06/01/2022 | by
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After two years of pandemic disruption, REIT and facility management leaders are now facing the start of what will be a new reality for the next decades. Energy efficiency, carbon footprint and health and safety requirements for your properties will be required to reach higher and higher levels of compliance, driven by local, state and federal regulations and by the expectations of your tenants and their employees and guests.

This massive shift creates a new opportunity for REITs to see their on-site engineers in an elevated role as strategists who drive ongoing energy efficiency to simultaneously help you meet rising energy efficiency, sustainability, occupant experience and business goals.

Green Reality

With buildings representing 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Regulations are being put in place across the country to make significant changes in the coming years.

New York City’s Green New Deal and Local Law 97 will require most buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions limits by 2024, with stricter limits going into effect in 2030. Similar efforts are in place in California. The SEC has recently proposed a requirement for companies to disclose carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, both direct and indirect.

It’s time for integrated and measurable action from REITs to property managers, facility leaders on the on-site engineers and specialists who make it happen 24/7.

Air Imperatives

Modernization and upgrades to HVAC systems is one place to make an immediate and significant impact to exceed carbon footprint and occupant experience goals. In a recent article, the World Economic Forum reported that every dollar spent on energy efficiency returns $3 over time and saves $2 in energy supply investment. With the right engineering approach, REITs can improve air quality while generating savings and meeting energy efficiency goals.

Strategic Engineering

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ABM works with leading companies across diverse industries from some of the world’s largest distribution centers, manufacturers, airports and stadiums to universities, commercial properties and more than 50 REITs. As a former commissioning chief engineer, I have seen the need for the role to evolve to become more strategic to help clients meet their more ambitious goals.

From a frontline perspective, the opportunity is to combine a data-driven, long-range strategy with flawless execution and measurement at the building level. This includes the critical operations of building systems, vital preventative maintenance, along with a roadmap and expedited access to experts in specialized technical services.

Building Ecosystem

Our most innovative clients view their building as an ecosystem and not as a series of separate systems. This perspective helps clients take a more holistic and adaptive approach to meet and exceed facility needs, predict next steps and plan for capital investments.

  • Energy Efficiency: Instead of focusing on one power-hungry system at a time, greater gains are often seen by optimizing overall power consumption across HVAC, lighting and other energy systems unique to your building and geography. Proactive engineering teams are well aware of where to generate the greatest gains.
  • Indoor Air Quality and Air Conditioning: Comfort and operational efficiency will always be the top HVAC priorities; however, increasing indoor air quality and air ventilation rates is shown to help reduce pathogens and viral spread while improving productivity by reducing carbon dioxide in offices.
  • EV Charging: New legislation is emerging to install more EV charging stations to meet zero carbon goals. As the EV market grows, a nationwide push for a more robust charging infrastructure will follow. The City and County of San Francisco may have set the blueprint for future legislation by enacting requiring commercial parking lots and garages with more than 100 parking spaces to install EV charging stations in at least 10% of the spaces by January 2023. For REITs, electrical systems upgrades and pre-wiring will likely be required to support more charging ports. With the right planning, facilities can work ahead to give EV drivers an amenity they will welcome and expect.

Specialized Response

Another benefit of the strategic engineer is ensuring that REIT decision makers have expedited access to specialized technical services. This puts your facility leaders in a position to think long term and be ready to respond to urgent building needs, to severe weather events and to new or changing legislation.

Clients tell us that single-point accountability and access to industry experts who self-perform services deliver better outcomes and greater confidence in recommendations and solutions. This approach gives on-site chief engineers an expanded set of resources to proactively facilitate solutions for complex and expensive system improvements in electrical power, lighting, energy, HVAC, mechanical systems and EV charging.

Balanced Approach

In providing engineering services for more than one billion square feet of space around the country, our engineering teams understand the pressures our clients face in optimizing their building performance. From my years as a commissioning chief engineer, I know the upside of leaders who manage building systems strategically versus the tradeoffs that come from treating systems management as a cost.

As you plan for 2022 and the years ahead, ask yourself:

  • Is your building engineering managing your asset proactively?
  • Is accountability clear in the services you need?
  • Do you have access to experts for complex technical services?

We have collectively entered a new era. REITs will see greater returns on business, tenant and sustainability fronts by developing an engineering strategy for your assets that combines standardized operating procedures with a strategic multi-year roadmap. However, those plans must be supported by engineering talent in your buildings, today and for decades to come, to manage the critical day-to-day details and provide you with industry leading experts as new needs and opportunities arise.

John Rey, RPA, is Senior Vice President, Engineering at ABM. John has more than 35 years of industry engineering expertise with the previous 16 years with ABM and Able Engineering Services. He is a member of BOMA Philadelphia where he was instrumental in establishing the inaugural Engineering Committee. John currently serves as an Employer Trustee for the IUOE National Training Trust Fund. John started his career as an operating engineer before moving into engineering management in 1986.

ABM’s new Engineering+ eBook is now available for download.

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