the largest sources of GHG emissions globally: the generation of electricity and heat now accounts for at least a third of global GHG emissions."

On the other hand, scope 1 emissions, which are direct emissions from on-site activities, tend to have a relatively smaller share in the overall emissions of buildings. HVAC systems, which are responsible for heating, cooling, and ventilation, can consume 30-40% of a building's total energy. The advancements in building technologies and regulations can lead to the adoption of cleaner and more efficient systems for heating and cooling. Thus reducing the direct emissions from buildings themselves.

The Importance of Facility Management in Emission Reduction

Facility management companies play a critical role in reducing scope 1 and scope 2 emissions through their expertise in building operations and maintenance. Let's look at some of the strategies and tools facility management companies can employ to reduce emission:

1. Equipment Optimization

Facility management companies conduct thorough equipment assessments to identify outdated, inefficient, or energy-intensive equipment. They then recommend upgrades or retrofitting older, inefficient equipment with modern, energy-efficient alternatives. By optimizing equipment, organisations can significantly reduce their energy consumption and subsequently decrease emissions.

2. Predictive Maintenance

Facility management companies can leverage predictive maintenance techniques to minimize equipment failures and optimize energy consumption. By utilizing data from IoT sensors and advanced analytics, potential issues can be detected before they escalate into costly breakdowns. Predictive maintenance aids in timely repairs which increases equipment lifespan and ensures optimal performance. This leads to energy savings and reduced emissions. Using traditional maintenance methods like preventive or reactive maintenance can have long-term disadvantages since overdoing asset maintenance can decrease its lifespan.

3. Energy Monitoring and Optimization

It is crucial to conduct comprehensive energy audits to identify areas of energy waste and inefficiency within buildings. But having an effective energy monitoring system can reduce manual energy audits and can help in better energy management and emission reduction. 

Facility management companies can implement energy monitoring systems that track energy consumption patterns and identify areas of improvement. By analyzing this data, they can identify energy-intensive processes, equipment, or areas within a facility. With this information, they can develop strategies to optimize energy usage, implement energy-efficient technologies, and reduce emissions.

4. IoT-Enabled Remote Monitoring in CMMS

One effective approach is to integrate IoT (Internet of Things) enabled real- time remote monitoring systems into CMMS. By connecting various building systems and equipment to a centralized monitoring platform, facility managers can gain real-time insights into energy consumption, emissions, and equipment performance. These systems utilize sensors and connectivity to gather real-time data on various aspects of a building's operation. These include energy consumption, HVAC performance, and lighting usage. By monitoring these parameters, facility managers can identify inefficiencies, detect anomalies, and take proactive measures to optimize energy usage, resulting in reduced emissions.

5. Smart Building Integration

Facility management companies embrace the concept of smart buildings to enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions. Smart building integration involves the utilization of advanced automation, IoT sensors, and intelligent control systems to optimize energy usage and minimize waste. For instance, automated lighting systems and occupancy sensors can ensure that lights are only active when needed. This will reduce unnecessary energy consumption and emissions.

6. Data-driven Decision Making

Incorporating data-driven decision making into facility management practises helps in identifying emission-reduction opportunities. O&M teams can discover patterns, trends, and correlations that provide significant insights by integrating asset performance management software which analyses historical data and using advanced analytics. These insights guide decision-making, enabling the adoption of specific measures to cut emissions and enhance overall sustainability.

7. Performance Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a powerful tool employed by facility management companies to assess the performance of buildings and facilities. By comparing energy consumption, emissions, and sustainability metrics against industry standards or similar facilities, benchmarks are established. These benchmarks serve as reference points for identifying areas of improvement and setting emission reduction goals. FM companies then develop strategies to achieve and surpass these benchmarks, leading to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. Setting clear emission reduction targets and regularly reporting on the achieved results to stakeholders will help in developing a clear goal for emission reduction.

Improving operations and maintenance practices is essential in identifying and addressing inefficiencies and energy waste within a building, leading to energy savings and emissions reductions. Regular energy audits, monitoring systems, and performance benchmarking can provide valuable insights and opportunities for improvement.

By focusing on improved operations and maintenance, buildings can optimize their energy use, minimize waste, and lower both scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly built environment.

The Triple Bottom Line: Environmental, Economic, and Social Benefits

Reducing emissions through effective facility management practices offers numerous benefits beyond environmental stewardship. Let's take a closer look at the triple bottom line advantages:

Environmental Benefits

By reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, facility managers contribute directly to mitigating climate change. Decreased reliance on fossil fuels, integration of renewable energy sources, and improved energy efficiency all play a vital role in preserving our planet for future generations.

Economic Benefits

Implementing emission reduction strategies can result in substantial cost savings for organizations. Energy-efficient practices lead to lower utility bills, while the integration of renewable energy sources often offers long-term financial benefits. Moreover, by embracing sustainability and reducing emissions, businesses enhance their reputation, attracting environmentally conscious consumers and investors.

Social Benefits

Reducing emissions goes beyond the bottom line. It showcases an organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. By actively engaging in emission reduction, facility managers inspire employees, clients, and stakeholders to follow suit. This creates a positive work environment and fosters a culture of environmental awareness and responsibility.

How Facility Management Can help in Emission Reduction

Facility management companies have a crucial role to play in reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions within facilities. As partners, they can effectively influence organizations to prioritize emission reduction and take necessary actions. By implementing various strategies such as equipment optimization, leveraging technology, adopting smart building technologies, and implementing energy management practices, facility managers can make a tangible impact on emission reduction. These efforts not only contribute to environmental sustainability but also yield economic and social benefits.

In this era where sustainability takes center stage, facility managers must embrace their role as environmental champions. It is their responsibility to recognize the need for reducing emissions and seize the opportunity to lead the way. By prioritizing emission reduction and embracing innovative practices, facility managers can become key players in creating greener, more sustainable facilities that actively contribute to the fight against climate change.