By Barry Stiles
Most facility managers are doing everything they can to maximize their facilities, though day-to-day operations make it difficult to carve out time to research new ideas. But in the face of unique and evolving challenges, facilities need just that: solutions that can keep up with the times.
When you can creatively and successfully maximize facility usage, you solve a host of issues. For one, taking advantage of today’s advanced capabilities means you won’t have to pay yesterday’s high prices for energy and operational costs. If you recognize the need for change and act quickly, you’ll find that better usage of available tools and strategies leads to immense savings.
Older, slower ways of doing things typically require more money and more room to work. Incomplete land utilization means facilities need more space to accomplish the same results. Newer strategies, such as using vegetation to insulate roofs or insulated concrete form (ICF) blocks to insulate buildings, actually cost less than old techniques. At the same time, they save money on operating and construction costs.
Green solutions like these are no longer expensive luxuries for modern facilities. LEED buildings spend almost 20 percent less on maintenance than standard commercial buildings. Even facilities that require major upgrades can realize substantial gains, as retrofit projects usually lead to 10 percent drops in operational costs within a year.
More savings, more efficiency, fewer regulatory hurdles: These are a few advantages of creative facility use. If you take advantage of today’s wide-open market for green construction techniques, you’ll spend less and get more from your operations.
Smarter Storm Water Management
One of the most pressing facility management issues is finding solutions for storm water. The drastic year-over-year increase in severe weather events — and the catastrophic flooding they cause — mean that your facilities need to be designed to deal with more storm water than ever while minimizing flood damage.
Undeveloped land is equipped by nature to handle rainfall; the water simply seeps into the ground. The hardscapes covering developed areas, however, prevent water from being absorbed. You don’t have to wait for a hurricane to see the effects: Even heavy rainfall is likely to cause flooding at a facility smothered in concrete, asphalt, or gravel.
Storm water also leads to runoff, which in turn picks up pollutants: oil, heavy metals, petroleum products, hydrocarbons. To manage storm water, a typical system captures that toxic runoff in underground pipes and sewers that carry it to a larger body of water, causing a host of environmental and human problems.
Every new development or facility update can either add to the problem or contribute to the solution. Using green construction techniques and smarter materials is a cost-effective way to maximize facility usage and alleviate the environmental damage caused by storm water runoff.
Facility Usage From Top To Bottom
Construction sites, existing facilities, and new buildings present creative opportunities from top to bottom:
Innovative roofing solutions save energy, offer usable space, and even contribute to environmental benefits for the area. Vegetated or green roofs are growing increasingly popular, saving energy via natural, sustainable insulation. For rooftops with access, this can provide an extra floor for staff to grow vegetables in a garden or enjoy an outdoor leisure area in a sea of urban concrete.
Don’t underestimate the value of a better roof. If insulation isn’t doing the job on its own, consider using reflective surfaces to reduce cooling costs by turning the rays of the sun back to the sky. In some areas, solar panels may offer cost-effective energy solutions as well.
Within the building itself, insulated concrete form technology provides more strength and better insulation than traditional materials. This reduces noise pollution — a boon to facilities that have enough to manage without adding outside noise in the mix. More important, these innovative materials save energy. Because they stack and connect easily, buildings can better protect themselves against extreme weather and winds.
Insulated concrete will also make your future renovations easier. It’s easier to cut than comparable products, yet it performs better against weather, infiltration, noise, and vapor. You may even see a drop in your insurance costs from using better building materials.
3. Landscape and Parking
The land around your building doesn’t have to be dangerous and high-maintenance. Instead, the parking lots and landscaping can help you reach your cost and labor goals. For example, a parking lot paved with permeable materials maximizes drainage and flood protection. Plastic grid systems can reduce land needs by coding as pervious instead of impervious, as hardscape options do. Using rock for detention in the base below the pavement allows for stormwater detention reduction. It may even eliminate the need for a space- and land-eating detention pond — not to mention the savings in construction costs.
Before adding permeable paving, consider how much stormwater detention capacity the facility needs. How much could the facility reduce by changing the parking and landscape from impervious to pervious?
Despite what you may have heard, green buildings and alternative materials are not weaker, less reliable versions of traditional materials. On the contrary, facilities that implement these creative solutions enjoy stronger constructions, lower costs, and more sustainable futures. When weighing the costs of new constructions, calculate the long-term savings; you’ll find that innovation is the more sustainable path.
Barry Stiles is the founder and CEO of TRUEGRID Pavers, the 100 percent permeable paving alternative to concrete and asphalt that instantly absorbs stormwater and detains water below the surface. TRUEGRID is a green, permeable Lego-like paver system for the real world, made in the U.S. from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic and filled with gravel or grass for a natural aesthetic. As an engineer and as a dad, Barry is passionate about TRUEGRID’s mission to provide green paving solutions to build a safer and cleaner environment for our kids. For a complete guide to managing stormwater with permeable paving, download TRUEGRID’s whitepaper.