Posted on 08/24/2015

By Susan Buchanan, Senior Director, Assessment Services

When evaluating sustainability initiatives, it is necessary to have metrics that define and measure both current and future building performance. There are several green ratings systems that can be employed as whole building guidelines, including:

  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED®-EB O&M)
  • Green Globes® for Continual Improvement of Existing Buildings (CIEB)
  • Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC)
  • BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

A typical facilities condition assessment (FCA) gathers data on facility condition, the lifecycle of different systems within the facility, code compliance, functionality, and efficiency, among other aspects. Integrating sustainability into the FCA process using, for example, LEED-EB O&M requirements as a guideline, adds metrics like energy efficiency and water conservation to the assessment.

Green Opportunities

After the performance metrics have been established, the company can identify green opportunities, while also looking at the overall facility condition. Common green opportunities include high-efficiency lighting, automated building management systems, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, materials with recycled or bio-based content, and indigenous landscape requiring low or no maintenance. This part of the process involves objectively capturing data and identifying the green options, deciding which of these options are most aligned with the company’s capital planning objectives.

Once the opportunities have been identified, the next step is to evaluate them in the context of the overall capital plan. When evaluating the options, it is important to remember the initial investment for resource-saving alternatives may have a rapid payback period or a more prolonged ROI (return on investment).

The best way to evaluate all the options is to develop a list of parameters that represent important priorities for the company, such as cost, potential energy savings, and impact on overall facility condition. Using these parameters, company management can make an informed, data-driven decision regarding the alternatives.

Following this approach will allow a company to determine:

  • the current state of its facilities’ condition and sustainability
  • alternatives for sustainable upgrades of facilities
  • cost and payback of these upgrades
  • which upgrades are the most important
  • how to incorporate the upgrades into an established facilities capital plan and budget.

With the right framework and tools in place, an organization can evaluate the sustainability of its existing facilities, reduce its environmental impact and promote a healthier built environment. Whether a company already has a sophisticated sustainability program or is newly engaged in this effort, it is desirable to evaluate and prioritize green options while remaining aligned with the overall business mission.

This blog post is derived from Susan Buchanan’s article, “Integrating Sustainability Programs into the Facilities Capital Planning Process,” which originally ran in the March/April 2011 issue of Facilities Manager, the official magazine of APPA. To read the full article, visit here. To learn more about APPA, visit