Pair Resilience With Other Business Goals

  July 31, 2015

While increasing the resilience of commercial real estate against any number of events is becoming a front-burner issue for many facility managers, it can be a diverse and much more nuanced topic than something like energy efficiency. That it can be difficult to define — or rather that so many entities define it slightly differently — compounds another challenge of addressing resilience: immediacy.

"It's a challenge because with energy efficiency, you benefit from it every day," says Alex Wilson, president of the Resilient Design Institute and also founder of BuildingGreen. "Some of the resilience measures that we're wanting people to implement only realize a benefit every couple of years, or every ten years. It's a much harder argument to make. It doesn't have a bottom line benefit that's measurable on a day in day out basis."

That said, protecting a facility against and preparing it to function beyond the proverbial rainy day is hardly wasted effort. As weather events become more frequent and more severe, as the nation's infrastructure continues to age and deteriorate, and as the unknown is just around the corner, it is a prudent and savvy facility manager who prepares for the what ifs in life.

To help sell measures to enhance resilience to upper management, one strategy is to highlight how they also help to solve other problems, Wilson says. After all, the other side of resilience is concepts like security, sustainability, and business continuity, and others. Among them, facility managers will be able to find the right framework for their proposal.

For example, one of the issues Wilson has been a strong proponent of since Hurricane Katrina is the concept of passive survivability. "Buildings should be designed to maintain habitable conditions if they loose power or heating fuel," Wilson says. "Achieving passive survivability means a very energy efficient building envelope. It also means cooling load avoidance measures, and passive solar heating measures. Strategies like that that have been a part of the green building world for a long time. But these strategies also have this resilience benefit.

"If we can design or retrofit buildings so that if they loose power, people can shelter in place rather than evacuating, those buildings will be much safer. And those strategies that achieve passive survivability also greatly reduce consumption in a normal basis. It might be done for resilience issues, but it has a direct benefit on a daily basis."

For some facility managers, the resilience of the facility is central to the business plan. In places like hospitals, emergency service command centers, data centers and the like, tolerance for outages is very slight, so the bottom line benefit to improving resilience is clearer to see, says Wilson. For non-critical facilities, it can understandably be a harder sell to convince a building owner to elevate equipment out of the basement, for example.

"They might go in and have to spend $200K to move boilers, air handling equipment, electrical panels out of a basement space and then there might not be a flood," Wilson says. "That might be money that's considered thrown away. I like to suggest that those measures be considered even if there isn't an immediate need for it." He suggests timing moving the equipment to a safer location when the existing equipment has reached end of life. And while facility managers at it, they should also upgrade to the most energy efficient system they can get, to get the most bang for their retrofit buck.

For more ways to sell resilience by pairing it with sustainability efforts in commercial facilities, check out "3 Ways Sustainability Complements Building Resilience".

It's part of the July Building Operating Management's extended coverage on resilience.


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