Tariq Chauhan: Facilities management can play a vital role in mitigating climate change risks
by Tariq Chauhan, Group CEO at EFS Facilities Services Group
We all know that the COP26 goals are to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, keep global warming below +1.5 °C, and adapt to protect communities and natural habitats severely threatened by climate change.
We can overcome the challenges of the climate crisis if everyone plays their part. Each player, like governments, the public, the community and businesses, have a role to play. In this context, Facilities Management has emerged as an important enabler with a formidable role in achieving this carbon neutrality.
There are three prominent roles that facilities managers can play to mitigate climate change:
1. Undertake vulnerability risk assessments of existing facilities and see how they are positioned to respond to the needs of climate change to develop method statements and standard operating procedures.
2. Support the development of new structures and buildings in line with evolving landscape with design review, including the use of sustainable building materials.
3. To prepare a future strategy to manage the ever-changing dynamics of the built environment due to transformation in climate change protocols and compliances.
It is a no-brainer to know how much climate change impacts our daily lives and how our wrongs of the past have added to our woes, seriously impairing our quality and safety. It is therefore essential to ensure that as business and property owners, we are doing all we can to reduce the environmental impact and prepare for the risks and fallouts associated with the changing climate.
By virtue of its function as a custodian of asset management and built environments, FM has assumed an important role in mitigating the various challenges resulting from climate change.
Within the facilities management industry, the effects of climate change have assumed the centre stage, as it calls into question not only the impact of buildings on the environment but also their resilience to climate change itself and their ability to deal with the issues associated with it.
The prime challenge is the severe weather conditions and changes in weather patterns and their catastrophic impact on people due to their unpredictability, i.e. tides, cold spells, floods, storms and prolonged seasons. These create a lot of problems. The sudden changes in weather patterns are everyday events. Climate change alters weather patterns, where we expect certain types of weather. Therefore, facilities managers have to shift from preventative to predicative with added service level requirements as changes need specific standards upgrades. FMs must prepare for this with disaster recovery and business continuity plans. For example, the cold weather checks you usually perform around November may be better suited to January or February. However, they can be adjusted based on circumstances, but considering the likely severity, the heating levels need adjustments. The same is the case for summers or rainy seasons. It is important not to neglect seasonal checks, considering their unpredictable nature. You could be at risk if you don’t perform the relevant tasks in accordance with the weather.
Before zeroing in on any maintenance regime, weather checks through SLAs adjustment are a must. FMs need to conduct property checks with likely extremes or lows, and the FM team to standby to adjust to these needs.
Climate change brings unpredictable weather and increases the chance of natural disasters such as flooding, storms etc. For this reason, your business likely may experience an increase in the need for reactive maintenance to ensure you can be backed up and running as quickly as possible through disaster management.
Severe weather Flooding, as a result of these, can cause massive damage to the facilities, even with the best defences, so again it is the FM team at hand that can help with damage restoration post-flood. It is essential to put full contingency plans in place to minimize damage before having the building decontaminated and ensuring electrical circuits are safe, and the building can be fully repaired and ready for reuse.
Another compelling issue is drought, especially when temperatures continue to rise. During hot and dry summers in context to the landscaping scope of FM, that water usage aspect must be considered; using less or recycled water, its storage and even transportation is something that sits with FM scope, and it needs to evolve in ways to reduce the impact.
See the impact of climate change on business finances in particular. More and more companies are now making a conscious effort to be more environmentally minded and sustainable to mitigate their risks. FM has, for years, helped to build sustainable strategies for disaster management and business continuity with a definitive eye on cost reduction and risk-averse strategy. The damage caused by this severe weather can be catastrophic in terms of its cost contingency plans in getting back up and running after incidents like this is essential. More so on the financial impact with specific reference to FM’s role in assessing and mitigating the insurance and compliance risk.
FM plays a pivotal role. Not just a team at hand to help but a comprehensive Disaster Management Plan as a key value proposition. It is important to plan for the various contingencies.
Weather-related calamities are a common risk; Calamities lead to business interruptions resulting in power interruptions, staff unavailabilities and transport issues. All this is cost, and FM companies and best practices must evolve to help ease business vulnerabilities.
Above all, the rising energy costs due to the rise and fall in temperatures is another business factor that FM has a critical role to play. Ensuring energy efficiency in business is one of the vital functions of FM to manage it to make it more sustainable; the new protocols are making it mandatory for businesses to keep this energy assessment in check. For smaller companies, ensuring you are energy efficient is equally as essential and looking for opportunities which can help reduce your impact on the environment will help with the wider climate.
Not the least on the list of extended FM offerings is recycling. For instance, recycling across all services, be it water, food waste or other materials and restoration services for damage caused by floods, storms, and others, is an emerging area of FM that is gaining traction.
Therefore, Facilities Management has to rise up to upgrade its offerings and raise the bar to cater to the community’s needs in the ever-evolving climate change and position itself as the most formidable player in the mission to reach carbon neutrality.