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Demonstrating how a specific action saves money — either immediately or in the future — can be a compelling measure of its success. But dollars and cents are not necessarily a green interiors project's most significant outcome. The other benefits of green interiors projects can help facility managers gain approval.
"ROI is key, but it's often not a driver, because there's a greater acceptance that the payback is on the human factor side, the management of risk side, or the recruitment and retention side," Taylor says.
Even if there's not a formal building or renovation project on the horizon, there are plenty of immediate, affordable opportunities to move forward with greening strategies that make a tangible impact.
Potential sustainable enhancements are numerous — from installing occupancy sensors, to replacing faucets and fixtures, to choosing low-emitting materials, to launching recycling programs. Technological advancements and market demand have also led to a new generation of energy-efficient, affordable LED and higher-efficiency fluorescent lighting options.
"It's little steps that can contribute to the long-term performance of a building as well as the satisfaction of current occupants and those who will use the space in the future," says Olga Acosta, senior interiors project manager at HKS.
Acosta suggests building on amenities that already exist, such as a cafeteria, deli, fitness center or locker room. "Sustainability is increasingly tied to wellness and convenience, including air quality within buildings, natural light, and amenities that appeal to employees," she says.
Beyond reducing the use of energy, water, and waste, sustainability is increasingly linked to the broader goal of maximizing the overall efficiency of real estate resources.
"We've come a long way in understanding the importance of using fewer materials and generating less waste, but sustainability is really about making the best use of all of your resources, including your real estate," Greenwald says. This perspective may lead an organization to consider alternatives for onsite storage and other unproductive space that doesn't deliver an active return on investment.
Despite the inherent challenges, Wilson believes green interiors projects have the potential to cast facility managers in a much stronger leadership role.
"There's an opportunity to save the company money and other resources, and those are the things that get people noticed in an organization," he says.
Mike Plotnick is a writer specializing in architecture, interior design, engineering, construction and sustainability.
While Cost Is Key, Green Interiors Projects Can Be Sold On Other Benefits