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In the modern era, being environmentally friendly and sustainable are key to facilities management and businesses in all industries to save money, time, and contribute to the wider green initiatives and expectations in the UK. Turning your business into a green workplace will benefit not just the environment but the business as a whole.

What is a Green Workplace?

A green workplace can be defined as “a workplace that is environmentally sensitive, resource efficient, and socially responsible.” This involves adapting as the world of business and economics evolves, as well as adopting new sustainable strategies in line with the business’ budget and profit needs. Green workplaces are encouraged by the UK government, with an array of environmental taxes, reliefs, and schemes for businesses to reward operating in sustainable and eco-friendly ways.

Set Sustainability Goals and Targets

Getting started with sustainability can feel like being thrown into the deep end. Make sure to set clear, attainable sustainability goals and targets by analysing your available resources and working out what you’re able to achieve. Going fully green may take several years, especially if it requires structural changes to the building, so consider a realistic timeline for your green initiatives.

Increasing Facility Energy Efficiency

Many factors contribute to your workplace’s overall energy efficiency. These factors are typically closely linked with ‘hard services’ in facility management such as mechanical, electrical, and construction. A commercial building will receive an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating calculated based on several factors: the type of construction of the building; whether different parts/zones of the building are used for different purposes; the HVAC and plumbing systems used; the lighting used throughout the building. Improving upon these EPC factors will increase your facility’s energy efficiency.

For lighting, simple upgrades such as LED bulbs can provide quick and easy improvement to your energy efficiency. If you’re able to invest more money and time, there are also smart lighting systems available to improve the efficiency of your building’s lighting. These include “energy-efficient light fixtures, automatic light dimmers and lighting systems that connect to occupancy sensors, motion detectors or daylight sensors.” Many new buildings will be built with these energy-efficient systems in mind; however, old buildings can still benefit from these improvements with retroactive fitting.

Reducing Energy Consumption

Encourage your employees and visitors to reduce their energy consumption. British Gas suggests everyday ways you can save energy in the workplace: never leave lights on in unoccupied rooms; switch off appliances that are not in use; and make use of blinds and curtains. Alongside building improvements, everyday changes such as these can go a long way.

Recycling and Waste Disposal

Employ the three R’s in your waste management: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Ensure your building has efficient waste disposal methods available and help reduce landfill waste by providing reusable and recyclable alternatives. For example, you can discourage the use of single-use plastic by providing refillable water bottles to employees.

Green Cleaning

Furthermore, as part of your facilities’ cleaning regime, you can use eco-friendly refillable cleaning products. Not only will using non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products benefit your sustainability and not pollute nearby water with toxic chemicals, “they can also provide a safer working environment for your team.”

Planned Preventative Maintenance

Planned preventative maintenance throughout the year helps to reduce the need for urgent reactive repairs as equipment should break less. Alongside saving money and assets in the long term, this helps reduce waste from non-working parts and machinery.

Thermal engineering is a complex, specialised area of mechanical engineering that can be difficult to understand. National Thermal Engineer Day is celebrated in July, so in celebration, we are looking into what thermal engineers do and what they bring to the world of Facility Management (FM).

What is Thermal Engineering and What Does a Thermal Engineer Do?

Thermal engineering is a specialised subset of mechanical engineering that deals with “the movement of heat energy and transfer.” This energy can be “transformed between two mediums or transferred into other forms of energy,” so thermal engineers must “have knowledge of thermodynamics and the process to convert generated energy from thermal sources into chemical, mechanical, or electrical energy.”

Where Does Thermal Engineering Fit into Facility Management?

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging is a technology that translates “thermal energy (heat) into visible light in order to analyse a particular object or scene.” It can be used in facilities management as a cost-effective way to maintain buildings and electrical equipment, such as by showing when a building is losing heat or whether equipment and/or machinery is heating/cooling as expected.

Thermal imaging and analysis can also be used to spot issues such as “heat loss and insulation gaps” throughout the building. This helps facility managers keep track of and update their sustainability and eco-friendly efforts, as well as ensure proper ventilation and airflow in the building.

Planned Preventative Maintenance

As part of recurring maintenance, thermal imaging can be used in your mechanical and electrical facility management services to find failures in the respective systems. A common cause of many problems with electrical systems can be “abnormal heating” that is “associated with high resistance or excessive current flow.” Thermal imaging used in planned preventative maintenance and routine inspections helps to detect internal heating issues and allow you to prevent the issues from escalating.

Thermal imaging can also be utilised in your routine and ad-hoc HVAC inspections as part of your mechanical facility management services. Using thermal imaging, you’re able to scan your HVAC systems to easily find issues or potential issues:

  • “Check the HVAC system for loose electrical connections, misaligned ducts, air leaks, clogged air filters and leaking condensation,
  • Scan the thermostat to ensure its readings are not affected by a light switch or other warm connection nearby,” ensuring that your heating systems are functioning correctly,
  • “Inspect the electrical systems, starting with the fuse box. Look for overheating, overloaded circuits, and loose connections,
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they are active,
  • Scan near plumbing lines, bathrooms, and along walls for evidence of water leaks.” Plumbing leaks can lead to mould growth and damage your building, so identifying problems before they happen using thermal imaging can save you time and money.

Fire Safety

Facility management encompasses a range of services, one of which is the role of fire safety in the workplace. Thermal imaging can be used in your business’ fire and security services to look for potential fire hazards in electrical equipment or wiring, as well as rising heat levels in specific points of the building. Potential and rising issues can then be dealt with accordingly. This contributes to a larger fire safety plan to protect your office from fire hazards.

Groundskeeping and maintenance is a key soft service in Facilities Management, keeping the outdoor areas of your facility looking fresh and healthy. Seasonality should play a vital role in the annual planning of your grounds maintenance, due to the varying weather conditions throughout the year and seasonal needs of plants and foliage. This summer, keep on top of your facility’s grounds maintenance by focusing on the following areas.

Grass Cutting

Overgrown or untidy grass can make your business’ facilities look unkept and less inviting. Grass tends to grow faster in the summer (depending on the type of grass) when there is more sunlight, so make sure to include frequent mowing in the maintenance schedule. However, don’t cut too short, as this can reduce the overall health of the grass through dehydration.

Pruning

Alongside cutting the grass, grounds maintenance activity in summer largely consists of pruning shrubbery, hedges, and trees. It’s important to keep on top of pruning and making sure that any diseased, defective, or dead parts of the shrubbery are removed to encourage growth and restoration. Pruning also helps you stay more in control of the aesthetics of the facility’s outdoor spaces.

Plant and Lawn Watering

In the summer, we’re (sometimes) fortunate enough to experience hot weather. This can affect your groundskeeper’s plant watering routine, such as watering in the morning to make sure plants have enough water before the day’s heat sets in.

Weed Control

As the weather gets warmer, you may see an increase in weeds growing around the outside of your facilities. Weeding is one of the least preferred summer grounds maintenance tasks, but it can be necessary for businesses looking to keep their gardens and pathways looking neat and tidy.

Pest Control

Pest control is yet another soft service in facility management and may be necessary for your building during the summer. You may find signs of insect damage or rodent infestations while tidying your facility’s outdoor spaces, leading to the need for pest control services so your workplace can enjoy a pest-free summer.

Outdoor Areas: Repairs, Maintenance, and Arrangement

Plenty of workplaces have outdoor areas enjoyed by staff and/or visitors, which are typically used more frequently in the warmer months of summer. It’s a good idea to make sure that outdoor furniture and fixtures are in good condition before they see more frequent use, and to replace any overly worn items.

Has your outdoor space looked the same since the business moved in? Consider utilising this summer maintenance opportunity to rearrange and refresh your outdoor areas to be more inviting and modern.

Cleaning & Clearing Up

Areas leading up to and around your facility, especially walkways, should always be kept clean and clear of debris to ensure the safety of employees and visitors. Your outdoor spaces may become busier during the summer months, meaning you may need to implement an altered cleaning routine during the season.

You don’t have to be an expert gardener to keep up with garden maintenance tasks for the summer, but if you’re struggling to meet the demands, get in touch with Facility Services Group to take care of your soft services for you.

As a facility manager, you are responsible to ensure the safety, comfort, and wellbeing of staff, visitors, and anyone else in the building. Office fire safety, including fire safety plans and systems, is one of many important aspects of facility management, ensuring the safety of anyone using the facilities and the building itself.

Responsibility for Office Fire Safety

Responsibility for the fire safety of a workplace lies with the employer, owner, landlord, occupier, and/or anyone else with control of the premises (including facility managers) – hereafter referred to as the “responsible person.”

As the responsible person in your workplace, there are certain tasks you must carry out:

  • Conduct a “fire risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly,
  • Tell staff or their representatives about the risks you’ve identified,
  • Put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures,
  • Plan for an emergency,
  • Provide staff information, fire safety instruction and training.”

Shared Buildings and Communal Areas

Many businesses share their office buildings with other businesses, meaning that there is likely to be more than one responsible person for the fire safety of the whole shared premises. As the responsible person representing your share of the building, you’ll need to make sure that you coordinate fire safety plans with the other occupants. Regarding common or shared areas, “the responsible person is the landlord, freeholder or managing agent.”

Why is Fire Safety So Important?

Employee & Visitor Safety

Having robust fire safety plans and working systems in place protects the well-being and safety of employees and visitors. Planning for a fire emergency and how to get everyone to evacuate the building safely are imperative to avoid injury and death. Preventative measures, such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets, help to avoid fires starting or spreading.

Protect the Building & Business

Fire safety and preventative measures also protect the structure and function of the building itself. Damaged premises are extremely costly to repair or rebuild; even when you have buildings insurance, there is significant disruption and financial loss caused by closing the business for repairs/rebuilding after an emergency.

Fireco recommends the SIMPLE method to help reduce your facility’s fire risk:

  • S – Store stock safely.
  • I – Identify the alarm points.
  • M – Make sure fire doors are kept closed.
  • P – Place flammable (able to catch fire) items away from objects which could cause a fire.
  • L – Let someone know if you spot something dangerous.
  • – Ensure everyone knows what to do when there’s a fire.

Legal Compliance

You have a legal obligation, as the responsible person, to carry out the necessary fire safety measures for your workplace. Upon an inspection from your local fire and rescue authority, you may receive informal or formal warnings to fix issues that aren’t up to the required safety standard. Failure to fix issues and comply with workplace fire safety regulations can result in a fine of up to £5,000 (for minor penalties) or unlimited fines and up to 2 years in prison (for major penalties).

Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) for Fire Systems

Scheduled maintenance services, or Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM), are crucial in catching issues early and keeping essential systems working correctly. Similarly to domestic buildings, your fire detection and alarm systems should be inspected regularly to make sure they are in working order and up to code. This includes checking fire alarms, emergency lighting, fire exit signs, fire escape routes are clear, and automatic fire doors are opening and closing correctly.

Facilities management comprises ‘hard services’ and ‘soft services,’ with the former relating to functionally important (such as mechanical and electrical) systems and the latter to less structural services such as cleaning and grounds maintenance. Inspired by National HVAC Technology Day (22 June), we’re spreading the importance of HVAC systems as part of hard facilities management services.

What Does HVAC Mean?

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. From family homes to large office buildings, these systems “provide the means for environmental comfort” by providing heating, cooling, and airflow to all buildings.

The heating element of an HVAC system typically refers to a furnace or boiler, and its “pipe system for the fluid carrying the heat or ductwork” when working with forced air systems using air ducts and/or vents. Heating is just one important factor in keeping a working environment comfortable and suitable for use, especially in the cold and wet UK weather.

Ventilation can either be natural or mechanical. Ventilating a building naturally refers to “when the natural air outside moves through your windows, doors, and vents of its own accord” without the need for “specialised equipment, construction, or add-ons.” Mechanical ventilation, then, is when this equipment is present. Modern buildings are becoming more tightly sealed and thus need both natural and mechanical ventilation. Air enters the building through a “specially designed air inlet unit” and then redistributed throughout the building, often being used to “remove dust/dirt, allergens, and various other particles” along the way.

Finally, AC or Air Conditioning refers to cooling systems that work by moving the heat from inside the building to the outside, then blowing cool air back into the building. Air conditioning machines cool the air by “blowing it over a set of cool pipes, called an evaporator coil,” similar to a refrigerator. There is specific UK government guidance to follow for people managing air conditioning systems and meeting the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations.

Why Are HVAC Systems Important?

As HVAC systems “are responsible for the regulation of heat, airflow, ventilation, and air conditioning of an entire building,” they’re essential to the comfort and safety of visitors and employees. Regarding legal compliance, the law states that “employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace.” All building owners and facility managers should opt for reliable and safe HVAC systems in their buildings.

HVAC Systems & Their Role in Returning to Work After COVID-19

HVAC systems play a vital role in the safe return to office buildings once the COVID-19 work from home order lifts. Adequate ventilation “reduces how much virus is in the air,” lowering the risk from airborne virus transmission (when optimised alongside other COVID-19 guidelines such as sanitisation, masks, and social distancing).

It’s important to make buildings COVID-secure for when employees return to office work. Alongside providing guidance to facility managers on air conditioning units and vehicle ventilation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends following these steps for HVAC systems in your building:

  1. Identify poorly ventilated areas,
  2. Assess the fresh air/ventilation,
  3. Improve natural ventilation,
  4. Improve mechanical ventilation,
  5. Balance ventilation with keeping warm.

The Future of HVAC 

There are already advancements being made in the world of HVAC technology. Cielo claims that “fully automated, super-efficient, self-learning and sustainable HVAC systems are the future.” Recent advancements in HVAC technology/capabilities include smart technology and automation, sustainable geothermal systems, ductless systems, solar-powered HVAC systems, and more. We’re moving towards a greener, more sustainable world, and facility managers need to keep up with the changing scape of cost and energy-efficient HVAC systems.

Most businesses require scheduled maintenance in one form or another. From regular HVAC inspections to fire and security alarm checks, planned maintenance tasks are key in keeping facilities running smoothly and efficiently with minimal down periods or costly repairs.

What is Scheduled Maintenance/PPM?

In facility management, scheduled maintenance – or Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) – refers to the “proactive approach to maintenance in which maintenance work is scheduled to take place regularly and consequently documented once it has taken place.” PPM is routinely performed either monthly, quarterly, seasonally, yearly, or set to a custom timeframe; it all depends on the types of maintenance in question.

There are statutory (set by the government) and regulatory (set by regulatory bodies) laws and legislation relating to PPM of which businesses must be compliant. Planned, proactive FM services help to ensure that your business is following maintenance compliance laws, legislation, and guidelines, as well as protect the health and safety of employees and visitors on the premises.

When Should You Schedule Maintenance?

Facility managers need to keep track of all planned maintenance and ensure legal compliance. It is wise to set aside maintenance windows at the beginning of the year, letting others in the business know of maintenance periods well in advance to avoid too much downtime. To do this, you’ll need to have a good idea of which maintenance tasks need to take place and when.

You will need to schedule maintenance and routine tasks for each of the following areas:

Keeping up with so many maintenance renewal dates and appointments can be difficult, especially if you’re hiring several different companies at once. Using one external company that includes a combination of FM services, such as Facility Services Group, will help you manage your PPM, dealing with maintenance and providing multiskilled engineers on your behalf in line with your renewal dates.

Why Should You Schedule Maintenance? 

The arguments for and against PPM all come down to proactive maintenance versus reactive maintenance. Businesses that rely on reactive maintenance rather than proactive, planned maintenance fix problems as they occur. Reactive repairs will cost you more in the long term compared to routine system check-ups, especially if there are severe or urgent problems.

Proactive PPM, although an additional financial commitment, is cost-effective overall due to catching small issues before they become big problems. PPM helps you stay legally compliant as well as reduces the risk of business closures due to unforeseen emergencies. Regular maintenance can also help reduce your facility’s energy bills by keeping your HVAC and power systems running efficiently.

Alongside PPM, urgent reactive maintenance may still be required sometimes for emergencies beyond your control, such as flooding. Having to close your business for a significant amount of time can cause disruption and financial loss, so it’s best to have a 24/7 emergency maintenance/repair service on hand just in case.

Workplace productivity is vital. The output of employees and the effectiveness of systems is, essentially, what makes a business grow and thrive. A productive workplace has the power to improve customer service, lower operational costs and increase profits.

While technology and staff incentives are great ways to boost workplace productivity, taking a look at the working environment is also a great idea. From building safety and comfort to staff happiness, there are a number of ways facility management can improve workplace productivity.

A clean workplace

Happy employees are productive employees – it’s a fact! It’s been scientifically proven that staff who feel happy in their environment have a far greater output than those who don’t. So it makes sense to ensure that the working environment is consistently pleasant to spend time in.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to install a luxury staffroom. Simply making sure the workplace is clean and tidy is enough. Using the cleaning services from a facility management company will deal with issues such as rubbish, carpets and washrooms, as well as external areas such as grounds and carparks.

Heating and cooling

The optimum working temperature is thought to be between 16 and 24 degrees – although there’s almost always a fight over the thermostat in the office! If the working environment is too hot or too cold, this can have an impact on staff productivity, so it’s important to get it right.

Maintaining the effectiveness of boilers and air conditioning units is vital for workplaces. A facility management company will carry out scheduled checks and maintain your systems for you, making breakdowns less likely – and meaning staff won’t have to wear their coats inside in December!

Lighting

Good lighting is essential if you want to improve workplace productivity. If staff are using technology such as computers and tablets, adequate lighting is absolutely vital. Badly placed lighting can reflect off of screens, causing glare, while dim lighting can make it hard for staff to see and result in eye strain.

A good facility management company will be able to install and maintain an effective lighting system for you. It’s also worth considering giving staff the ability to control the lighting, and allowing them to make adjustments as and when they need to.

Safety first

For employees to be really productive at work, they need to feel safe in their environment. Maintaining the building is the easiest way to keep on top of any safety issues that might arise, which will keep staff safe and the risk of accidents way down.

Choosing to use facility management services to maintain your premises is a great idea. From soft services, such as pest control and groundwork, to building maintenance, electrical testing and alarms, a facility management company will keep your working environment in top condition.

The summer is finally over, and the colder weather is approaching. When it comes to building maintenance and facility management, autumn and winter bring a whole new set of challenges – so it makes sense to be prepared. Without careful planning, the plummeting temperatures could present you with problems both inside the building, and around external areas.

We’ve rounded up our top five tasks to plan ahead for, to make sure you get through the colder months stress-free.

Check external lighting

The autumn and winter months bring less daylight and shorter days. You and your staff will find yourselves both arriving and leaving the workplace in the dark, so now is the time to get ahead with your external lighting.
Effective lighting reduces the risk of accidents and increases personal safety for staff and visitors – especially in large areas such as car parks. It also increases security, as good lighting acts as a deterrent for potential thieves. Check wiring and lamps, making sure you replace any broken components, and ensure timers, daylight and presence sensors are set correctly.

Carry out any roof and general external building maintenance

Your roof/building provides vital protection against the colder temperatures and inclement weather, so maintaining them is one of the most important facility management tasks on our list. It’s always better to address any potential issues while the weather is still reasonably good!

Loose or cracked tiles need attention, before they turn into much larger problems, and periodic gutter cleaning should ideally take place before the winter. Check downpipes for leaks or blockages. Look for gaps around window frames and inspect the surrounding sealant; any drafts or leaks should be eliminated with new seals or frames.

Tackle leaf removal

One of the most simple but necessary facility management tasks is the removal of fallen leaves. Allowing them to build up on ground surfaces in autumn and winter can be hazardous, and can become a trip/slip hazard. You will also find that if left unchecked, they can work their way into gutters and drains, causing blockages, obstructions and potential leaks. FSG are equipped to deal with all of these issues for you, utilising specialist cameras for hard to reach areas and debris removal equipment.

Plan for snow

Depending on where you are located in the UK, you might suffer heavy snowfall during the winter, so it’s best to be prepared. Even if you’re not affected by snow, the plummeting temperatures can result in slippery surfaces and treacherous black ice if not treated – so take steps to ensure you’re equipped.

Make arrangements for clearance and removal services if heavy snow is forecast for your area, and ensure you’ve got access to a plentiful grit or rock salt supply.

Check air conditioning and heating units

Autumn and winter can bring on the battle of the thermostat in workplaces, so it’s essential to make sure both your heating and cooling systems are working properly. Maintaining an optimum temperature in the building will keep staff happy, comfortable and at their most productive – and it’ll help to keep viruses and bugs at bay.

Schedule regular checks throughout the colder months to make sure everything is in order, and you’re not left wearing coats indoors when the heating fails!

We are in no doubt that having FSG on board has been a key factor in the early success and rapid growth of our new company.

Chris Hughes | Director | Skyscape Property Management Ltd

FSG are extremely customer focused and are particularly adept at finding solutions, they take ownership of a problem rather than simply processing the issues.

Clare Jenkins | Savills Management Resources, The Red Dragon Centre in Cardiff

Facilities management is not our core business. We are here to provide specialist services and with FSG working with us, we can focus on just that. Over the last 12 months, FSG have been tremendous.

Nicola Thomas | Adferiad Recovery

Our working relationship began with one emergency. That was well over ten years ago and FSG is the team I rely on every day.

Gareth Harries | Property Manager | Ethos

FSG are a superb supplier who go above and beyond to deliver consistently high levels of service. Their ability to work in some difficult and challenging circumstances has been truly impressive.

Emma Bloomfield | Facilities Manager | Arvato CRM Solutions

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