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Guest Blog

The advantages of using smart technologies in commercial buildings

As the UK Government pledges to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the urge for sustainable buildings is stronger than ever.

According to the UK Green Building Council, an estimated 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint is attributed to the built environment, half of which comes from energy used in building. Heating alone created 10% of the country’s carbon footprint. 

Yet sustainability is still out of reach for many property owners and managers. Old buildings, small budgets, tenants’ varying needs – there are many factors that make it hard for a property manager to truly measure the sustainability of a building and to act upon any findings.

Considering this, Frankie Bryon, Sustainability Surveyor at LSH discusses why smart technology can help buildings improve on sustainability as well introduce other benefits that include promoting health and wellbeing and enable agile working…

Smart is sustainable
Firms’ sustainability strategies have been a major driver of the rollout of smart technology. By providing more efficient controls over energy usage, it can deliver significant reductions in energy consumption.

It is no coincidence that some of the smartest office buildings in the world are also rated by BREEAM as among the greenest. Smart systems allow lighting, heating, air conditioning and ventilation to be monitored and adjusted according to a building’s usage and occupation. Energy wastage can be minimised by turning off heating and lighting when an office is unoccupied. Intelligent building facades may also be used to control the heat and light entering the building in response to changing weather conditions.

The next generation of energy efficient smart buildings have their own sources of power generation and some are even able to generate more energy than they consume, with surplus energy going back to the grid.

Workplace wellbeing
Smart technology is increasingly recognised as having an important role to play in promoting health and wellbeing. It can help to create environments that support alert, energised workforce. 

Sensors can monitor air and water quality, light, temperature and noise levels. Issues known to affect workers’ concentration levels such as poor air quality or a lack of natural light can thus be detected and fixed.

More advanced smart office technology can also make use of data from wearable biometric devices monitoring the health and comfort of workers. In fact, research by Instant Offices shows 45% of the UK workforce would feel comfortable with sharing information via wearable devices for the purpose of protecting their health and wellbeing. 

Ambient conditions can be adjusted when workers show signs of discomfort, or an individual’s immediate working environment can be changed according to their personal preferences.

Work smarter

Sensors, smartphones or wearable devices may collect data monitoring environmental factors such as temperature, light, air quality and noise, as well as data on employees’ usage of the building.

The data collected can deliver building managers with actionable insights on how to improve a building’s performance, or it may feed through to automated systems controlling the office environment. With smart technology continually evolving, it is being used to support an increasingly wide range of applications, providing multiple benefits to building owners, investors, occupiers and employees.

Enabling agile working
Smart technology is providing occupiers with a better understanding of who uses the office at any given time, how they work and with whom they collaborate. These insights can enable increasingly agile, flexible working.

Some of the newest generation of smart buildings have fewer desks than workers. Instead, employees may reserve a workspace using an app, with a choice of spaces depending on whether they would prefer a collaborative workspace, private meeting area or a quiet space.

Smart systems may thus facilitate a move away from the convention of employees ‘owning’ a desk, which then goes unused for periods when they are out of the office. Flexible workspaces can be used more efficiently and may be continually adapted to changing employee demand and new work styles.

Improving workplace experiences
As well as enabling desk and room bookings, workplace apps can also be used to order food and drink, book gym sessions or reserve parking spaces. They may allow employees to control ambient settings, as well as providing new ways of connecting and collaborating with colleagues.

Workplace apps are thus developing as important interfaces between employees and office buildings, giving individuals greater control over their office experience. This will help to align the modern office with the expectations of a younger workforce for whom smart technology already plays an integral part of their lifestyles outside of work.

The benefits of being smart
Overall the advantages that smart offices offer are in terms of the following:

  • Sustainability
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Agile working 
  • Workplace experience

Smart offices also aid talent attraction and retention, by creating spaces in which people want to work, while appealing to workers’ environmental values. Modern, sustainable offices can help to reinforce a company’s brand values and define a progressive, forward-thinking corporate culture.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Health & Safety

The 5 biggest health and safety compliance challenges facing FM businesses

By Lucy Atkinson, Business Support Manager, Genilogic

The main framework of Health and Safety legislation has remained the same for 45 years in the form of The Health and Safety at Work etc Act, however, business has been far less static. 

As the work we undertake in the name of FM becomes more complex, so does the risk; and in turn, the controls to keep our industry safe at work are bigger and better than before, but are we keeping up? 

We aim to point out the most common challenges to compliance within the FM industry and explore some of the ways to overcome them.

1.   Ensuring everyone is in the know

Policy and Procedure Management Problems

FM management teams are tasked with the daunting job of ensuring that all staff have visibility of all the relevant health and safety documents and policies relevant to their role. The nature of FM often means that staff can be widespread location-wise which creates a challenge.  These staff members may be tricky to reach, however, they need to not only work compliantly, they also need to work safely, or your business stands to pay the price.  It is important that these staff have the same access to information, policies and resources as the staff on the next desk from you, enabling them to operate in an informed and safe manner, whilst protecting your brand standards. The need to communicate safety procedures becomes even more important when considering the scope of FM responsibilities.  Staff must have sight of everything relevant, such as; the building regulations and documentation regarding how a facility is to be managed, any products that should or shouldn’t be used, what works require planning permission, what time of day certain tasks may be undertaken and any processes regarding notifying relevant on site contacts, to name a few.  Failure to communicate any of the above information to your staff could cost your company a contract ultimately.

Tracking Acknowledgements Simplified

Rather than sending paper copies via post and waiting for staff to read and return paperwork, upload documents to a cloud storage solution such as Google Drive, Dropbox or SharePoint.  You then can give all workers a login and have them log in and read.  You will still need to track this, whether that’s by having them upload a document to the cloud server with a list of all documents they have read and understood, along with any queries or issues they have, but at least you are being more eco-friendly whilst saving costs on printing and posting.  Bear in mind that as well as risk assessments, method statements, policies and procedures, your staff also need to see all COSHH SDS and risk assessments, as well as being provided with any control measures or PPE suggested on the assessments.  Having these documents hosted in a central library means that staff can access them from anywhere, including from site to check back if they need to clarify something before commencing works.  You may also consider giving the client access to their folder of documentation, this may offer them reassurance regarding your management and procedures. They are also more likely to be proactive about notifying you of changes if they have sight of the documents your staff are relying on to work.

2.   Identifying Site Specific or Dynamic Risks

Dynamic Failures

FM has always been a remote job, with few FM professionals managing to spend their full week at their desks.  What is more is that FM workers are in ever changing work environments, which provide ever changing levels of risk, it can be a health and safety minefield.  Many companies tackle this by simply completing task specific risk assessments which are then complimented by a site risk assessment, the two together should then provide a site and task specific risk assessment which hopefully has covered everything off.  However, not identifying and controlling site and task specific risks not only has the potential to negatively change lives, but it could also increase costs to businesses through sick pay, court cases and fines, compensation claims and higher insurance premiums.  

Change of Environment Checklist

Although the trend will be sufficient in most situations, staff attending sites need to be fully aware of the ‘normal’ risks for each site, to enable them to spot new or dynamic risks.  All staff who attend sites need to be adequately trained to identify hazards and how to implement appropriate controls.  A course which introduces health and safety, or risk assessment would give staff enough knowledge to make informed and safe decisions.  Staff need to be aware that they should not commence works if they think a change to the task or environment will pose risk to any life or property and they should have a contact at the office who can give Health and Safety guidance or attend sites to assess and advise.  It helps to provide staff with a check list to fill in upon arrival to any site regarding changes to the work environment, process or equipment with advice on who to contact to talk about any changes with.

3.   Reporting Accidents, Incidents and Hazards

The Onsite Accident Book

Having your staff working on a client site can sometimes cause confusion surrounding policies with regards to reporting.  Often FM staff will fill in the accident book on site but then not mention it to their own employers, or not report it to anyone at all.  Whilst unreported accidents make the figures look good for annual review, they put your company at risk.  Reporting gives a company a reason and an opportunity to review current processes, identify any missing controls and implement accident prevention measures or retrain staff.  If an accident goes on to become a RIDDOR and evidence is found that previous accident reports have not been managed effectively, your company could face large fines or even prosecution.  The HSE can drop in without notice to undertake spontaneous investigations too, which means that nothing necessarily has to go wrong for a company to be prosecuted.   

The Solution

For accident, incident and hazard reporting, it may help to have staff to return a mandatory weekly report or questionnaire, regarding anything they should have reported.  Once staff start reporting these events in real time rather than on a weekly report, the reports can be lessened in frequency. It may also help to resend the company reporting policy more frequently and mention it in news bulletins, conferences, performance appraisals and any other staff focussed events or publications. It is also wise to let staff know what you’re doing about the reports they make, so if an accident happens due to an uneven surface, letting staff know you have put in signage, or resurfaced, will help staff feel like their reports matter and will be heard.

4.   Managing COSHH Products Safely

Oh My COSHH!

FM is one of the most diverse industries in the modern world, employing staff and contractors spanning across many categories.  With many of the services provided to FM clients requiring the use of COSHH products (products which are managed under Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, 2002), the pressure is on FM companies to ensure they are aware of all the products their workers are exposed to, and the associated risks.  It is not uncommon for clients to provide their own materials, equipment and products which are better suited to their building for use by their FM company, making keeping track of these products very difficult indeed.  Staff who are exposed to COSHH products without proper knowledge, training, PPE, tools or in unsafe conditions are at risk of significant harm.  COSHH products also pose significant risk to property, using a chemical on an incompatible surface type can cause irreparable damage which could cost an FM company not only the cost to replace the surface or item, but the entire contract.

COSHHing it right!

Ensure all staff have received COSHH training to enable them to easily identify if they are working with a COSHH product.  They should be aware of common COSHH products and the risks they pose as well as how to identify key symbols and what they mean.  As well as this, staff should have both seen and acknowledged the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and COSHH risk assessments for all products they work with or near, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that SDS are up to date and available to view and reference.  Staff also need to be provided the correct tools, PPE as well as any other controls identified in the risk assessment for handling the product as detailed on the SDS or as required for the task.  Using a spreadsheet showing each employee along one side with the product across the other, checking off when they have seen each one. Ensure you start again for updated/new SDS.  Also ensure staff know where to find information in an emergency and how to report issues with substances, PPE or tools.

5.   Identifying Skills Gaps

Skills, here, there and everywhere!

Managing training can create a full-time job role in larger organisations.  Not only must an employer track what courses their staff have completed, they must also identify training requirements as they start working with them, and again every time something changes which could require further training. On top of this, most qualifications require refreshers, of varying intervals, generally from annually to 60 months.  Staff can be difficult to pin down when it comes to planning training days and unfortunately, they rarely seem to want to keep track of their own training requirements. Aside from keeping your staff trained so that you can operate compliantly; it may also be that having a database of qualifications and competencies helps you identify who to send for a particular job, for example, you may need to select a staff member with working at heights competencies if you are arranging an external window clean for a tall building.

Spreadsheets

Most companies without a health and safety software solution in place must rely on spreadsheets.  The axis are made up of names and courses, but a separate sheet needs to be made up with course completion and expiry dates to ensure compliance.  This requires someone checking at least every month what courses are due to expire in the coming month, arranging the courses and updating the spreadsheet.  It makes finding skills gaps possible, but potentially difficult.  Sometimes having each site or department manage their own training requirements so they are seeing just what is going on in their team, making seeing gaps more manageable.  

Static Safety

Although these manual answers are the most common ways to manage our biggest pains to compliance, health and safety software offers a much simpler resolution.  Many companies are still using the same system they have been using for over 20 years to manage health and safety, whilst upgrading systems everywhere else.  Although this is perhaps a case of not fixing something that is not broken, it is possible to spend money to save and to allocate resources differently to manage compliance in a better way.

How Software Can Transform Management

Software hosts and sends out documents and policies whilst tracking staff acknowledgement, ensuring these acknowledgements can be audited.  These documents and policies can be amended at anytime and resent, so if a dynamic risk is spotted, a competent person can reassess and resend, safe in the knowledge that everyone has had sight of any changes before work commences.  Most solutions have a reporting module, giving staff access to report accidents, incidents and hazards in real time, giving managers and competent people the information that they need to implement changes for future prevention, again in real time.  Systems often come with different ways to filter information so that managers can spot trends or issues with current procedures.  COSHH, again, is normally an available module, some solutions offer hosting and automatic updates of all COSHH SDS whilst also allowing you to pull through pertinent information straight from the SDS into a COSHH assessment. Training can also be tracked and managed completely by a software solution, many solutions come with integrated e-learning, offering more value for money.  The software then tracks all completions, internally and externally and auto-enrols staff for internal refreshers and notifies the relevant people regarding external courses/refreshers.

Out of a Job?

Many health and safety professionals shy away from software as they worry it takes value from their role and knowledge, however, that is simply not true.  Companies need a health and safety professional, whether as a consultant or an inhouse team or person.  Giving this professional access to a software solution is to compliment their work, it helps them distribute information, track and monitor compliance and review more efficiently.  Health and safety software relies on having someone competent putting information into it. The idea is to make things easier and more efficient to manage, and what will they do with the time they’ll save? They will do all the things they will tell you they feel they never have enough time to do; visit sites to assess compliance, give training, arrange audits, implement more controls and prevention methods whilst improving your company’s health and safety culture.

Features and Benefits

As well as our top five, many solutions come with translation tools, enabling a one-click translation to many languages, saving thousands in costs whilst being completely inclusive.  Some other tools on offer amongst the market include DSE and MAC Assessment tools, stress indicator tools and toolbox talks. Most solutions are cloud-based and can be accessed from anywhere on any device, which is a big plus for the FM industry. As well as this, most solutions are scalable to your business size, so even if your business is small now, it is worth investing in a compliant and simple to manage system, then as you grow, your software grows with you.  Using software to create sector specific safe systems of work allows for companies to consider the quality centrally before national/global dissemination of information, protecting company and brand names by setting standards.  Inducting staff with a health and safety software system in place reduces your carbon footprint whilst also saving costs, most solutions allocate a staff member to everything they need when you add them in and track acknowledgements on everything from the staff handbook to your internet use policy!  As well as all of this, FM businesses often give their clients a log in to their system, showing them how seriously they take compliance and giving them a USP over their competitors.  Are you ready to move into 21stcentury FM compliance management?


Designing out food waste in hospitality – 4 stages to sustainability

As the UK Government steps up its campaign to reduce food waste, the hospitality sector is firmly in the spotlight. No one can deny the sheer scale of the challenge ahead. The hospitality sector produces over 1 million tonnes of food waste each year, according to WRAP.

Yet while setting targets is essential to driving change, companies first need to establish a benchmark and determine up front the scale of the problem. Where is food waste occurring: is it from spoilage, preparation or plate scrapings? Then more importantly, why is food being wasted: is it a result of over procurement, incorrect food storage or inconsistent portion control?

David Coaton, Corporate Sector Director – Hospitality, SWRnewstar, outlines a proven four stage model for cutting food waste within hospitality – and it starts with segregating, measuring and tracking food waste production.

  1. Understand scale

Targets for reducing food wastage are ambitious – with a goal to halve food waste by 2030. To date the Government has adopted a softly-softly approach. However, plans to encourage large businesses to publish their food waste statistics, plus DEFRA’s proposed mandatory food waste collections for households in England, are a clear indication of commitment. Indeed, the latter approach will further reinforce both the value of food segregation and public awareness of the scale of food waste across the hospitality sector.

Right now there is no specific legislation in place in England and Wales, unlike Scotland where any commercial business producing over 5kg of food per day has to segregate food waste by law. However, this is changing with a new UK Food Waste Champion and the government’s ‘Step Up to the Plate’ campaign. Along with other industry initiatives, including WRAP’s ‘Guardians of Grub’ and ‘Food waste, Bad taste’ from The Sustainable Restaurant Association which are actively encouraging food segregation to provide hospitality companies with an essential understanding of the scale, cost and cause of food waste.

There are so many factors that contribute to food waste, from over-buying stock to poor food storage and management and inadequate portion control – yet when all spoiled food disappears into the general waste bin there is absolutely no way to determine the cause of waste. However committed a company may be to improving sustainability, change cannot be achieved without fully understanding the level of food waste at every step of the process. By segregating and measuring food waste produced during preparation and cooking, plate scrape and stock clear out, a company can begin to see the trends in activity – and take steps to effect change.

2. Stop procuring waste

For any company still not convinced by the environmental drive to reduce food waste there is also a compelling financial argument for better food management – with companies saving £14 for every £1 invested in food reduction according to Champions 12.3 research. These savings are not derived solely from disposal costs, which are typically less than 1% of a company’s turnover, although there are undoubtedly savings to be made from maximising waste segregation. The very significant cost reductions are achieved by leveraging better understanding and smart procurement.

Growing numbers of hospitality companies now acknowledge they routinely procure waste by over specifying raw ingredients. In some cases this is due to suppliers’ minimum order value, which is a real problem for smaller businesses. But often it is because those placing the orders have no, or low, visibility of the level of wastage that occurs in the kitchen and cannot identify obvious problem areas. By segregating food waste at each step of the process, companies can reconsider spend – not only avoiding procuring waste but also looking again at processes for food storage, portion size and less popular menu items.

3. Gain employee commitment

The challenge in realising this sustainability goal is to get staff engaged in the process and that requires two key elements. Firstly, education and top level management focus. If a restaurant manager or chef is not committed to reducing food waste, nothing will change. And for chains with thousands of employees, with multiple different food production points, strong staff commitment is essential.

Staff buy in must be backed up by good processes. In a busy kitchen it is essential to make the segregation of food waste easy – if there is only one dedicated food bin, for example, hard pressed staff will likely resort to the general bin when the pressure is on. Simple steps in kitchen design can make a huge difference. For example, ensuring bins are arranged in pairs – general and food waste – at each food production station will make it easy for staff to automatically segregate food. Make it even simpler by colour coding bins and adding clear, concise labels, so that even when staff move between sections – even outlets – the recycling process is identical. By changing the mindset, a few very simple steps can help companies to design out waste.

4. Celebrate success to embed food waste reduction into the culture

Celebrating success is the key to maintaining employee commitment and embedding progressive food waste reduction into the business culture. The trick is to carefully define ‘success’. There are anecdotal reports that a strict, narrow focus on reducing the weight of food waste bins can lead to kitchen mistakes being hidden in black bags, leading to heavier general waste bins. A culture that acknowledges that accidents happen and lessons can be learnt from transparency is more positive in the long-run. The recent £4500 ‘wine incident’ at Hawksmoor made headlines for the right reasons.

There are also areas of cultural change that can radically reduce both the procurement and production of food waste. There is a strong argument for reducing choice and ditching less popular items as well as reconsidering portion size. Of course, this is a tough move, especially for those catering to a population that expects both choice and large portions. But the tide of public opinion is turning; from Blue Planet onwards, individuals are increasingly aware of the need for a more sustainable approach.  Understanding what food is being wasted and why helps identify menu areas to tackle. For example, garnishes of salad leaves or lemon wedges can be made optional, reducing waste and involving customers in the solution by offering them the choice. The return of ‘doggy bags’ is another potential solution. Better food management provides companies with the chance to embrace this shift in customer expectation and publicise their sustainability commitment and performance.

Recognising the position of hospitality businesses in the middle of the supply chain is useful to broaden the focus to include engaging suppliers and customers. A forward thinking waste management partner will provide recommendations and support to introduce stakeholder initiatives.

Conclusion

The hospitality sector has a significant challenge when it comes to food waste – and that means it is essential to set very bold targets. Ignorance is no longer acceptable. Create a benchmark, determine the scale of the problem and continually measure and track waste production. Ensure staff are engaged. Education is essential but what about incentives? It is important to celebrate success, for example, with league tables highlighting top performers.

Nominating a member of staff as sustainability champion is also a good step. Alongside a focus on food waste, this individual can help to reduce energy consumption by ensuring lights are switched off and minimising single use activity. With so many millennials and Gen Zs highly eco driven, embracing this wider sustainability focus can also help to build stronger staff engagement. 

Finally, don’t treat food waste as a one off campaign. Continual improvement is both essential and achievable. Review food waste metrics routinely and set new targets each year.  This is a long term commitment, and if the UK Government is to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal to halve global food waste at consumer and retail levels by 2030, legislation is inevitable. Those companies that start to segregate, measure and reduce food waste now will not only be ahead of the game but also gain valuable financial payback, as well as employee and customer support.

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

GUEST BLOG: How smart cities impact workplace trends

As cities around the world are set to transform into ‘smart cities’, John Williams, Head of Marketing at Instant Offices, looks into what smart workplace trends are emerging from these innovation hubs…

The National League of Cities (NLC) has analysed how technological advances in smart cities could potentially impact jobs and skills, showing which jobs that are set to grow between now and 2026 are most likely to be automated.

The research found that management and supervisory roles are the most secure, being less than 30% automatable, while low-paying positions involving manual labour are the ones most at risk, being more than 70% automatable.

The World’s Smartest Cities

Singapore:
ABI’s Smart Cities Competitive Assessment report has named Singapore as the world’s leading smart city. The innovative city is pioneering several projects to address high-density urban living and is also home to futuristic driverless taxis and shuttles.

Dubai:
The ultra-modern city of Dubai was ranked second, noted for its adoption of disruptive next-gen technologies. Dubai is leading the way when it comes to crypto technology, with all government transactions set to be processed via blockchain by 2030.

London:
The English capital has been placed third, thanks to its advanced open data policies and thriving start-up ecosystem

Top Smart Office Trends for 2019

As smart cities are shaping the future of work, here are the leading workplace trends for 2019 and beyond:

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device):

Many businesses are now allowing a BYOD policy, which means employees can use their own personal tablets, smartphones, laptops and wearable tech to complete their tasks and send work-related communications.

According to research by Techjury, 67% of employees say they now use personal devices at work, and 87% of businesses rely on their workers’ access to mobile business apps. By allowing workers to take their favourite at-home tech and integrate it into daily work life, they will be able to work remotely in more efficient ways.

Focus on Wellness:

Workplace wellness is a growing trend. Employers are recognising the dangers of overworking, presenteeism, work addiction and burnout. In the US, 70-80% of companies believe that wellness programmes reduce absenteeism and boost productivity,according to a Global Wellness Institute Survey. This shows that more companies are looking to make positive changes toimprove the wellbeing of their employees, and tech is making this easier. 

For example, wearable devices like Fitbit and Jawbone allow employees to monitor their stats, from steps taken to calorie consumption to heart rate. This can empower them to take control of their health and practice better wellness habits daily. Smart offices can also make use of collected data from wearable devices by analysing it to identify potential health risks in their workplace.

Cybersecurity:

As the wireless technology and BYOD trends continue to rise, the need for advanced security tech rises with them. More data is being stored on the cloud, and if that data isn’t secured correctly, companies risk losing or leaking a lot of sensitive information.

A recent US review by SHRM found that nearly half of organisations surveyed (46%) are now using biometric authentication tech to protect data on smartphones. Flexible offices with excellent network security, a choice of shared and private workspaces, and round-the-clock on-premises security offerings are helping companies to operate in a safer and more secure environment.

Sectors Benefiting from Smart Office Space

Smart workplace solutions improve productivity and make it easier for teams to complete their daily tasks, using state-of-the-art tech to make the process smoother.

IT companies, design studios and web development businesses can all benefit from a fully serviced and connected setup. Beyond office life, those working in labs and research facilities can operate safely with excellent security and data protection. Even warehousing and manufacturing are transforming as companies like Amazon and Boeing harness the power of IoT technology.

Oil vs. gas: which should you choose for your business?

As the threat of climate change continues to gather pace, one of the burning questions of our time remains: ‘how can we create a greener, more sustainable future that still allows businesses to thrive?’ Here, Flogas, examine the debate currently gaining traction. 

Central to solving this challenge is energy usage, and the fuel we depend on in our daily lives and commercial operations. As such, businesses across the UK are now looking at ways to become more fuel-efficient – not only to help lower their carbon emissions, but also to bring down energy bills and save money in the long run.

Nowhere is this debate more prominent than in the 16% of the UK not serviced by the main gas grid, which relies on alternative fuels to meet its energy needs. For the majority of off-grid operations, this means a choice between oil, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or LNG (liquefied natural gas) for high-volume commercial applications. But what exactly are the differences between these fuels – and what should off-grid users consider when making decisions about their energy supply?

Oil: an outdated energy supply 

With the Committee on Climate Change urging the UK government to legislate as soon as possible to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the pressure is on all industries to adopt greener energy policies. What this means for off-grid businesses in practical terms is moving away from conventional, carbon-heavy fossil fuels. When considering the key features of oil, it’s not hard to see why it’s becoming an outdated off-grid option:

•Increased carbon emissions: As a major contributor to climate change, the burning of oil for heating and cooking purposes releases far higher levels of carbon into the atmosphere than more efficient off-grid fuels like LPG.

•Cost: Through a combination of factors such as dwindling oil reserves, environmental pressures and strained international relations, the price of oil remains volatile. This makes it difficult for businesses to forecast the cost of fuel and can cast doubts over the future of their supply chain.

•Maintenance: Due to its viscous nature, machines that operate on oil often take a large amount of maintenance to ensure they are running at optimum performance. This can also mean messy repairs if anything goes wrong.

The rise of LPG & LNG

With so many factors now working against businesses that are still using oil, it’s no surprise that many are now looking for an alternative fuel supply. The good news is that there are viable off-grid alternatives that offer compelling economic, environmental and logistical benefits. LPG and LNG are two such fuels. So, what are they, and how do they compare to oil?

•Chemical makeup – LPG is a blanket term for two types of natural gas (Propane and Butane) and is a natural by-product of gas and oil extraction (66%) and oil refining (34%). LNG is composed primarily of methane and is created by cooling natural gas to an extremely low temperature (-162°C). 

•Finance: Businesses can make immediate savings when switching to LPG or LNG through a reduction in energy usage.

•Carbon emissions: LPG and LNG have the lowest CO2 emissions of any 0ff-grid fossil fuels: LPG emits 36% fewer than gas oil, 22% fewer than kerosene and 17% fewer than heating oil. It also emits no black carbon (a significant contributor to climate change). 

•Cleaner air: LPG and LNG are clean, smoke-free burning fuels, that emit fewer pollutant emissions, including NOx, Sox and particulate matter (PM).

•Compliant: Because they’re cleaner, LPG and LNG help businesses to meet carbon and pollutant reduction targets set out in the Clean Growth Strategy, ULEZ, Marpol and Medium Combustion Plant Directive.

•Efficiency: With a higher calorific value per tonne than other liquid fuels, an LPG and LNG flame can burn hotter, releasing energy quicker. When used in conjunction with the likes of a steam boiler this can produce even greater efficiencies. 

•Extensive supply: LPG and LNG are in global abundance, so business owners can rest assured that they will have a dependable source of energy when they need it most. Flogas will be significantly increasing the UK’s total LPG storage capability with its new Avonmouth storage facility – the largest of its kind. 

•Easy Installation: Working alongside an expert team, switching from oil to gas couldn’t be easier. Specialist LPG companies can design and install a replacement heating system to meet your business’ needs. From the initial brief process to installation and even the removal of your old oil tank, with the right supplier there’s the option to have everything taken care of with minimal downtime. 

•Versatility: One of the main attractions of LPG is its versatility. From leisure and hospitality to agriculture and industrial heating, and even fuel for forklift trucks and fleet vehicles, LPG can be used as an energy supply for all manner of industries. 

Creating a greener future

As the cleanest, most efficient and effective fuel compared to conventional off-grid fuels like coal, oil and electricity, switching from oil to LPG (or LNG) could help businesses energy savings, ensuring compliance with government energy policies, and cutting down on maintenance time.

Image by Magnascan from Pixabay

Could FM financing solutions save our High Streets?

By Rob Marriott, Marketing & Strategic Bid Director at SPIE UK

The recent news about Debenhams falling into administration is just another nail in the coffin for the British High Street. Part of the problem can be attributed to retailers’ legacy estates. Swelling rents, wage hikes, long lease periods and aging property in urgent need of upgrading are all contributing factors.

However, retailers are struggling to find budget to overcome these problems. 

Sometimes heralded as the panacea, new smart technology installed throughout shops, warehouses etc. would give retailers additional useful data which could help them manage their operations more efficiently. Benefits of this approach could include reducing how much energy is used, improving staff wellbeing, implementing predictive maintenance and enhancing the customer experience, which would all help contribute to lowering long-term operating costs. Unfortunately, organisations are being held back in the short term by the hefty up-front costs that this sort of technology investment requires, as well as the need to provide leadership teams with a robust business case for its installation. 

However, facilities management (FM) firms could have the solution. Some of these companies are starting to develop new financing solutions which are founded on a single lease purchase agreement. As such, machinery, fixtures and fittings etc. don’t have to be capitalised or purchased by the retailer. Instead, merchants can buy them on an on-balance provision instead of the traditional off-balance sheet capitalisation. FM companies would be able to then build upon this idea by creating a completely new model, whereby retailers will not be shackled by lengthy leases that they have previously been used to. As well as being able to lease the property from a third party, these businesses will also have the ability to lease everything within it too – from IoT hardware right through to lighting. 

If we take a retailer that wants to fit out twenty new sites, as well as fully supply and maintain them whilst being certain of the operating costs, the FM organisation would create a plan where they organise the installation and maintenance of the equipment on a fixed annual fee basis. By providing a fully comprehensive offering, not only will this guarantee budget certainty for the retailer, but also helps with peace of mind. 

One of the main benefits of this new type of model is that retailers will be able to predict their income more precisely. By operating in a fixed cost environment, these companies will have more confidence in their ability to plan for future investment in innovation and new ways of working. It is much trickier to invest in new technologies and leverage efficiencies when you have a less predictable maintenance spend. In addition, paying for everything in one easy payment on a fixed basis means retailers can better forecast and plot what their cost profile might look like over the next three-to-five-year years. Of course, this makes it even more straightforward when calculating future investment funding.

Once retailers have been able to finance the installation of state-of-the-art equipment, both they and the FM company in charge of the premises can reap the benefits of the increased amounts of data this will create. The information can be tapped in a number of ways to generate an improved working environment and better customer service. Data can be used to build a more detailed understanding about how the premises are being utilised. As a result, everyone can implement new initiatives to achieve greater energy efficiency. What’s more, the FM company will be able to provide a better service level by leveraging tools such as predictive maintenance. By identifying when machinery and facilities are going to breakdown before the event actually occurs, they can reduce disruptions and improve the return on investment for the retailer. Not only that, but reducing disruption also improves the customer experience, helping the retailer to strengthen their brand image. In short, greater information on and overall visibility of the premises results in more efficient management and maintenance. 

Within retail there are some examples of this model being used with the purchase of single assets, for example the leasing of their EPOS till systems, flooring, fixtures within site, and lighting. Within an organisation, different departments will procure items including shelving and mannequins from various suppliers. And yet, there is nobody currently in the market who has combined these services together to create one single purchasing offer. This presents facilities management companies with an enormous opportunity. FM companies are not limited in what they can source a supplier for, but such change demands a transition away from traditional procurement strategies when forecasting the opening of new stores or refurbishing existing facilities. 

Multiple site High Street retailers are best placed to generate value from these new financing plans because they have the sufficient critical mass to deliver scaled saving across their portfolio. For an independent retailer, it would be a lot harder to achieve similar results and savings if they only had one shop or warehouse to deliver them. For those companies with multiple sites, once they have rolled out the new financing model they can benefit from economies of scale. Following the introduction and successful implementation of a one site model, practices be reviewed, standardised and rolled out across other sites. Evidently, this is why organisations who have larger regional, national or even international foot prints are more likely to benefit.

There are myriad advantages to this way of working for FM companies: the capacity to maintain equipment to the right operating standard, a more predictable income, and a better environment and customer experience. This means the FM company is more efficient and makes better use of its resources, also customers won’t need to waste time following up with suppliers.

These new bespoke financing solutions are already being developed by some FM companies with their retail clients. In the same way that car dealerships lease their vehicles to consumers, we will soon see the retail industry undergo somewhat of a transformation in terms of how their premises are managed, maintained and leased. As the retail industry continues to digitally transform and evolve into a multichannel environment, all being well, these new financing techniques will be able help these organisation adapt and thrive.  

Which countries are investing the most in construction?

Around the world, business is booming for the construction industry. Not only are countries looking to house an ever-growing population, but they are also looking to compete on a global scale to grow as nations.

Some countries are fuelled by sheer speed of growth, while others are supported by a huge economic force. With this in mind, which countries are the biggest investors in the construction market? Work platform supplier Nifty Lift investigates… 

How the construction market has previously played out 

In the past, the USA has remained the dominant figure of the worldwide construction market. Ten years ago, the country commanded a construction market value of $1,313 billion, compared to China’s $1,035 billion. But just a year later in 2010, the two had finally shifted places, with China taking 15% of the total global share. 

2009 (value in USD)2010 (global share in %)
USA ($1,313 bn) China 15%
China ($1,035 bn)USA 14%
Japan ($592 bn)Japan 9%
Germany ($303 bn)India 5%
Spain ($292 bn)France 4%
France ($271bn)Germany 4%
Italy ($262 bn)Canada 4%
South Korea ($248 bn)Spain 4% 
India ($247 bn)Italy 3% 
UK ($243 bn)UK  3% 

China overtaking the US 

Naturally, a country’s individual construction market strength will shift a lot depending on a variety of factors — from economic stability to population growth, or simple change in needs. But the USA has remained on the top spot for a long time. That was until 2010, when China surpassed its global construction market share. 

The USA has suffered during the recession, with the house building sector’s fall resulting in its construction industry slowing down. 

India’s rapid growth

While China may have enjoyed a swift growth in the construction market, India has certainly proven itself to be an emerging contender, with one study showing the country is growing at almost double the rate of China. This saw India flying up the global shares table, from 9thin 2009 to 4thin 2010. 

Spain’s fall

Due to the Spanish financial crisis from 2008-2014, the country descended in terms of its construction market share. The country went from recording the 5th largest global share to having the 8th largest, as it and other European countries struggled with a recession. 

The current construction market growth

With most countries well on the way through a recovery period after global economic crises, the construction market is set to see an exciting period of change and growth too. Turner and Townsend surmises that recovering oil prices, demand for data centres, and the retail need for refurbishment in order to create new experience to compete with the online retail world will see the construction market go from strength to strength. Plus, the worldwide desire to move to a greener future is also calling for continued efforts and renovations to old, outdated buildings and structures. 

Predictions for the future construction market 

Observations and predictions have already rolled forth for the continued global growth of the construction market, and with it, which countries will be the biggest players: 

2020 (predicted global share) 2030 (predicted ranking)
China 21%China
USA 15% USA
India 7% India
Japan 6% Indonesia
Canada 3% Japan
Indonesia 3% UK
France 3% Canada
Germany 3% Germany 
Australia 3% France
Spain 2% Australia 

China’s continued #1 spot

China’s growth is set to continue through to 2020, with a prediction of the country sitting at a global construction market share of 21% that year. But its overall construction growth is also set to slow down considerably, while the USA’s growth is on track to grow faster than China across the next 15 years. This is speculated to be down to the country’s return to form in the house building sector, as well as planned major investment in its older cities. 

With that being said, China’s projects aren’t set to diminish — the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative is set to push further trade, and thereby further construction needs, to the country. 

India in the top 3

In this time, India is predicted to continue its trend of construction growth, overtaking Japan as the third largest share in the construction market between 2010 and 2020. This need to expand its construction market will be fuelled by its own rapidly increasing population. According to the B1M, India needs to build 31,000 homes every day for the next 14 years to keep pace with its growing demand for housing! 

Indonesia’s growth 

Ten years ago, Indonesia didn’t feature within the top ten biggest construction markets. Yet, by 2020, it is predicted that the country will hold the sixth biggest share in the global construction market, growing to fourth by 2030. In many ways, Indonesia is mimicking the rapid rise through the rankings that India has enjoyed from 2009 onwards. 

This sudden burst of activity is simply down to an increase in demand, which in turn, is due to the favourable conditions the country is currently enjoying. Indonesia’s economy has enjoyed a steady growth in recent years, and with a low public debt coupled with stable governance and commodity prices, the country has the perfect foundation for increased housing and improved infrastructure needs. 

UK out of the top ten in 2020  

The UK has been struggling on a number of fronts in recent years, and in terms of its share in the construction market, the nation will drop out of the top ten in 2020 according to predictions. There is a certain amount of Brexit uncertainty affecting investment in general, and for the construction industry, output dropped by 1.7 per cent in the UK for the first quarter of 2018 due to difficult weather conditions at the time.

This drop isn’t expected to last long, however, as the UK’s housing crisis remains rife and will provide a catalyst for many construction projects to get underway across the UK by 2030. These will include housing and a number of mega-builds, as well as rail and airport development. 

In fact, some predict that the UK will not only return to form in the construction market, it will actually become one of the biggest contributors to the construction industry’s 14.7% share of all global economic output by 2030. 

Biggest construction projects at present 

As we enjoy further technological advances and opportunities, the construction market is witnessing a number of mega-projects that are fuelling growth. 

Currently, some of these proposed large-scale construction projects that are in-progress include: 

  • South-North Water Transfer Project in China. This construction project is set to help the population living in the north of China to access a greater water supply. The project has a whopping 48-year schedule! 
  • London Crossrail Project in the UK.The construction of the world’s first underground train system is set to connect 40 stations.
  • Dubailand in Dubai.This project will see a complex of 278 square kilometres being built, containing a number of theme parks, hotels and more. 

Sources: 

http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/media/2389/icms-survey-2017.pdf

https://www.enr.com/articles/45732-india-overtaking-japan-as-worlds-third-largest-construction-market?v=preview

https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/News/ICE%20News/Global-Construction-press-release.pdf

https://www.statista.com/statistics/199054/the-largest-construction-markets-in-the-world/

http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/media/3352/international-construction-market-survey-2018.pdf

https://www.theb1m.com/video/top-5-construction-markets-by-2030

https://www.statista.com/statistics/677079/annual-construction-investment-by-region/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-business-investment-brexit-gdp-office-for-national-statistics-a8558936.html

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/top-ten-largest-construction-projects-844370

How we can entice young talent into the FM industry?

By Chris Townsend, HR Director, ABM UK

In the facilities management industry, the UK is suffering from a general skills shortage. Young people are typically not considering this industry as a career path creating a skills gap.

Therefore, it is right that we look to apprenticeships as a possible solution to this problem and highlight the important role they play in bridging this gap.

Open career opportunities that call for individuals with engineering skills far outnumber the supply of applicants. The facilities management industry needs people who are open to related careers, to be aware of all the opportunities that this industry is offering them. 

Whether these people are students coming from college, after university or later on in their lives, apprenticeships provide a secure route to upskilling and career progression.

At ABM UK, there are apprenticeship programmes dedicated to security, plumbing, cleaning, gas and engineering. These apprenticeships enable people to develop new skills as well as giving people a great start to working life. In all, there are 10 different courses and our apprentices not only earn while they learn, but have the option to work in a variety of disciplines within facilities services, management, which goes up to degree level and engineering. 

Education and awareness are the equivalent to condition monitoring and predictive maintenance when looking at diversity and the skills gap. By engaging children that are still early in their education we are introducing them to the possibilities of the facilities management industry, this is filling the pipeline of future apprentices. We are also ensuring there is a diversity of backgrounds in our people that will make our business and profession continue successfully. 

At ABM UK we want a pipeline of talented young people who aspire to have a career in facilities management. The individuals in this pipeline will be excited by its potential and would not accept a role in this industry as a back-up if their other career plans didn’t quite work out. We want to make apprenticeships an active career choice, and not a back-up plan. 

So what are we doing to make this happen? We are showing that the industry is about more than oily rags and blue overalls.

Firstly, we invested heavily in setting up our own training centre to ensure apprenticeships and training are at the heart of our business.

In 2018, ABM UK piloted the first ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P) which aims to tackle the perceptions of engineering and facilities management amongst secondary school aged children and their parents. The course of 10 modules, including experiments in conduction, magnets and motors, gives the students an insight into the world of facilities management and apprenticeships. Something they may have never heard of before. When these children leave school, they will be better informed of their choices and may well consider an apprenticeship in this field, and we’re very proud of the extensive range we offer.

And, we’re using our current apprentices as role models and ambassadors. It’s important that young children see people that they can relate to doing really well in these areas, acting as motivation for them to continue to be engaged in the programme.

Take ABM UK former apprentice, Marissa Francis as an example, and an inspiration. She chose the university route, but soon realised it wasn’t for her and chose a different direction – an apprenticeship.

Despite losing her mum and being responsible for bringing up her four-year-old daughter single-handedly, she graduated from ABM UK’s apprenticeship scheme and is now a qualified expert in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 

We are so proud of everything she has achieved and we’re all delighted that she was named ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in 2017 at the industry’s Heating and Ventilation News Awards.

Alongside the J.E.E.P initiative, as part of our grass roots work, we conducted a piece of research[1] which looked at the perceptions of apprenticeships in this industry amongst 2,000 parents and 2,000 young people aged 11 – 15. A lot of what we found illustrated the perception change work that needs to be done – for example, we found that over a third of parents don’t know what an apprenticeship is. Statistics like this need to be changed. The research also found that a third[2] of parents see apprenticeships as a last resort for young people who fail exams.

The research also found the top reasons that parents were not encouraging their child to undertake an apprenticeship. Almost half thought apprenticeships were poorly paid (43%), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (37%), and a perception that apprenticeships don’t lead to successful careers (17%). Those with experience or working in apprenticeships know that this is not the case. In reality, recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt. 

Initiatives like the J.E.E.P show students at a young age what they are capable of academically. Sometimes we excel at physical tasks rather than sitting in a lecture hall. Showing students the benefits of an apprenticeship could make a massive difference to their life and career path.

Following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, businesses are coming together no matter what industry, towards the same goal which is to educate the youth through apprenticeships. There is no question that this means the future is looking bright for apprenticeships in the UK, however, it is clear from the research ABM UK conducted that the perceptions around apprenticeships still need to change.

[1] Commissioned by ABM UK and conducted by Censuswide the research comprises 2,000 British parents of children aged 11 to 16 and 2,000 children aged 11 to 16 in April 2018. 

[2] 36%

GUEST BLOG: Insights on protective equipment & how it can impact your business

All businesses that employ staff will be familiar with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Last year, the PPE Directive 89/686/EEC was replaced by the Regulation 2016/425 in a bid to improve health and safety at work.

As many businesses operate within the UK and neighbouring countries in the EU, many managers will be wondering what this means for them. Opposed to the former directive, the new regulation is a binding legislative act that must be applied in its entirety across the EU without requiring separate national legislation.

There have been tremendous changes in regard to working practices, especially as technology continues to advance, making processes more efficient — this includes equipment and workwear. Because of this, changes were required and expected to occur around PPE after it first came into action over two decades ago.

Not too long ago, the PPE Directive was only a focus for manufactures who put their own products on the market. However, this new regulation that was put into action on 21stApril 2018 will involve the entire supply chain. As a result, anyone who is part of the supply or distribution chain must abide by PPE and meet the standard requirements that have been set out — while also having an understanding that only products that meet the standards will be made available on the market.

What are the standards?

  • Making sure PPE complies with the essential health and safety requirements.
  • Making sure technical documentation has be drawn up.
  • When compliance has been demonstrated the EU declaration of conformity has been drawn up and a CE mark affixed.
  • Retention of documents for ten years.
  • Sample testing.
  • Duty to take action in relation to non-conforming PPE.
  • Labelling requirements.
  • Providing instructions and cooperating with the national authority.

There is a one-year transition place currently in place, which is set to end on the 21stApril this year. This means that the former Directive and current Regulation are still applicable to businesses, meaning you must be prepared for when the Regulation is the only one that matters. However, any EC type-examination certificates and approvals issued under the Directive will remain valid until the 21stApril 2023 unless they have an earlier expiry date.

PPE Categories:

When it comes to workwear, and their determined use, here are the categories that businesses must understand:

Category I (simple design)

This is all about minimal risks, and workers can assess the level of protection needed themselves. This could include the use of garden gloves, footwear or ski goggles for example.

Category II (neither simple or complex)

Including workwear such as dry and wet suits, clothing in this category don’t fall within the first or third set of categories.

Category III (complex design)

Aimed to protect employees against mortal danger, these items are complex in design and prevent any irreversible harm. To give you an idea, this could potentially include harnesses and respiratory equipment.

Staff and their PPEP compliance

Businesses will look to implement the correct PPE workwear, but are staff willing to wear it? Figures have suggested that 98% of employees have seen colleagues not wearing PPE when they were supposed to, with a further 30% saying this happens on a regular basis. Excuses varied as to why employees were not wearing the appropriate workwear with some suggesting that it looked unattractive, made them too hot, was a poor fit and was not very practical which should most definitely not be the case for such corporate workwear.

But why is it so important? Did you know that 9% of all injuries are head injuries because 84% of such occurrences have not been wearing the proper headwear? Or that 50% of construction workers experience a serious injury during their career? If workers wore proper safety eyewear, injury could be reduced by up to 90%.

Astonishingly, 25% of workplace injuries were to do with a staff members hand. This could be reduced by 60% if gloves are worn. 25% of employees are exposed to noise that are higher than the recommended level too, but such damage can be reduced 99% by wearing the right type of hearing protection.

Learning from this, it’s important that employees learn more about PPE and why it has been put in place. However, businesses must also take away from this article that workers feel uncomfortable in the PPE workwear that has been distributed to them – you must strike a balance between safety requirements and comfort to ensure that staff wear such equipment when needed.

This article was provided by tailored uniform specialists, Dimensions.

Sources:

https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/mechanical-engineering/personal-protective-equipment_en

https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/blog/Built-Environment-Blog/ppe-directive-changes/

http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/ppe.htm

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/390/made

https://legislationupdateservice.co.uk/news/new-personal-protective-equipment-regulation/

https://outlook.office.com/owa/?path=/mail/sentitems

GUEST BLOG: Working towards sustainability in FM

By Biffa

The clearest definition of sustainability within the FM industry is the focus on long-term environmental goals during decision-making and a notion of total waste segregation, closed loop recycling, and working towards the circular economy.

Currently for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, there is little legislation requiring businesses to fully segregate and recycle waste, however much of UK businesses must comply with a simple ‘Duty of Care’ when it comes to disposing of business and commercial waste* and as such, waste is moving higher up the agenda in FM tenders.

The CSR and green credentials associated with effective waste management are strong, and many clients are increasingly driven by sustainability targets and are asking more of their FM professionals when it comes to providing the most carbon-efficient and environmentally positive solutions.

The best strategy that FM professionals can adopt is education, ensuring clients and all employees working on site, are fully aware of the recycling solutions available – this is applicable not only to internal recycling options, but also the transfer of waste and maximisation of external bin capacity in order to ensure operations are running as efficiently as possible.

This is where the opportunity to look at using new and innovative waste management solutions, tailored to a client’s individual needs, comes into play.

An informative approach must be taken when assessing the unique needs of a business, and Biffa is able to provide a bespoke on-site service, with dedicated contract managers available to be on hand to influence, enable and guide decisions on waste management for facilities.

These contract managers provide regular facility assessments face-to-face, offering cost cutting solutions and ways to streamline processes.