Posted in Going Green, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized, Version 2.5

What does it really mean to go green?

A hot topic among property owners and managers is “going green.” But what does that phrase really mean? Is Kermit the Frog’s song: It’s not easy being green about saving the planet? I’ve always wondered. How can you achieve the goal of practicing energy-efficient standards to protect and improve the environment? And can you “go green” without breaking the bank?

As a proud member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), we at RJWestmore are committed to sustainability. So we would like to offer a few explanations and suggestions for property managers and building owners to help sort through all of the hype.

  • What does that phrase “going green” really mean? Is it anything like “seeing red?”

The folks at Earth Care say “going green” means using various alternatives to help save energy and the environment. This is a very broad definition because the practice of energy conservation and environmental protection is evolving. At first, just the invention of a few crazy hippies in the 1970s, the environmental movement is now big business. I have a few hippie K9 friends who rebel against conventions like dog collars and eating out of bowls. I’m more of a traditionalist myself…as long as someone is willing to fill the bowl, I’m in.

Consider a recent story in The New York Times, which compared government subsidies to the gold rush, since developers of large-scale clean-energy projects are encouraged to cash in on stimulus spending by adopting green practices. The article discussed a ranch in San Louis Obispo wherein one million solar panels will provide enough power for 100,000 homes, at a cost of $1.6 billion. But subsidies are not limited to large corporations. Even homeowners can benefit from tax incentives like rebates for solar window installation and energy efficient appliances. I wonder if I should have solar panels installed in the doghouse.

  • How can you achieve the goal of practicing energy-efficient standards to protect and improve the environment?

What would it take for the Average Joe to convert his own business and/or property to a facility that is energy efficient? Start small. Wherever you are on your sustainability journey, many options are available for improving performance. You needn’t hire a contractor to rip out all of your walls, ceilings and floors and replace the roof, lighting and parking structure all at once. Instead, find a sustainability consultant and ask what you can conservatively do to reduce your property’s carbon footprint. And while you’re at it, find out how to reduce your puppy’s paw prints. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

  • Is it possible to “go green” without breaking the bank?

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And so it goes with going green. Simple things like starting a recycling program or switching from plastic plates in the cafeteria to eco-friendly products will effectively help save the planet. Many such actions and products are so simple and affordable; you’ll wonder why you didn’t use them all along.

One of the best ways to get going in the right direction is to join existing groups that promote earth-friendly construction. The US Green Building Council is one such organization, which is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. The council’s community of leaders is working to make green buildings available to everyone within a generation through programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is redefining the way people think about the places where we live, work and learn. The only lead-generation I need is the scent of bacon and I’ll be on the trail.

An internationally recognized mark of excellence, LEED is a system which provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green-building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. What’s more, the LEED system is set up to evaluate new construction, existing buildings including operations and maintenance, commercial interiors, cores and shells, doghouses, schools, retail, healthcare, homes and neighborhood development. If you own or manage a facility that would benefit from a LEED-rating evaluation, contact the USGBC today.

When disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.

Posted in Going Green, Uncategorized

Waste not, want not.

Every Drop Counts!

This is part 4 of a 5-part series.

So far in our series of green initiatives for office buildings, we have discussed the benefits of installing green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, and enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems. Today, we are going to take a look at what is arguably our planet’s most abundant and precious resource—water. I’m not just talking about the little metal drinking bowlful that I get! Buildings use a lot of water in many different ways!

As with other green improvements, focusing on water conservation might require considerable upfront costs. But these can easily be recouped. Simple fixes can pay immediate dividends. For example, a leaking faucet can release up to 1,000 gallons of water every week, which will add up to savings of $300 a year. A 10-story building could have 50-100 faucets. That wasted water really adds up!

For today’s discussion, we are focusing on water conservation efforts for tenants in “typical” office settings, instead of businesses that use large amounts of water in manufacturing processes.

Some water conservation changes could also potentially provide the extra benefit of tax advantages. Be sure to check with your accounting firm for information about possible state or federal credits.

Since most large buildings use thousands of gallons of water every day, let’s explore some of the ways that you can ensure you use those gallons wisely:

  • Piping and Water Systems:
    • Ensure hot water pipes are properly insulated for increased efficiency.
    • Perform an inspection of all water pipes to uncover leaks which not only waste water but can also cause problems such as rot or mold growth.
    • Check water pressure to make sure is the gauge is not set higher than necessary. Install water pressure regulators, if needed.
  • Bathroom Water Conservation:
    • Installation of low-flow toilets, which can reduce water requirements from about 4.5 gallons per flush to 1.6 gallons. I just “go” on the landscaping. Talk about reusing water!
    • Faucets should be continuously monitored for leaks. And tenants should be asked to report problems to their facility management team. Faucets can be replaced with lower-flow models which can save water without inconveniencing tenants.
    • Urinals can be changed to automatic flush models.
    • Close the lid unless you want Fido to recycle your toilet water, himself. Personally, I prefer unclaimed water.
  • Landscaping:
    • Choosing the right plants for your climate zone can reduce irrigation needs substantially.
    • Consider xeriscaping some landscape areas. This is particularly important for offices located in the Southwest, where large expanses of green lawn are water wasters! As much as we dogs love to run on grass, some sand is just fine. Just let us know in advance if you’ve planted any cactus.
    • Install rain sensors so sprinklers are turned off when they are not needed.
    • Adjust the irrigation schedule for seasonal sun and rain patterns.
  • Graywater Treatment Systems:
    • Systems collect untreated wastewater from bathroom and kitchen sinks and, in some instances, clothes washers.
    • Collected water is integrated into landscaping irrigation.
    • Proper signage is important to keep people (especially splashing children) away from recycled water. Maybe consider installing a fence to keep pooches out.
  • Train tenants and their employees to follow sound water usage practices:
    • Limit dishwasher usage by running only full loads.
    • If the offices have shower facilities, encourage employees to limit shower times.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance:
    • Instruct your maintenance staff to use sweeping or other methods to clean sidewalks or patios, instead of spraying water.
    • Cleaning crews should manage water usage properly.
  • Don’t wash your dog:
    • You know me and my pals hate the garden hose! Take us to the groomer or just leave us alone. A little dirt never hurt anybody.

Water conservation can be achieved through changes to physical processes and materials as well as adjustments to tenant and maintenance personnel behaviors. An important step in the process is to keep track of your water usage before and after changes are implemented, so you and your facilities’ team can see the long-term savings in actual dollars. I use a spreadsheet to track the critters I chase and a corresponding score for each critter type. It’s wonderful to see my long-term successes!

Visit us next week for the final entry in our 5-part series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact the good people at RJ Westmore, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Going Green, Uncategorized

Going Green with HVAC

Go Green with HVAC

Part 3 in a Series

While we are not experts at HVAC, here are some basic tips. For more information, please contact your HVAC professional.

Woof! I’m sorry, I can’t contain my excitement when talking about all the ways building owners can help the environment!

In previous posts in this series about going green, we’ve discussed green roofs and recycling programs. Today we are looking at more “behind the scenes” ways you can reduce your building’s carbon footprint.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings account for 18 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. In a typical office building, energy use accounts for 30 percent of operating costs, which is the single biggest category of controllable costs.

Reducing energy usage can result in significant long-term reduction of building expenses, freeing up capital you could use for other improvements such as landscaping, painting, or doggy door installation.

Today’s blog covers ways you can improve your building’s HVAC and other systems to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

Cut down on the need for heating and air conditioning:

  • Review building insulation and fill gaps with the most efficient materials.
  • Reduce the building’s “solar gain” by installing reflective roofing materials and tinted windows. These are especially important in buildings located in sunny climates.
  • Examine office equipment to make sure tenants use the latest technology that outputs a minimum of heat. Pay special attention to data centers which require substantial cooling. When I want to get cool, I simply run through some sprinklers, but I don’t think that works for server farms…
  • Simple solutions are best.
    • Encourage tenants to open blinds/curtains where feasible to let in warm sunlight.
    • Ask tenants to close/open windows to warm/cool office spaces before adjusting thermostats.
    • Can people pant? Not sure if that works for them?

Selecting and maintaining the heat and AC systems:

  • Review older systems against more efficient, modern units. For many buildings, the initial costs of a new system could be quickly recouped through energy savings. Talk to an HVAC specialist about potential savings. Now if I could just get a ventilation system installed in our doghouse…
  • Don’t purchase a system that is too big for your building. Your installer can do tests to make sure the “load” is met for recommended units in your building.
  • Consider dehumidification systems for humid climates and evaporative coolers in dry climates. As the saying goes, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” I personally contend it can be both – I do have a lot of fur and let me tell you; it doesn’t keep you cool!
  • Install quality control systems:
    • Programmable thermostats are important for reducing heating/cooling during off hours. Check with facility managers to be sure thermostats are set to the right temperature.
    • Multiple zones are essential for multi-room and floor buildings. Tenants have varying needs. Some might have 20 employees working in one space, while others might have only a few employees who work in small, individual offices. If you can “bring a pooch” to work, then you need to account for that extra body heat, as well.
    • CO2 sensors dynamically adjust heating/cooling by measuring CO2 amounts.

Proper maintenance:

  • As with all mechanical systems, proper maintenance can extend life and performance.
  • Replace air filters frequently with high quality filters.
  • Inspect all ductwork and piping for any leaks, which can contribute to heat/cooling losses.
  • Check thermostat function to make sure everything is performing as it should.

Beyond the benefits to the planet and your profits, improving your building’s HVAC systems will lead to comfortable, content tenants. This is great because no one likes to hear disgruntled employees complain about being too hot or cold. When JR gets just a chill, he starts barking up a storm! And an unhappy employer is a tenant who might not renew his lease in your building! Modern HVAC systems are designed to provide controlled temperatures at maximum comfort.

Visit us next week for part 4 in our series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential property.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact my pals at RJ Westmore, Inc. Their e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Going Green, Uncategorized

Get Tenants Involved in Recycling

Recycle

Last week we talked about literally including green in residential and commercial properties, with features like vegetative roofs and walls. Our topic today is one of the first things many people think about when they think about going green. And no, I don’t mean running in the grass chasing a Frisbee! I’m talking about recycling!

Helping your tenants recycle can be an important step in reducing your building’s carbon footprint. Why can’t they call it a carbon pawprint? The first step to take before establishing a comprehensive program is to realize that any successful, long-term recycling program will require consistent encouragement and ongoing education.

Follow these steps to get your tenants and residents on the road to recycling:

  • Determine the type of materials that will be recycled, given your type of tenant:
    • If you want, you can take it slow. Start by recycling paper products and expand the program over time. For example, if an employee has a puppy, why not let him take home some newspapers for potty training!
    • Choose a company to collect recycled materials:
      • You may need to enlist more than one firm if you have tenants who produce several types of refuse. Perhaps some tenants use pallets or unique packing materials that would require a specialty recycling company.
      • Establish recycling protocols and procedures:
        • Place bins in each tenant’s office
        • Bins should be situated near garbage cans and printer/document rooms
        • If tenants have a lenient bring-a-pet policy, then include a bin for treats
        • Tenants should be taught about which types of materials are recyclable as well as those that are not suitable for recycling.
        • Integrate document shredding:
          • Document security is essential for residents of apartment buildings as well as commercial property tenants. Offering commercial-grade shredding machines onsite will give everyone peace of mind about safeguarding important data. You could hire a group of canines to chew up your old papers, but think of the mess…
          • Make it easy to destroy sensitive documents and collect paper recycling at the same time. Tenants should educate their own employees about procedures for shredding data protection.
          • Encourage long-term participation:
            • Check in with tenant management frequently to ensure recycling procedures are being followed. Work together to offer new inducements to employees to reward their green efforts. Just like giving Rover a treat when he sits up!
            • Get management involved and excited about recycling:
              • Consider a tenant lunch to discuss the program.
              • Encourage commercial tenants to offer incentives to employees for participating in recycling efforts.

Establishing a tenant recycling program is not only environmentally-friendly, it can also be a selling point for new tenants that care about green practices. Implementing a variety of green initiatives can help you maximize occupancy and rental rates in a tight market.

Visit us next week for part 3 in our series about strategies for going green. Perhaps it will be an in-depth discussion on how felines are secretly trying to control the world economy?

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.