Holistic sustainability and trends in this area

Holistic sustainability and trends in this areaImage Credit: The Change Initiative

Facilities management (FM) was a focus at this year's Cityscape Global, with a session of the Cityscape Global Conference dedicated to issues related to the industry. Discussions centred on improving operational efficiencies, protecting real estate portfolio values and defining world-class maintenance for the region. Property Weekly caught up with one of the speakers at the event, Gundeep Singh, CEO of Dubai-based The Change Initiative.

- What were the salient points that were highlighting during Cityscape Global on the subject?

The core message for the audience at the facilities management session was holistic sustainability, and that energy efficiency is just not enough. Buildings are living structures. Waste, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, water and material use and overall footprint based on design and usage have to be taken into consideration. Energy footprint does finally contribute extensively, but so do others.

The biggest barrier to sustainable buildings and facilities is cost. It boils down to capital versus operating expenses initially, as contractors and building owners work towards producing the lowest cost structure. Thereon, it is just lower operating expenses as a KPI for the building operators, leading to a totally cost focused approach to facilities management.

- As Dubai moves towards the Smart City concept and the UAE as a whole aims for sustainable development, how can facilities management practices be improved?

Facilities management is driven by a cost objective rather than a human habitation and environmental impact perspective. Sustainable cities need sustainable buildings with world-ranking energy credentials, waste management, water usage and indoor air quality. The first step is to establish bench marks and start measuring and consolidating things that matter. Some of the aspects that are critical are energy and water usage, use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), waste production and overall use of resources. This combined with minimum standards required from buildings should be the first step towards effective facilities management in Dubai and the UAE.

- Globally, what are the trends in this area?

Facilities management is being looked at as more of a strategic function rather than a tactical cost reduction tool for an organisation. Tools such as life-cycle costing are increasingly being used. Facilities management is now looking at factors beyond just comfort; it is about sustainability, productivity and livability that leads to a better quality of life.

On a broad level, facilities management is now engaged at the project level rather than the operating level, and is becoming a key part of the organizational strategy for Health, Safety and Environment, risk management, human and worker comfort. Today, facilities management stands at the crossroads between human resources, finance, supply chain, production, IT and sustainability.

- Can you tell us about any successful examples of implementation of green facilities management in the UAE?

The Change Initiative is a good example. This building has significant sustainability credentials, with the highest Leed-rated building in the world (107 out of 110 points), a world record that has won more than 55 awards for sustainability in terms of execution, design, MEP and concept.

The building uses Ecover products for cleaning, has the lowest water footprint per building inhabitant, lowest waste, 50 per cent of energy is from solar photovoltaics, all heating is solar thermal evacuated tubes and the ventilation and air conditioning has high performance compressors (COP) with adiabatic cooling. The overall footprint of the building can be measured at a granular level to impact and manage at a micro level. It has led to a building that is 38 per cent more efficient than a regular building of a similar size.

- How developed is the green construction materials market in the UAE?

It is at a very nascent stage as the demand is extremely limited in the marketplace. With the exception of some projects requiring FSC-certified wood or low VOC paints, the market for a broad range of sustainable materials is limited. Thus the supply side is also not extensive.

- With regard to facilities management, there are three areas — design, building system control and operation control. Do you think the industry is equipped to tackle these three crucial areas?

On the facilities management platform, the biggest hurdle is initial design that usually is cost-driven and not life cycle-driven. Thereon, systems at the building management systems level have advanced immensely with high-quality sensor technology and measurement. At the operational control level, facilities are driven again by cost and there are cost pressures at all levels. The big challenge is that there are many blocks that combine to bring the services together. The key question is how do you combine all the elements together, including shared services by multiple providers. The opportunities are there to collaborate with other shared services, even going so far as to identify met rics that require input from these groups. The greater the collective strength shared in reporting and management, the better the facilities management outcome as a whole.

- What is your view on Financing of energy performance contracts?

With the current philosophy hedging around quarterly reporting and performance, CEOs rarely go out on a limb to finance capital to support long-term energy performance contracts. The markets are struggling, with solar now at the lowest prices ever and being pushed further as oil prices drop. The problem is exaggerated with industrial demand weakening and energy demand tapering.

In the region, the challenge is bigger with a lack of subsidies, Power Purchase Agreements, feed-in tariff or other forms of support for companies to be motivated to invest into energy performance.

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Source: N. P. Krishna Kumar, Special to Property Weekly


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