To go green in our current economic state might not be a realistic thing to do for an organisation because many people associate green buildings with increased costs and overarching strategy. In contrast, greening a building is much more important to consider in a time like this especially in the city of Lagos where population is increasing with upsurge in greenhouse gas generation and waste management is still very poor. A basic example is the use of R22 refrigerant with Air-conditioning systems. The question is, when will the decision makers get involved in the advocacy for climate change and the protection of our planet Earth? Unlike new construction, existing buildings not only produce cost savings, but they can create unprecedented and tangible savings opportunities to fund this necessary transformation of the existing commercial and residential buildings. Existing buildings need to be at the heart of the conversation and action plan to reduce greenhouse gases, conserve natural resources and make buildings and people healthier, while contributing to the company’s competitive advantage.
Why existing buildings? The most recent research by FMTalk360, a facilities management resource reports that there are approximately 155 million existing buildings in Nigeria and 54,138 new building projects ongoing nationwide. That means there is huge opportunity to consider greening our homes and commercial properties and in turn reduce the impact of building activities on the environment. In addition to producing nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions and massive electricity use, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reports that commercial, industrial and institutional buildings globally: Consume about 40% of all energy; Use 12% of all freshwater and 88% of all potable water; Take up to 40% municipal solid waste stream; Use 40% of all wood and other raw materials; and Exploit signiﬁcant amounts of land. Existing buildings’ cumulative carbon footprint is enormous. However, the beneﬁt of reducing each individual building’s impact on the environment is coupled with the opportunity for the building owner to cut costs.
Why buildings? It is quite revealing that amidst all of the attention being paid to vehicles, it’s a surprise to many that buildings are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that globally, commercial built environment produces 48% of the worlds’ greenhouse gases annually (transportation is 27%). Seventy-six percent of all electricity generated by power plants is used to operate buildings. While it is important that cleaner and more eﬃcient transportation options meet the market’s demand, buildings require even more attention if energy costs and climate change are to be managed for the sake of the economy and the environment, which impacts us all sooner or later. This is the utmost reason we at Green Facilities Limited are poised to help combat climate change through effective sustainable facilities management.
The economic incentive behind greening existing buildings is based on the revenue streams that can be generated. For example, before getting started on a green building project, a real-time, lifecycle cost analysis, and energy consumption forecast of the building can be done that will show exactly where the project can create and deliver real eﬃciencies and dollar to Naira savings. Conventional wisdom suggests that the construction costs of a building will pale in contrast to the costs to operate a building during its existence. Understanding that energy and operations account for approximately 75% of a building’s costs over a lifetime—whereas design and construction costs are 11 percent and ﬁnancing is approximately 14 percent in that same timeframe makes an existing building the perfect candidate for a green retroﬁt.
The process of retroﬁtting an existing building to make it a high performance green building is the ﬁrst step. Ensuring that the building is now operating as expected is the second and arguably, the most critical step. In a typical oﬃce building, energy use accounts to 30% of operating costs, the largest single category of controllable costs. If you can upgrade equipment and day-to-day operations to reduce those costs, you not only save money, but you reduce the amount of greenhouse gases spewed by the local power plant which in turn conserves a natural resource, such as coal and even labour cost.
However, high performance green buildings have the reputation of costing more, they don’t have to be more costly. While the data continues to be collected as to the costs of greening a building, some products and services might be more expensive, but the savings over time are compelling. For example, after the National Geographic Society building in Washington, D.C., was retroﬁtted (1 million square feet) in 2003, it experienced a savings of 60% per square foot, or a US$600,000 savings annually. Johnson Controls delivered 75 cents per square foot on its own 440,000 square foot downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, facility, for an annual savings of US$333,000 when it completed renovations in 2005. (Source: Johnson Control)
Some savings streams can pay back in less than six months—such as recycling and other waste management practices. Water efficiency can show paybacks in less than two years. Traditional energy and lighting upgrades will pay back within 2 to 10 years. Renewable energy technologies take longer; it is worth it, but those payback periods are decreasing as better technology is developed and incentives become more realistic and available. It is up to building owners to engage their Facilities Managers in conversations like this if they are oblivious of value added services that can guarantee peace of mind or rather they can easily replace them. This is because the Facilities management market is a buyers’ market and the customers can search for better offerings rather than sticking to one that does not have the success of the client in mind.