Benchmarking your facility’s carbon footprint

September 2016 — Have you been asked to calculate your facility’s carbon footprint? Not yet? Well, the request is probably coming in the not too distant future. In last month’s article we reviewed how utility costs nearly always seem to be on facilities managers’ lists of top issues. The reasons are simple:

  • Utility costs typically are the largest single expense of any operating budget – usually between 30 to 35% of total operating costs.
  • Utility rates are rising and in many areas quite quickly. This is due to a variety of factors beyond the control of facilities managers such as increased pollution controls, weather, investments in renewables, storm hardening.
  • FMs are faced with increasing corporate initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become better environmental stewards.

It is the last bullet point that we will cover today. Even if you are reducing your energy costs, it would improve the stature of the FM group in organization to report on the facility’s carbon footprint before being asked to do so, as well as the current energy saving initiatives. Benchmarking your carbon footprint is a useful initiative, perhaps more so with the governmental requirements that are almost certainly coming as the earth warms and more leaders understand the impact of facilities on global warming.

So here is a success story that FMs should be eager to report. Yet, carbon footprint metrics are often overlooked by FMs and many benchmarking applications do not even include it. It is a surprisingly easy one to measure. If you are collecting your utility consumption, and your utility certainly does, a benchmarking application will have all it needs to calculate the carbon footprint.

Figure 1 is a partial screen shot showing the annual utilities consumption. Each value listed with the legend “CF” is needed to calculate the carbon footprint.

Figure 1 –Annual Utilities Consumption Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Figure 1 –Annual Utilities Consumption
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

From this information we can calculate our total carbon footprint.

Figure 2 –Carbon Footprint Computation Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Figure 2 –Carbon Footprint Computation
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

With this data we are able to provide a normalized carbon footprint comparison based on utility consumption. This kind of benchmarking system shows where you stand compared to your peers as shown in Figure 2. This chart is filtered for the subject building’s type of facility, office. Note that the subject building (yellow bar) is in the middle of the fourth quartile and thus in need of improvement. Implementation of some key best practices is going to be needed to change the results.

Figure 3 –Annual Carbon Footprint per Area Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Figure 3 –Annual Carbon Footprint per Area
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Your benchmarking tool should be able to provide this type of report.  A facilities manager or energies manager looking at this chart should be asking the question, “What do I do to get better, or move into the third or second quartile?” The same principals as in discussed in the previous article utility best practices can be applied to move your facility to the next better quartile (go back to last month’s article to see how to do that). In a nutshell, you should look at which utility best practices are being followed by the buildings outperforming yours, and then learn what you have to do to improve.

Articles are based on data from FM BENCHMARKING, which until the pandemic had been the online benchmarking tool for facility managers and CREs. Data tracked by FM BENCHMARKING includes cost and labor data as well as best practices for more than 95% of typical facility costs. For questions about benchmarking, please contact Peter Kimmel on LinkedIn. Peter was one of the principals of FM BENCHMARKING and now is consulting in the industry.