A sustainable future goes beyond buildings

A sustainable future goes beyond buildings
Home Insights A sustainable future goes beyond buildings

A sustainable future goes beyond buildings

As the facilities management (FM) industry comes together to celebrate World FM Day, James Gregg, Managing Director of Wates FM, shares his insight on the vital role FM has to play in shaping the future of the built environment and the industry’s secret to a more sustainable future.  

In facilities management, we look after buildings and in most cases, this is for long-term periods.

This puts us in a unique and privileged position to support and influence how these assets are maintained. We are there to improve building performance. In short, it is our responsibility to support our customers to improve sustainability; if we didn’t do so, we simply wouldn’t be doing our job.

At Wates, we see ourselves as custodians for customers. If there is a better way to do something, then we will proactively take ideas to them and make recommendations for improvements. Sustainability is a big part of this. Just last year, we were awarded a Green Apple Award in partnership with JLL for an innovative project to trial an Energy Management System (EMS) to aid intelligent building management and reduce carbon emissions. We have since built on the success of this with a Next Generation Maintenance model to help prolong the lifespan of JLL’s assets. Together we are looking to the future to ensure intelligent and efficient operations. This is what FM providers should be doing as a matter of course.

Change before you have to

To really lead in our industry, we need to adopt change before it is needed. In this sense, we stay one step ahead, preempting (and addressing) imminent challenges before we have arrived at them. By operating in this way, we have the potential to meaningfully overcome some of the major issues surrounding sustainability. This is where investment in people is so important.

Our industry will only ever be as strong as the people within it, and I believe that a sustainable future is only possible if we recruit, develop and nurture fresh talent. At Wates, we bring apprentices into our business, commit to strong diversity and inclusion targets in our contracts and nurture talent within. So much is said about Next Generation Maintenance but we also need to focus on Next Generation People.

In it for the long haul

One of the greatest things about FM is the longevity of contracts; it creates the perfect opportunity to build partnerships based on mutual trust. Working with an organisation for a long period enables FM providers to get under the skin of a business’ culture and when that happens, we can become part of cultural change.

We have been delivering FM services for HMRC since 2019, a contract that has grown significantly over time due to our solutions-driven partnership approach. More recently this has seen us work collaboratively to develop a new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy, which includes a whole host of initiatives to improve building performance and employee welfare, and reduce HMRC’s carbon footprint. As part of this, we introduced HMRC to the Wates Innovation Network (WIN) portal, a network of innovation partners that provide green technologies and services, giving our customers the chance to see for themselves the sustainable solutions available to them.

Make it real

We can all approach sustainability from slightly different viewpoints. For some, it is purely a path to net zero, whereas for others like myself it also involves the wider legacy of our work. Whatever your viewpoint, we can all agree that making a tangible difference is vital. We make long-term commitments to our customers but these don’t mean anything without complete transparency. We need to demonstrate what is possible so that we can give assurance that our work will have an impact.

This has been our ethos for two recent contracts with Mott MacDonald and DLA Piper, both of which have also connected with the WIN portal to assess their options for sustainable technologies to ensure that when assets are replaced, this is done with efficiency built in. These investments come down to something very vital, especially given the rising costs currently faced by businesses, and that is Return on Investment. Any new investment needs to show monetary return and sustainability is no different. But what our industry must never forget is that while budgets will always be a huge consideration, the valuable assets in FM go beyond financial investment – when it comes to sustainability, the people in our industry are our secret weapon.