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By Kelly Pedone

Building managers have recently sought ways to reduce their facilities’ carbon footprints. Some have incorporated daylighting and solar power in expansion projects, while others have found ways to save the planet, and their budgets, by simple everyday tasks such as recycling and turning out the lights when they leave a room.

     “Public assembly facilities are some of the largest creators of waste,” says Rip Rippetoe of Rippetoe Solutions Group and head of IAAM’s recently created
Sustainability Task Force. “We have a social responsibility to make a difference.”

     The task force was designed to create best practices guidelines for IAAM facilities. The task force plans to raise awareness of green building certification, provide an exchange of information, and set the stage for best practices in concert with the U.S. Green Building Council and other international agencies. “We want to
improve industry awareness of sustainability issues,” Rippetoe says.
 

REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE

While most people have heard of green practices and sustainability design, many may not know where to start. Some people, such as the developers of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, started from the ground up.

     The center is the largest Gold LEED certified green convention center in the United States and is the first of its kind in the world. Construction practices included crushing and recycling 95 percent of the old convention center and the inclusion of natural ventilation systems. The building’s design includes extensive use of glass for natural light and photocells on the second floor to control water.

     Assistant General Manager Claude Molinari says he realizes that 99 percent of facilities cannot have natural ventilation systems, so that’s where the little things come into play to achieve green status. Recycling is one of the best ways to do that. “It’s always cheaper just to throw things away,” he says. “But the green movement is here whether we like it or not, so we are trying to stay ahead of the game.”

     For many Americans, the idea of separating paper, plastic, aluminum and other items is simply a matter of placing the items in their own bins. While the concept is the same in a business setting, the practice can become more complicated when the actual expenses come into play. In addition to having the right recycling bins available, recycling requires man-hours to ensure that items are placed in the correct receptacles.

     At the DLCC, each meeting room had receptacles for trash only, cans and bottles only, and paper only. Molinari says that cleaning staff members felt that it was an inefficient use of their time to carry small loads from all over the building to the main recycling center. So the center created satellite recycling stations, named Green Zones, located in the service corridors behind each set of meeting rooms.

     The Green Zones act as a midpoint where small loads are dropped throughout the day adjacent to where the recyclables are collected. At the end of each day, a worker picks up cans and bottles, and paper and cardboard are picked up at the end of each week.

     “These Green Zones removed the ambiguity that some of the workers felt as to what the next step was after they cleaned the meeting rooms,” Molinari says. “We noticed an immediate increase in recyclables after the Green Zones went into place.”
 

STADIUMS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Richard Andersen, executive vice president for the San Diego Padres, says that when the team moved into PETCO Park five years ago, organization leaders wanted it to be known as the premier environmentally friendly facility in the sports world.

     “We felt that we have a civic responsibility as a downtown iconic building,” Andersen says. “When we opened, we were loaded with recycling bins but it wasn’t about getting a gold medal. We knew that if we did the right thing, then everything else would take care of itself.”

     The Padres hired Hines, an outside company, to oversee the building’s fundamental resources — refuse collection, utility usage and management of the cleaning staff in post-game scenarios, including carpentry and painting. PETCO Park diverts 39 percent of its waste through recycling or composting and has a goal of diverting 50 percent of its waste.

     The organization had special recycling bins custom-made this season with a baseball and recycling message on them. Still, officials say they know they are not capturing 100 percent of the recyclable items.

     “We need to reach out and teach our customers what goes in the bins and how important it is that they help us recycle,” says Alina Aguilar, Hines assistant general manager at PETCO Park.

     Padres officials expect to enlist volunteer groups to collect recyclable items between innings, an educational practice that takes place at other facilities, such as Fenway Park and Safeco Field.

     “It’s amazing to me that you can have a recycling bin sitting right next to a trash can and people will not place their items in the bin,” says Scott Jenkins, vice president of ballpark operations at Safeco Field. “People may recycle at home, but when they get to a ballgame, it’s the last thing on their mind.”

     The Mariners created a mascot, Captain Plastic, who makes rounds around the building to collect plastic bottles to get people thinking about recycling. Last year the team recycled 86 tons of food waste and about 25 percent of its waste stream. The team also purchases some of its food waste for compost used at the stadium.

     Labor and bins are the biggest investment in recycling, Jenkins says, but recycling can mean a reduction in hauling charges. The Mariners saved $26,000 by recycling in 2006 and $40,000 in 2007.

     “You have to look closely at your hauling costs because rates are going up on sending items to the landfill,” he says. “We get some money back from plastic, paper and cardboard and pay for items that are co-mingled and get a rebate on some items. You just have to be careful that you don’t lose those savings on labor sorting through things.”

     Jeff Blosser with the Oregon Convention Center says that since food weighs more than other waste, diverting it away from the landfill cuts down on its waste hauling expenses. Not only does the facility compost its food waste, but it also has a donation program with local food banks so that unused food goes to the homeless.

     Andersen suggests that facility managers talk with their waste hauler to see what kind of programs they have in place to help offset some expenses. The Padres partnered with a waste hauler who provides food waste bins at no cost — including bins for the employee break areas — and then picks them up after each game. The waste is turned into mulch, which is then brought back to PETCO Park and used in the landscaping.
 

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS

Seemingly routine acts that are practiced at home are instrumental in creating a green work environment. The Mariners reduced their electricity by 15 percent and natural gas by almost 30 percent by simply shutting things off when not in use. That translated to a $250,000 savings.

     “When you come to work, you don’t think about turning out a light when you leave a room because you’re not the one paying the bill,” Jenkins says. “But when you realize that you run a facility that has a $4,000-a-day utility bill, it makes you change your behavior.”

     Using a building’s automated system to its fullest potential is one way to reduce electricity and minimize its carbon footprint. Encouraging employees and patrons to use public transportation helps create a green environment. Many facilities pay their employees’ public transportation expenses. The Padres provide a bike pavilion for patrons who ride their bikes to games instead of drive.

     Upgrades that would help cut energy costs may be worth the investment in light of current electricity and gas bills. When the Oregon Convention Center expanded in 2003, it took a hard look at LEED certification. They designed a facility that collects rainwater off the roof, implemented additional natural light sources, computerized electronic lighting, and put into effect requirements that reduce the heat/air and light used when vendors move in and out.

     Many utility companies offer grants to facilities to make them more energy efficient, Rippetoe says. “Most decisions are made to either relieve the budget or generate revenue,” he says. “Start with your utility company to see how they can help.”
 

GOOD BUSINESS

Aside from doing their part to save the earth, facility managers who have implemented green practices say they have seen it pay off in business. Meeting planners send proposal requests that include knowing how environmentally friendly the building is as well as specific demands for their events.

“The more people begin to recycle and compost, the more business will pop up, and that’s how you meet your budget demands,” Molinari says. In 2006 a wind energy event sent its criteria along with its RFP, and the Pittsburgh facility surpassed the requests through their daily practices.

Officials with the Oregon Convention Center market their green practices to attract business. “We promote ourselves and our LEED certification so that meeting planners know that we already have things in place,” Blosser says. “It’s been very successful.”

Whether it’s to offset rising energy costs, attract business or be a good corporate citizen, turning green is becoming the norm as opposed to a trend. “All of us as facility managers are faced with difficult decisions of spending a finite amount of money each year,” Andersen says. “As we look at dividing the pie, we need to realize that we need to get out in front of this train. Also, the whole idea of how people feel about us as a business and their desire to participate with us in a positive way is enhanced. People really respect us as civic services, and we need to do more than just take their money at the gate.”
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Kelly Pedone is a Virginia-based freelance writer. She has more than a decade of experience writing for newspapers, legal journals and health publications as well as sports, entertainment and retail magazines.
 

 

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