Making public facilities sustainable
Editor’s note: For this Government Product News Special Report, we spoke with Susan Haifleigh, director of sustainability solutions at Boston-based VFA (www.vfa.com), a provider of solutions for facilities capital planning and asset management, about some ways to incorporate green initiatives into facilities planning.
GPN: Can you offer an example of a green initiative that can save local and state governments money in their facilities/buildings?
SH: Take the replacement of flooring materials. Whereas a conventional floor replacement might be broadloom carpet, the green alternative could be recycled carpet tile. Although the initial cost of the carpet tile is higher, it has a longer life span (compare 10 years for broadloom with a minimum of 15 years for tile) and emits less chemical toxins post-installation. Thus the long-term savings is substantial. The organization making the substitution also benefits by improving their indoor environmental quality with the green product.
GPN: How can governments make exterior lighting more environmentally friendly?
SH: Typically, we first look at the possibility of installing exterior lighting fixtures that are more energy efficient. However, a number of factors come into play with exterior lighting. One is the potential detrimental effect of over-lighting, which can cause light pollution for surrounding neighbors and businesses. In this case, the solution is targeted not at cost reduction, but instead at quality of life and productivity issues. By adding shields on outdoor luminaires so that they do not directly emit light into the sky, the “light drift” is minimized.
GPN: Do you have any advice for local/state administrators about incorporating green initiatives into their capital planning?
SH: I would recommend that administrators consider their green initiatives within the larger organizational mission. By prioritizing sustainability as one aspect of the whole picture, the capital planning process can easily become seamless and less burdensome. The very nature of looking at the large diverse portfolios of local/state governments from this perspective promotes partnership and people working together to accomplish something that is holistic to the entire organization. In our own work, we have developed our methodology and our software platform as supportive tools which provide our clients with the information they need to make key decisions about which green alternative are viable and what funding levels make sense to reach their mission/goals within their capital budget framework.