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There’s plenty facility executives can do to prepare for the possibility of Obama’s energy and climate proposals becoming law. Basic steps can be taken that can help address environmental concerns and also lower energy and other operating costs, including the installation of efficient windows, lighting systems and HVAC systems. A November 2006 Pew Center report, “Building Solutions to Climate Change,” notes that lighting is the largest single user of energy in commercial buildings, followed by space heating and space cooling.
One early step recommended by Allan Skodowski, senior vice president and director of LEED and sustainability for the commercial real estate and development firm Transwestern, is to see what information is available from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, and from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system. There are several resources on Energy Star’s Web site, including a building upgrade value calculator, a cash flow opportunity calculator and a financial value calculator.
“Don’t reinvent things but look at what’s already there that can help you navigate this process,” he says.
Another early step is tracking energy use. That will give facility executives an idea of the impact a building’s energy use has on the local, regional and national environment.
With Obama’s aggressive agenda, facility executives need to be proactive and engage in the advocacy process to get their voices heard by trade groups and legislators, says USAA Real Estate’s Walraven. The real estate industry has reduced energy consumption by more than 25 percent since the 1970s while simultaneously adding more people and equipment per square foot, she says. The industry has been aggressively reducing consumption but needs to make even more strides in that regard, and research, education and financial incentives are needed to do that, Walraven says.
Facility executives should watch not only what’s occurring at the federal level, but also actions in state and local governments. Financial incentives may come from any of them, and experts say it’s up to facility executives to track everything at all levels, which isn’t easy when a national portfolio is involved.
“Look at what you are planning to do with your building anyway and ask yourself how you build in these state and federal possibilities so that you can take advantage of them, as opposed to them being put upon you,” says Lindsay Audin, president of Energywiz Inc., an energy consulting firm.
Demand for consultants will increase and supply will fall short of qualified individuals as the federal government and state governments pass legislation, says Jennifer Henry, manager of the real estate sector at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation. Facility executives should, if possible, start looking for those individuals early on and begin with one or two small projects, she says.
Henry says that when LEED was put in place, consultants and other professionals charged high premiums because there were so few qualified individuals to do the work. Those prices have come down over time because more and more people are qualified to do LEED work and building staffs are now more familiar with LEED requirements.
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