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By Mike Plotnick
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Any green interior renovation or design project is going to face a number of challenges ranging from cost to sustainability requirements. Here's how facility managers can sell and implement those green interiors projects.
Whether an organization is embarking on a lighting retrofit or a full-scale interior renovation, the factors that drive a successful green initiative are consistent.
Leadership support, clear goals, employee engagement and compelling results all contribute to a program that advances the organization, is embraced by its people, and paves the way for more ambitious projects.
Facility managers play a vital role in managing and implementing the strategies that drive sustainable interiors projects. As facilitators of a green transformation, they can become an easy target if a new program fails or is not embraced by employees.
But a successful green initiative has the potential to propel facility managers into a stronger leadership role. When embarking on an interiors greening project, here are a few principles to keep in mind.
Gathering Support From The Top
Having the active, visible support of the senior management team is an important factor that drives a project's success, even though facility managers will end up leading many of the activities.
"I think sustainability really needs to come from the top down," says Ken Wilson, design principal at Perkins + Will. "It can be hard for facilities people to lead a green initiative on their own without the C-suite behind them, publicly driving the change."
The lack of active engagement from the C-suite, however, isn't a deal-breaker, according to Rives Taylor, principal at Gensler.
"A really clever facilities leader can find ways to tackle the low-hanging fruit within his or her budget, then quickly identify opportunities to get a little bit more money to pursue other actions," he says.
The general employee population also plays a significant role in the overall success of a green interiors project. Engaging employees throughout the process helps individuals learn about the planned changes so they understand what to expect and feel like they're part of the improvements.
"Telling employees the 'why' behind the plans and letting them have input into the changes is important," says Betsy Nurse, director of interiors at HOK. "Keeping them informed and engaged can also spur other great ideas that are simple and inexpensive to implement."
After a project is completed, asking employees how things are going can help organizations quickly identify specific concerns that can be rectified before they snowball into more significant problems.
"It requires extra time, but I think it's time well spent," Nurse says.
One company recently decided to go paperless as part of a larger greening initiative, but the company underestimated the backlash that the action would incite in the broader employee population. The elimination of paper towels from restrooms led to an onslaught of complaints, prompting the company to reverse its policy and restore the paper towels.
"Had the company stood its ground and educated employees on the rationale and helped them be part of the solution, they may have avoided the backlash," she says.
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