Posted in BE SAFE, RJ Westmore personnel, Uncategorized

Welcome New Director of Operations

Director of Operations Lora Sargeant

The RJ Westmore Inc. team is proud to welcome Lora Sargeant as director of operations. Lora is a Southern California native who graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History.

After graduation, she moved to Northern California and started her real estate career.

Lora brings to RJWestmore over 20 years experience in the commercial real estate industry.  She has worked for companies such as CB Richard Ellis, Grubb & Ellis Management Services, and Kennedy Wilson in a variety of capacities including on-site property management, portfolio management, and business development.  She has managed commercial, industrial and retail properties.

Lora recently relocated back to Southern California with her two children, where she most recently worked again for CB Richard Ellis managing medical office buildings for an institutional client.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Uncategorized

Storing Flammable Materials

Be careful when storing flammable materials.

In our continuing series about fire safety and prevention, this week’s post will look at the ways that you can mitigate the risk of fire by adopting best practices for storing flammable materials. Since flammable liquid can be ignited even without a spark, this information is particularly important for property owners who lease commercial buildings.

Fumes from containers that are not properly sealed can be carried on air currents to the flame of a water heater or the pilot light on a stove. The slightest spark can start a devastating fire; so proper handling and use as well as proper storage of volatile materials are essential. This is normally where I would make a “volatile materials” joke, but I’ll let it pass…

Guesswork isn’t necessary for the proper usage and storage of flammable materials.  Organizations such as OSHA and NFPA have produced and refined various guidelines that, when followed, greatly reduce the risk of fire. Strict adherence can save lives.

The following measures will help prevent accidents (Laying down newspapers won’t help with this kind of accident.):

  • Make sure that the right types of fire extinguishers are available to combat potential fires. The NFPA recommends special “fast flow” extinguishers for locations that have pressurized flammable liquids.
  • Prevent arson by making sure that all flammable materials are stored in a locked area with access given to a limited number of employees. I keep the keys to my doghouse as secure as the “nuclear football.” Nobody gets in without my permission.
  • All outside contractors or janitorial staff should be aware of the location of hazardous materials and should be instructed to stay away from dangerous areas.
  • Install sufficient ventilation systems that move vapors away from your building to a proper outside area.

Flammables Storage Guidelines:

  • The NFPA has guidelines on classifying different flammables based on their “flash points” – the temperature at which the material is at risk of combustion. (I learned the station firefighters’ flash point the other day when I chewed on the legs of the dining room table.) Make sure tenants know the proper classification for their chemicals, from acetaldehyde to naphthalene. RJWestmore clients have access to “How to Read a Fire Diamond” within the Resources section of their online training program.

    RJ Westmore, Inc. cilents have access to lots of valuable information.
  • Utilize the proper safety cans for storing flammable liquids. These cans do not allow the escape of flammable vapors and are designed to release internal pressure. They should be sturdy enough to resist crushing or punctures. I would love to put my lamb & rice meal in one of these containers to keep it super fresh!
  • Incompatible chemicals and oxidizers should be kept away from other reactive materials to prevent unintentional mixing. If two chemicals are like cats and dogs, don’t put them on the same shelf!
  • Install specially designed storage cabinets that keep a lid on the internal temperature to prevent the start and spread of fire.

With any safety issue, the key is knowledge and preparation. Tenants who work with flammable materials on a regular basis are probably well aware of any special considerations that should be taken regarding the storage and disposal of unstable materials. But, as a building owner or property manager, there is no harm in making sure that your tenants follow all safety guidelines.

Visit us again next week for the third blog post in our series about fire safety and prevention.

When a 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 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Travel, Uncategorized

Fire Safety

Take steps to be fire-safe.

Part #2 in a Series

Since a fire department in the United States responds to a report of fire every 19 seconds, fire is an ever-present danger at work, doghouse, home or when you are traveling. Fire is also one of the most common emergencies following an earthquake, explosion, terrorist attack, power surge or other natural or man-made disaster.

Since you never know when fire will strike, you should be careful to prepare so you will immediately know what to do in case of emergency. In this series, we hope to educate you in an effort to help you and your tenants prepare for fire.

Today’s post will discuss the ways that you, as a building owner or property manager, can mitigate the risk of fire by making sound choices for building materials and furnishings and by educating tenants about taking responsibility for their own safety. (Overall, I think dogs are generally better at taking responsibility for their actions than our human counterparts. When we do something wrong, we don’t blame someone else. We hang our heads low and put our tails between our legs.)

Making sound choices for building materials

If your property is still under construction, install fire-safe materials wherever possible. Also, if you’re building something from scratch and moving dirt, now is a great time to hide bones.

David Horne, a member of the Fire Safe Council (FSC), admits that it’s impossible to take the risk of a fire down to zero unless you live in a bunker. But he says, “Builders can make their (projects) between 20 percent and 70 percent less likely to burn from the outside by choosing fire-resistant materials and veering from traditional designs.”

Here are some fire-safe installation ideas from the FSC:

  • Install stucco, fiber cement, and other noncombustible cladding materials
  • Build eaves and roof decks that are boxed in and never made from wood.
  • Omit windows from exterior walls that sit close together.
  • Add an extra layer of gypsum or another fire-resistant material beneath the siding on facing walls
  • Install double- or triple-pane windows to keep intense heat from breaking the windows
  • Choose noncombustible materials for fences
  • Consider purchasing a pre-made Dogloo instead of building a doghouse from scratch. They’re fire safe and attractive, to boot.

Making Sound Fire-Safe Choices for Furnishings

Even if your property has already been built, you can take steps to lessen the risk of home, apartment, doghouse or office fire.

Upholstered furniture, wall coverings, flooring and mattresses burn quickly and produce large amounts of toxic smoke. Burning upholstered furnishings or mattresses contribute to nearly every home fire death. Understanding the hazards associated with these furnishings will help you choose fire-safe products. Whenever possible, select upholstered furniture that has been treated with fire retardant. This is also a great idea for dog beds. While some have been treated with fire retardant materials, this is not always the case.

Some professional organizations and the state of California have developed manufacturing standards to increase the fire resistance of certain types of furniture. For a complete list of these guidelines, check out the technical bulletins released by the California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation.

Educating Tenants about Fire Safety

In a perfect world, everyone would know how to prepare for disaster and would take the necessary steps to mitigate risks. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world. So don’t assume that your tenants know how to proactively prevent fires or prepare for emergencies. Although you are not obligated to do so, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to provide helpful, straight-forward guidelines for them to follow, so in the event of emergency, they are without excuse.

Print these helpful tips for distribution for information about fire safety at home, basic information about fire safety at home and fire prevention at work.  The headline for each of these fact sheets notes that the responsibility for fire safety and disaster preparedness rests squarely on the shoulders of each individual. Additional reference materials are also available through FEMA and the National Fire Protection Association.  Whichever fire safety guidelines you prefer, post them in a central location. Next to the food bowls works for me.

Next week, we’ll look at the ways that you can mitigate the risk of fire by adopting best practices for storing flammable materials. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for property owners and managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Safety, Fires, Version 2.0

Practice Makes Safety

Fire Drills aren't not just for elementary school anymore.

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Flashing lights! Flashing lights! Are you at a concert? No, it’s a fire drill! While your tenants might view these periodic run-throughs as unavoidable hassles that interrupt the normal business routine, fire drills are vital preparation for emergencies. In fact, fire drills might bring back memories of school where they were a welcome break from classes that gave you an opportunity to laugh with friends. (Although they weren’t mandatory at puppy kindergarten or dog obedience school, I always love an excuse to take a biscuit-break,)  In an office setting, properly executed fire drills can save lives.

Why do you need fire drills in your building?

  • Tenants enter and exit buildings through the same locations every day. In fire drills, people move through seldom used routes such as back stairwells. Workers are creatures of habit who, just like pooches, benefit from frequent drills, which make them more likely to remember proper evacuation routes.
  • Several building codes mandate fire drill participation such as the NFPA’s Life Safety Code, which features a grid detailing the recommended frequency for and the types of businesses that should conduct drills. Building owners can always choose to run more than the code-mandated number of drills to ensure that new tenants understand evacuation procedures.  The guys at the station like to think they have trained me with drills, but it’s really the other way around.
  • Drills provide a great opportunity to discover safety issues that need to be corrected such as locked stairwell doors or the necessity of developing alternate routes for specific tenants.

A fire at an office building in 1989 in Atlanta caused the deaths of five workers. Through investigation, the U.S. Fire Administration determined that federal employees who worked in the building were required to participate in fire drills, while most private sector employees were not. The fatalities and most of the injured were, unfortunately, among the private sector tenants. What’s more, the report indicated a high level of chaos among the private sector employees. Fire drills were identified as a contributing factor for saving lives.

Tips for performing fire drills:

  • Ensure that the sound of alarm systems can reach all sections of the building including storage areas, maintenance rooms, restrooms and elevators. Instruct Floor Wardens and other designated safety volunteers to keep watch for any problems observed during the drill, such as employees who don’t exit the building immediately or who take non-approved exit routes.
  • Remind tenants to exit the building briskly and to leave behind unnecessary personal items, computers or any office paperwork that might hinder evacuation. Make sure they bring Fido, in case a fire breaks out on “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”
  • Before drills begin, ensure that all exit signs are clearly visible and meet all code requirements.
  • Involve local fire departments to coordinate their mock drills, so you can work together to speed up evacuation times.

With all types of safety exercises, it’s important to receive training from a qualified source. This short video shows you what happens when you mix fire safety training with an unqualified “trainer.” Wow. This guy should not be allowed near anything flammable ever again.

Visit us again next week for the second blog post in our series about fire safety and prevention. We will be discussing flammable materials and how building owners can mitigate fire risks by making sound choices in building materials and furnishings. I wanted to do a post that debated the merits of both wet and dry food, but my editor shot it down.

When a 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 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare

Floor Warden Fire Dog Facts

Floor Wardens help during emergency evacuations

All of our training emphasizes how tenants and building management need to work together as a unit to ensure safety. In the event of fire or other emergencies, a fast and orderly evacuation can save lives.

Although our dog house evacuation is simple…grab the bone and run, buildings with tenants of 10 or more employees are required by OSHA to have an emergency action plan to help ensure tenant safety during disasters. The selection and training of Floor Wardens is an important part of any action plan.

Typical Duties of Floor Wardens:

  • Wardens and Alternative Wardens need to be familiar with every tenant and associated workspace location to ensure that no one is left behind in cases of emergency.
  • A clear understanding of the proper evacuation route and gathering place are essential for preventing panic. Your tenant’s Floor Wardens should practice walking the primary and backup emergency routes to avoid any mistakes that could result from stress. This is not unlike some of my canine companions who run around in circles chasing their tails when they’re stressed.
  • Floor Wardens will work with the building’s fire safety director to check off names of present employees and to note any who are missing following an evacuation.
  • Your tenant’s receptionists should keep logs of absent employees and visitors who are present and share the information with the proper Floor Warden.

Floor Warden Training:

  • Cross training of several tenant employees is important to account for Floor Wardens who may be absent during any given emergency or permanently leave their position with the company.
  • Special training or equipment should be given to Wardens who have tenant employees with disabilities that will require additional evacuation assistance. Your four-legged companions might find it difficult to descend escalators, for example. I’m not a fan of the things, myself, as my claws get caught in the tiny grooves.
  • Instructions should be given to Wardens on the location and usage of necessary equipment such as—flashlights, radios, whistles and rawhide treats.
  • Some tenants in large buildings might want to designate additional employees as stairwell and/or elevator monitors who will supervise safe and orderly evacuations. Floor Wardens should work closely with these monitors to keep track of employees and ensure they take the proper exit routes.

Benefits of the RJ Westmore Training System:

  • Our system offers real-time updates to Floor Warden lists, which can be viewed by building management
  • We send automatic annual reminders to each Warden for training renewal
  • Our system is fully integrated with the fire department to ensure Wardens, Fire Safety Directors and the local departments have the same occupancy data for every building
  • We record user training and testing for future reference.

While you can count on your pooch to bark before certain disasters like earthquakes and break-ins, fires and other emergencies often strike quickly and without warning. Through repetition of training and certification with our system, Floor Wardens will play an integral part in tenant safety by making sure no one is left behind in times of danger.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact 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 Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The Power of Knowing Where to Go

New Mapping Features Aid RJ Westmore Clients

As the leader in emergency management training solutions, RJ Westmore, Inc. is continually improving its award-winning product. We have just introduced a new feature to our comprehensive program that assists emergency responders and improves tenant safety.

The integrated training system offers a dynamic home page for every commercial property owner who uses our product. The home page details important information for each property including:

  1. Required online courses to be completed
  2. Floor Warden reports
  3. Additional safety contact information
  4. Location of all nearby pet stores and dog parks (Well, at least I think that feature should be included.)

The latest feature on the building home page is our “View Map” link, which provides emergency responders with multiple views of an individual property and the surrounding area. The maps, of course, provide driving directions to the building. But, more importantly, they provide access to Google Earth 3-D views of the surrounding area. I could spend hours looking at Google Earth. Just last week I visited a jerky factory in Alabama and a tennis ball manufacturer in Guam, all from the comfort of my own doghouse!

Such detail prevents emergency responders from “flying blind” in emergencies. While en route, they will be able to assess the building’s best access points, so they won’t lose valuable time once they arrive. Access to real-time map information can also aid in running emergency drills. My version of an emergency drill includes a tree full of squirrels and…Never mind.

“View Map” Feature Available for Every Building

Emergency Personnel Have Access to 3D Maps While En Route

3-D View helps responders determine ideal tactics for dealing with emergencies and gives a sense of scale for the building and any surrounding structures. I have dreams for a 3-D model of my family’s new dog house. I envision multiple levels with flat screens, all tuned to “Animal Planet.”

This new map features is a perfect complement to other fire department integration features of Version 2.0 of our comprehensive safety training program.

  • Fire Departments have access to the RJ Westmore System clients in their particular city, viewable through an easy-to-navigate home page.
  • Department managers can monitor individual building testing and training of Floor Wardens and Fire Safety Directors.
  • I’m sure every firehouse dog peeks at the screen and barks his or her approval!

Additional Newer Features of Version 2.0

Real-time reporting with just one click:

  • Identify tenants who need special assistance in emergencies

Automated features:

  • The system automatically creates and sends certificates to each user
  • Annual reminders are sent to each user to ensure ongoing training compliance and optimal tenant safety

Improved confidentiality and system control:

  • Controlled information distribution, with multiple tiers of system access

The integrated map feature is the latest example of how the RJ Westmore Training System was built with dynamic flexibility. Online and integrated tools that bring together fire departments, facility management, and other entities, allow us to continually improve our system to meet tenants’ and property manager and owner needs. Now if only tenants would install doggie doors and tummy-rubbing stations, we’d be all set.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact the smart people over 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 Health & Welfare, Uncategorized

All about OSHA

Building owners should view OSHA as an important partner instead of as an adversary.

Through the course of business, it is likely both tenants and building owners will eventually interact with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. While some employers or building owners might cringe upon hearing the word “OSHA,” most dogs don’t even know what it is. In any case, the agency offers benefits and safeguards for the workplace. In existence for 40 years, OSHA has played a critical role to ensure that workers are treated as important assets and are provided with reasonable safeguards from harm. In the fire dog world, our teeth provide us with reasonable safeguards from harm.

Building owners should view OSHA as an important partner instead of as an adversary. Most of my canine friends look at dog catchers as adversaries. But both agencies only mean to help. Compliance with OSHA regulations, even those that require capital spending, will result in tangible benefits. A clean compliance record can also be used as a selling point to help attract tenants who are rightly concerned about the safety of their employees. Most folks are weary about residing or working in a building that is known for receiving lots of citations.

History:

  • Established by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970
  • Inconsistent enforcement during the administration’s early years resulted in criticism.
  • The agency first focused on enhancing the safety of physical machinery with retrofitting and other safety apparatuses.
  • During the Carter Administration, the focus was on hazards such as industrial chemicals.
  • The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush pushed to weaken the enforcement powers of OSHA, which included some voluntary compliance initiatives and other industry-friendly regulations.
  • The administration under President Clinton saw a marked increase in OSHA investigations and power.

OSHA’s Responsibilities:

  • Reviews ergonomic standards of businesses to prevent ergonomic-related injuries and stress such as carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve never met a canine with carpal tunnel syndrome. Must be a human thing?
  • Conducts research and gathers data regarding workplace issues and tactics for minimizing safety risks.
  • Protects employees by alerting their employers about the existence of safety violations. In the neighborhood, we usually howl to alert neighbors about impending doom.
  • Performs inspections to ensure that employers are following health and safety regulations.

Benefits of compliance:

  • GAO studies on voluntary OSHA programs showed cost reductions in workers’ compensation premiums along with increases in overall workforce productivity.
  • Safe employees and office visitors are less likely to be injured at the workplace, resulting in decreased exposure to liability. Keeping folks and pups safe at the station is one of our highest priorities at the firehouse.
  • OSHA funds free consultations through many state agencies that will come to places of employment to identify safety risks.
  • Healthy employees utilize health care and insurance benefits less than those exposed to dangerous situations. Another option is to hire Dalmatians to work for you. We hardly ever file insurance claims.

Some criticisms have been levied at OSHA because of the low number of criminal prosecutions and severity of fines. It should be noted that many of the administration’s enforcement and penalties have been restricted in the past; however, recently, stiffer penalties were introduced. The Obama Administration is becoming more involved in investigations and working to keep pace with quickly emerging technology and processes used by a variety of employers.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact 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, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized

E-Waste Issues

It's an Electronics' World After All

Part 5 in a 5-part series

We have come to the fifth and final blog topic for our series about green initiatives for office buildings. Previously, we have discussed green roofs and living walls, implementing tenant recycling, enhancing energy efficiency of HVAC systems and the importance of water conservation. And as far as water conservation goes, I maintain the most important watering concern for anyone is keeping the dog’s bowl full at all times.

Today, we are going to explore environmentally-sound electronics practices in the workplace. We’ll cover the problems associated with discarded electronic waste and ways that you and your tenants can employ smart electronics usage practices to save energy and money.

The problem with e-waste

  • According to the EPA, more than 2.25 million tons of televisions, computers, monitors, keyboards, and peripherals were tossed into landfills. I just don’t get the attraction to staring at a screen. But humans seem to really enjoy it. My advice is to turn all of it off and go for a nice, long walk.
  • Electronics use precious materials such as copper, aluminum and even gold.
  • Millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead. See what I mean? Turn the things off!

The solution for handling e-waste

  • Team up with a reputable electronics recycling company and educate tenants on the environmental impacts of proper recycling practices.
  • Purchase products that do not have “planned obsolescence.” That is a fancy way of saying that you shouldn’t buy things that have a limited shelf life. Buy stuff that lasts.
  • Simplify. Making due with less is something our ancestors did out of necessity. Try to remember that the more you have, the more you have to take care of, store, clean and repair. Sometimes, less is more. The more my wife and I give our son, RJ, the more he has to bury.
  • Encourage tenants to turn off computers and printers when leaving for the day.
    • Electronics should be on a power strip with an on/off switch, otherwise electronics can continue to draw power when turned off as long as they are plugged into an active power supply. I once knew a Chihuahua who bit into the plugged-in cord for a curling iron. Although he survived the experience, the sight of him biting into a live wire haunts me to this day!
    • PCs and monitors have a finite life relative to the number of hours they are turned on.
    • Computers and other electronics produce heat, which can unnecessarily increase the cooling load of offices. I have found that this is true of practically anything in heat.
  • Use products that have been labeled with the Energy Star endorsement:
    • Encourage tenants to purchase energy-efficient computers and appliances.
    • Energy Star products use less energy. For even small-sized office buildings, this translates to substantial annual energy savings. The window-unit on our doghouse does a good job cooling our entire living space.
    • Note that no two products are identical. One Energy Star-certified product can use less than another Energy-Star model. Learn how to read labeling carefully so that you can select the most efficient products.
  • Cell phones:
    • Some tenants assign cell phone devices for every employee. Cell phone technology changes very rapidly and companies often end up swapping out old phones for models with the latest functionality.
    • Phones can be recycled with other electronics or they can be donated.
  • Toner cartridges:
    • Distribute information to tenants about the benefits of recycling printer cartridges. Improvements in manufacturing processes enable remanufactured cartridges to print images equal in quality to those produced by new cartridges.
    • Most toner ink is petroleum-based, and can emit volatile compounds when used. Encourage tenants to use soy-based cartridges to cut down on indoor air pollution. But shy away from the soy-based doggie treats. I prefer beef-based, myself.

When it comes to office electronics, it’s important to remember the green slogan, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” By observing this practice, it is entirely possible to drastically reduce the amount of items used. Encourage tenants to delay purchasing new equipment as long as current electronics work properly. Reusing toner cartridges and cell phones puts less of a strain on natural resources. And recycling keeps electronic waste out of our landfills!

Thanks for reading our series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential properties. Remember that beyond the environmental and social benefits, green initiatives can result in real cost savings for building owners and tenants. And a penny saved is one you can put towards buying gourmet dog food.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact 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

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.