The Facility Manager’s Role in Sustainability

The facility manager or maintenance manager has a critical and increasing role in defining and implementing sustainability of industrial facilities. His or her familiarity with plant, factory and building systems puts them in a unique position within the organization to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption, recover energy, identify hazards, minimize and recycle waste, improve worker health and safety, and protect the environment.

The facility manager typically supervises a multi-talented group of employees and contract service providers. These human assets can provide a wealth of insights, ideas and resources to improve sustainability of existing systems and operations, as well as help optimize the sustainability of new facilities, equipment and procedures.

Facility and maintenance managers’ intimate familiarity with the age, condition, energy consumption and maintenance requirements of their building, power distribution, steam, HVAC, compressed air, chiller, water and other systems can help focus efforts to improve sustainability. Their experience with selecting and managing the activities of contractors helps them identify appropriate services such as energy, steam and compressed air audits, select the most appropriate vendors, interpret results, recommend actions and manage execution.

 Indirect activities typically contribute the highest injury rates, as well as the largest percentage of the number of hazardous materials a site must manage and control, so these aspects of sustainability also are strongly influenced by facilities management.

 Most industrial facilities managers are fully occupied with day-to-day exigencies as well as short- and long-term planning, projects and reporting. Fortunately, the tenets of sustainability already align with their existing goals such as safety, efficiency and environmental compliance. Their ability to improve sustainability is best leveraged by making it a recognized, accepted and supported corporate priority so they can integrate its various aspects into ongoing activities and include them in their continuous improvement programs. Then the same managerial talents that drive existing safety, reliability, efficiency, productivity and cost-reduction initiatives will align and ensure the success of industrial sustainability.

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