Sustainable cleaning a top priority
Building and facility management teams are constantly striving to ensure their facilities perform at a superior level. Optimising efficiency and increasing productivity are usually top of mind when establishing new processes for managing facilities.
Throughout 2015, another operational aspect that has been cast into the spotlight is the introduction of environmentally sustainable practices.
A key part of being environmentally sustainable is implementing green cleaning processes to reduce a building’s footprint on the environment. Reducing chemical usage, limiting water use and encouraging recycling are all important techniques to ensure your business is environmentally sustainable.
In property management circles, we’re also seeing an increased focus on obtaining strong ratings through the likes of the National Australia Building Environment Rating System (NABERS). One way that businesses are looking to increase their ratings is through waste reduction and curbing water usage.
With the rise of ‘chemical free cleaning’, sometimes referred to as ‘green’ or ‘sustainable cleaning’, facility managers are reviewing cleaning methods and products with environmentally friendly ingredients. There are a number of ways facility managers can implement green cleaning, from their choice of detergents to the implementation of a system that removes chemicals all together.
What are the benefits of sustainable cleaning?
For many of our clients, the most immediate benefit is a reduction in water and chemical consumption. While infection control and prevention is the main driver, a secondary and often instant benefit is a cost saving in these areas, resulting from sustainable cleaning. Implementing a sustainable system can also result in increased productivity and greater efficiency, as a reduction in the use of chemicals eliminates previously required steps in the cleaning process.
Here are reasons why sustainable cleaning should be a key part of your facility management program in 2016:
1. Sharp reduction in the use of chemicals
As sustainable cleaning practices become more important to facility managers, there is a shift away from the use of harsh chemicals to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Too often facility managers rely on chemicals to provide a thorough clean; however, there are alternatives.
Microfibre has fast gained attention because of its ability to remove fine particles, bacteria, microbes, and oils hidden in surface crevices, that cotton sponges or cloths typically cannot reach. Microfibre products completely remove microbes, with less water and without the need to use harsh chemicals that often kill but don’t remove bacteria. In some cases, the use of microfibre allows chemicals to be cut out of the cleaning process, with up to a 95 percent reduction in chemical volume used.
Microfibre, when used in conjunction with chemicals or steam, is a ‘fail-safe’ option because the chemical or steam kills the microbe and the microfibre removes it from the surface. This ensures the bacteria does not spread and, at the same time, eliminates the food source for other bacteria.
2. Minimising water usage
Traditionally, when cleaning a facility there is often a reliance on water; however, a considerable amount of this valuable resource is wasted through mopping or cleaning surfaces with a wet cloth.
For many facility managers, now is the time to start taking measures to decrease water usage by introducing innovative cleaning methods. Not only will limiting water usage cut operational costs for the business, it will decrease the business’ impact on the environment.
An important step towards curbing water usage is to use products, such as microfibre cloths, which drastically reduce the amount of water required for a thorough clean. Microfibre products give managers the advantage of doing less with more, contributing to the goal of sustainable cleaning.
In addition to cleaning with microfibre, there are other steps facility managers can take to reduce water usage:
- fix leaking taps
- choose efficient showers, toilets, taps, plumbing and appliances that save water
- consider using rainwater storage tanks
- reuse water where possible to reduce the consumption of clean water where it is not needed (e.g. cleaning floors), and
- check the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme to find information about the water efficiency of products.
These simple steps towards curbing water usage are essential for facilities to achieve top recognition for sustainable cleaning.
1. Encourage recycling to reduce waste costs
Managing waste within a facility involves anything from the promotion of recycling to the strategic placement of bins around populated areas. An efficient waste management system not only stores rubbish, it can also help reduce operational cost. Sustainable cleaning coupled with waste management creates a working environment that is more cost-effective and sanitary.
Getting tenants involved in recycling can be difficult and often facility managers need to come up with incentives to encourage them. The following tips can help you promote recycling with tenants:
- place bins on each floor or workspace for recyclables
- use educational posters that detail the benefits of recycling, and
- create an educational competition between workspace areas to incentivise recycling.
2. Be compliant and industry leading
As facility managers become more aware of sustainable cleaning practices, there will be an inevitable increase in the importance of adhering to stronger environmental guidelines such as NABERS. This is an active step toward improving a facility’s environmental footprint.
The NABERS star rating represents a facility’s operational performance, using 12 months of measured performance information, such as energy or water bills, or a waste audit. A NABERS accredited rating can help managers meet tenant expectations for greener buildings and workplaces, and encourages best practice by providing realistic benchmarks that encourage owners to minimise their impact on the environment. A 4+ star NABERS rating can help identify cost saving opportunities and facility managers can use NABERS to measure the performance of their facilities.
Facilities that are designed and built with sustainability in mind improve their competitive advantage to attract top tier tenants.
Future proofing your facility
In Australia, the healthcare sector has helped spearhead sustainable and green cleaning, and we are now starting to see the same developments in the aged care and property management sectors. With a number of successful green cleaning and microfibre case studies starting to emerge, facility managers are actively seeking out more information on how to transform their cleaning processes. Driven by an appetite for higher level of cleanliness, greater efficiency, cost savings and increased compliance, it won’t be long before sustainable cleaning becomes the norm, and these new innovative cleaning technologies are used throughout Australia.
The author of this article, Alicia Fenwick, is senior manager, brand activation, at Rubbermaid Commercial Products. This article also appeared in the February/March print edition of Facility Management.