It's the people dummy! How your employees can provide low-cost options for high-performance buildings.


With all the focus on high-tech solutions and new sustainable architecture, we would like to take the time to recognize the day-in and day-out occupants of our built environment. Their behavior is a key ingredient to helping organizations reach sustainability goals. In typical commercial buildings, occupants are responsible for 50 to 75 percent of energy consumed through their use of lighting, equipment, and HVAC. How can you harness the power of the crowd in your buildings? Try some of these strategies:


  • Print double-sided or print to PDF. 
  • Use less packaging (buy in bulk).
  • Use electronic documents.
  • Give employees resources to contact providers of direct mail to reduce junk.
  • Use smaller margins, font size, and leading in templates to lessen the number of pages per document printed.
  • Do not use a separate cover sheet when faxing.
  • Use interoffice envelopes instead of new envelopes where possible.
  • Encourage paperless and clean-desk policies to help eliminate clutter, reduce use of raw materials, and help keep the office dust free.
  • Instead of providing hard copies of presentations and briefings, have employees bring laptops to meetings to view copy of presentations.
  • Keep all paper dry as wet paper cannot be recycled.


  •  Eliminate fax machines and move to e-fax technology.
  • Turn off computer and monitor at the end of the day.
  • Enable standby mode on your computer during breaks.
  • Set monitor displays to shut down when not in use.
  • Unplug unused devices.



  • Reuse office supplies such as binder clips, paper clips, file folders, binders, and tape flags.
  • Collect reusable bags from conferences and other events and provide for use by office as needed.
  • Eliminate physical rewards such as certificates and plaques; instead provide gift cards or more sustainable gifts that do not add to office clutter.
  • Provide separate recycling for electronics, batteries, and light bulbs.
  • When office materials (including furniture and equipment) must be replaced, search for take-back and salvage programs.


  •  Collect plastic bags and provide for reuse by staff or for take home (they make great trash bags for bathrooms, pet waste bags, dirty gym clothes bags, etc.).
  • Before events and meetings, send an e-mail reminding attendees to bring mugs or reusable cups if beverages will be served.
  • Avoid purchasing boxed meals.
  • Use less bottled water.
  • Eliminate Styrofoam products.
  • Drain all liquids from plastic bottles.
  • Wash and rinse any food remains and pour away excess liquid before placing containers in the recycling bin.


  • Turn off lights.
  • Lower blinds when the sun is at its peak.

Education and Enrollment

  • Educate employees on office consumption (such as energy and water usage, trash generation, etc.).
  • Encourage the formation of green teams.
  • Post employee manuals and similar materials online rather than distributing paper copies.
  • Host in-office education sessions on how to engage in sustainable behaviors in the office.
  • Create joint-purchasing programs with other tenants in the building to buy supplies in bulk.
  • Encourage employee exchanges by setting up informal lending libraries for items such as books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Or, set up days for people to bring in items to swap; anything not taken at the end of the day could be given to charity.
  • Offer incentives for employee engagement in sustainable behaviors.
  • Support a casual dress code to allow comfort and greater temperature variation (wear boots in the winter and short-sleeves in the summer).
  • Encourage the use of stairs over elevators.
  • Provide clear signage on what should be recycled/composted/ thrown away.
  • Adopt health and wellness initiatives.


  • Provide bike share or car share options.
  • Provide bike racks and showers.
  • Provide rideshare information or carpool boards.
  • Subsidize transit.
  • Provide carpool/vanpool/energy-efficient car parking.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements or compressed work weeks to reduce peak-time commuting.

Travel Reduction

  •  Provide teleconferencing capabilities.
  • Use web meetings through mediums such as Live Meeting, Office Communicator, SharePoint, and TelePresence.
  • Travel only if essential for business purposes.
  • Opt for rail over air.
  • Select environmentally preferred hotels.
  • Rent a fuel-efficient vehicle.
  • Use online conferences; limit conference attendance and have employees report back to the rest of the organization.

Single Occupancy Vehicle or Fleet Vehicle Protocols

  • Consider a partial- or zero-emissions vehicle.
  • Use a small car for commuting.
  • Tune up.
  • Fill air in tires.
  • Combine trips when possible.

Green Protocols to Consider as Part of Building Operations

Whether a facility is owned or leased, the size of a facility, the length of lease, and other factors determine the level of control a company has over the operation of a building it occupies. That said, consider the following as a checklist for affecting operations at the building or floor level:


  • Turn off the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system when employees are not working in space, i.e., from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. every day and on weekends.
  • Use programmable thermostats.
  • Install meters or submeters to track energy and water use.
  • Clean HVAC filters regularly.
  • Use high-efficiency hand dryers instead of paper towels.
  • In buildings with operable windows, ensure all windows (and storm windows, if applicable) are closed tightly.
  • Consider setting hot water heaters to lower temperatures (120 degrees Fahrenheit should be sufficient).
  • Purchase energy using renewables when possible.


  • Use potable water only when needed for health or safety reasons.
  • Use low-flow tabs or tab aerators.
  • Install dual-flush and low-flow toilets.
  • Install waterless or low-flow urinals. Ensure cleaning staff is educated in proper maintenance of waterless urinals.


  •  Provide recycling collection area.


  • Encourage cleaning companies to clean spaces during the day in order to reduce energy use during off-hours.
  • Use Green Seal certified cleaning products.
  • Add plants to the office to help clean the air (but be sure to keep them clean and healthy so they do not contribute mold spores or get dusty).
  • Implement integrated pest management.


  • Regularly audit facilities for leaks and other areas where energy and water might be wasted (such as dimmable light switches that get stuck just before the off position).
  • Engage in commissioning as part of project and beyond.
  • Consider third-party reporting.


These points are adapted from BOMI International's course High-Performance Sustainable Building Principles, part of the new High-Performance Program. Visit for more details.

Rapidly Renewable: The Next Wave in Environmentally Responsible Paper Products


A recent article in the Facility Management Magazine: ISSA Today points out that even when you recycle, better options may be available to augment or even replace components of the environmental product cycle.

Paper recycling first became popular in North America and other parts of the world during the late 1970s. And today, many people consider such recycling to be one of the greenest and most sustainable steps consumers, facility managers, building users, and custodial workers can take to protect the environment, save trees, and reduce the amount of material going into landfills.

What many people don't realize, however, is that while paper recycling does have its benefits, to what degree it actually helps the environment is now open to question. It is true that a great deal of the recycled paper collected in the United States is reused by manufacturers for products, including paper towels, toilet paper, and even packaging; However, as much as one-third of recycled paper now goes to China to be used for boxes and other packaging materials as well as in product manufacturing. And to reach China, used paper must first make its way through a long process that consumes a great deal of energy and other resources:

  •  Waste handlers pick up used paper from U.S. facilities; it is then processed, cut, and bundled for shipping.
  • These bundles are then transported, usually by truck or rail, to an American port city.
  • The paper is loaded onto ships and sent to China.
  • Once in China, the paper is transported, usually by truck or train, to paper mills. The paper is cleaned and de-inked using special chemicals and further processed if necessary.
  • It is then shaped and repackaged for transport.
  • Finally, the paper is delivered by rail for use in China—or returned to the United States, reversing the entire shipping process.

All this transport and processing consumes a great deal of energy, fuel, and water that generate considerable greenhouse gasses—all to "benefit the environment." Sadly, as can be seen, while recycling does reduce the number of trees harvested for use in paper products, the entire process can have a considerable negative impact on the environment in a variety of ways.

This is why many environmental experts now believe minimizing the amount of trash hauled off to landfills is no longer the key environmental concern. Instead, they believe Issues related to climate change and "carbon sequestration" are far more important to protecting the current environment.

Carbon sequestration refers to minimizing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere via the burning of carbon-based fuels by absorbing or sequestering it back into the environment. It is a relatively new concept that is becoming increasingly important due to growing concerns that high concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are contributing to global climate change and resulting in the growing number of extreme weather events, such as tornados, hurricanes, severe droughts, blizzards and more. Unfortunately, processing and transporting recycled paper can release unnecessary volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is why many environmentalists now suggest putting less emphasis on paper recycling and more emphasis on using paper products manufactured using "rapidly renewable trees" that are grown and harvested in a sustainable manner.

Did You Know?

  • Energy use can account for more than 30 percent of a company's operating budget
  • More than 40 percent of municipal solid waste in the United States is paper—about 71.8 tons a year
  • Only 22 percent—or 19 million tons—of the 85.5 million tons of paper used annually in the United States is recycled.

Source: University of California- Los Angeles

Renewable Plantations

Older trees serve the planet and the environment in many ways: They protect wildlife; promote the growth of other types of vegetation, including other trees; remove pollutants, including greenhouse gases, from the air; and produce oxygen.

Unfortunately, a large number of the trees harvested in the United States that are used for manufacturing, construction, or paper are oldhave traditionally been growing for decades or, in some cases, even centuries. This holds true in many other parts of the world as well. However, some countries are now focusing on growing rapidly renewable trees as an alternative to harvesting older-growth trees. Rapidly renewable materials must have a harvest cycle of 10 years or less and include materials such as wood from eucalyptus and acasia trees, bamboo, and cork. These rapidly renewable trees are being grown on tree farms—often called plantations—which are monitored by organizations such as the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Founded in 1999, the PEFC is a nonprofit, nongovernmental, third-party organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management systems. Among other efforts, PEFC assesses tree plantations and then verifies that old trees are being protected and rapidly renewable trees are being planted to promote sustainable forestry. (Performing the same function in the United States is the American Tree Farm System, the largest and oldest woodland certification system, which is internationally recognized by the PEFC.)

Young Fibers

Rapidly renewable trees are grown much like other crops, often reaching maturity in as few as six to 10 years. They are grown and harvested in ways that protect forests, the landscape, and other vegetation. When harvested, they are processed to produce "young fibers," which are turned into "young paper products," referring to products manufactured using a higher concentration of fibers from rapidly renewable trees.

Rapidly renewable trees and the fibers they produce are best suited for use in paper and paper-related products. Young trees often have lower-density, shorter fibers, which do not offer the same amount of strength and stiffness as the fibers from older-growth trees. These fibers have an increased potential for shrinkage, which can make them a poor choice for such uses as building construction. Plus, these fibers often are softer and more absorptive than their older counterparts and require less chemicals for whitening.

While they do have their limitations, young fibers harvested from rapidly renewable sources can help reduce our consumption of valuable old-growth trees. And unlike recycling paper, using these materials also saves considerable amounts of fuel, energy, and water. In fact, it is now suggested that focusing on growing more rapidly renewable trees may be equally, if not more beneficial for the environment—promoting both carbon sequestration and sustainability—than paper recycling.

The use of rapidly renewable trees are catching on to the point that already facilities can earn one Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design credit by using rapidly renewable building and construction materials, and their use is also an option for earning a Green Cleaning Products credit as well.

Sustainable Future Products

While recycled and recyclable paper are likely to play a continued role in paper-product manufacturing in the coming years, experts predict that using rapidly renewable sources and sustainable forestry practices will serve an important market segment as well, helping to meet the growing demand for paper products around the world. This change in the marketplace presents an important opportunity for paper manufacturing and processing companies to play a significant role in protecting old-growth trees and promoting carbon sequestration on an international level.

This is why jansan distributors should not be surprised if in the not-too distant-future end customers stop asking what the recycled paper content of their products is and instead want to know how "young" the paper is and if it was sustainably produced.

The Author is Stephen P. Ashkin, President of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools that helps organizations with their sustainability efforts.

Copyright © 2010 by ISSA®
Published in FMLink

From the Experts: Top 10 Real Estate Issues

The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) recently identified common cross-industry issues that are impacting real estate executives. These issues cover shifting demographics, capital markets, new uses of technology, and the role of sustainability.  My interpretation of the results are below:

  • Demographics: An aging population will have an impact on demand for real estate, however millions of new pensioners will push fund managers to focus on asset allocation decisions on stable asset classes, including real estate. On the other hand, the redirection of public funds to retirement systems will challenge the ability to provide basic services and infrastructure.
  • Capital Markets and Finance: Liquidity leads the list of concerns. Indeed, access to capital is causing uncertainty in many industries. Specifically for real estate, the capital "hangover" from previous over-allocations will continue to limit capital for some time into the future. That being said, there is a spark of hope as cash-strapped state and local governments create development opportunities by leveraging their hard assets through Public-Private Partnerships. The dynamics of political gridlock and global economic crises, paired with civil discord in pockets around the world are also concerning for future fundraising efforts.
  • Technology: the increased use of technology in process automation and alternative workplace strategies is shrinking the need for industrial and office space. Meanwhile, the internet is turning traditional "brick and mortar" stores into showrooms, as shoppers turn to web-shopping rather than cash-and carry approach, resulting in less demand for retail space.
  • Sustainability is well-integrated through global enterprise. From corporate governance and management to reporting systems and supply chains, executives are building sustainability into the fabric of their organizations. Real estate is still and will continue to be the primary focus in many corporations' sustainability strategies.