Facility Maintenance Decisions

Talking the Talk: The Language of Green

By Dan Hounsell   Green

Language never stops evolving. For writers and editors, that’s good news. Words are our tools and our toys. New words mean new ideas, or at least new ways to say the same thing.

Others don’t necessarily welcome an evolving language quite as warmly. But either way, one thing is certain. Languages aren’t going to stop creating and absorbing words. In some cases, their evolution also means that obscure words become important and even popular, relatively quickly.

Nowhere is this evolution on display more prominently these days than in the language of “green.”

It’s nearly impossible to have a facilities-related conversation nowadays without either hearing or using words and phrases connected to the ever-more-popular topic of environmental awareness, or green. Everyone uses them, and they’ve become so popular that they’ve lost their novelty.

Managers have seen this change before. New technology always brings along new words. The arrival of the Internet a decade ago, for example, brought “bandwidth,” “wi-fi,” and “e-mail” to maintenance and engineering departments.

Closer the the green issue, emerging facilities-specific issues also have regularly introduced new words and phrases. The role of facilities in global warming added “hydrochlorofluorocarbon” to the maintenance lexicon. And heightened awareness of indoor air quality put “volatile organic compounds” and “multiple chemical sensitivity” on the list.

The green issue might have surpassed all of the rest of the contributors to the maintenance manager’s lexicon, largely because it affects such a vast number of products, technologies, systems and processes throughout institutional and commercial facilities.

In the last five years or so, managers have added a host of words, phrases and acronyms to their everyday language. As a result, it’s not uncommon to hear conversations in maintenance departments that use green words and phrases liberally, from “sustainability,” “reflectivity,” and “emissivity” to “urban heat island”, “post-consumer recycled content,” and “lighting power density.”

Some of these new — or at least newly popular — words and phrases have clear definitions, while others continue to evolve. What’s important, though, is that they are here to stay as important parts of the language of facilities.

Managers might not need to worry much about the exact definitions of such words or the newest additions. It probably is more important to understand which green concepts are most beneficial to their particular facilities, then focus on the related concepts and applications.

Still, while it’s important to be able to walk the walk, it never hurts to be able to talk the talk, too.

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  posted on 8/1/2006   Article Use Policy

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