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Ellina Webb looks at what facilities managers can learn from literature

With a little help from a few of her favourite novels, Ellina Webb discusses the role Service and Maintenance plays in helping Facilities Managers and the built environment achieve net zero

We’ve all seen the stats, buildings account for around 40% of carbon emissions in the UK and up to 80% of existing building stock is simply not up to scratch when it comes to achieving the UK net zero targets.

These are scary numbers but with community discussion and by sharing skills and expertise, the path towards a better future is a less tortuous narrative to tackle.  

Mitsubishi Electric recently joined the Institute of Workplaces and Facilities Managers to connect with a community of FM’s and help then on their individual journeys to reducing their carbon footprint.

As a HVAC, Chiller and I.T. Cooling manufacturer, our skills and expertise with this technology, designed to be at optimum efficiency from day one, has a major part to play in the zero-carbon story.

What’s more, our Service and Maintenance offering, is the key to the longevity of the narrative.

So, what is the Net Zero narrative and how can we encourage the industry and Facilities Managers to keep turning the pages and moving forward?

“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The characters – we all play a part

When it comes to net zero, the characters involved range from simple to complex.

You, me, the everyday person, we can all do small things to improve our carbon footprint, but when you look at the major players in the narrative, it starts to get a little bit messy. From energy companies to the Government, there seems to be a huge disparity when it comes to who’s the hero and who’s the villain.

At a more local level, Facilities and Commercial Managers can be the heroes of this story, but keeping occupants happy, tackling increasing energy prices, and following the multi layered Government lead legislations makes it a non-linear storyline.  

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

This famous quote from Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott, is apt advice for Facilities Managers facing this endeavour.

If we want to meet the Net Zero targets by 2050 (at least) we need to learn to sail our ships, and proper maintenance of HVAC, Chiller and I.T Cooling systems means our ships (buildings, of course) are fit to sail gracefully into the future.

The setting

The year is 2015, the setting is Paris. The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, was adopted in this year and opened for signatures on 22 April 2016.

By November 2021, 193 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change were parities to the agreement.

The log-term goal of the agreement is to keep the rise in mean global temperatures below 2C above pre-industrial levels. The limit was set at 1.5C to reduce the effects of climate change and meant that emissions needed to be reduced by 45% and reach net zero by 2050.

"The Answer to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything is…42!"
(or 45% in this case) - The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

The time

The year is now 2021, the country is the UK, the county or city is wherever you are right now.

Our UK Net Zero Strategy was published in October 2021 and set out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet the net zero target by 2050.

This proposal is based on the April 2021 UK commitment to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.

In our recent 2022 Road to Net Zero Roadshow that we hosted throughout the UK, we highlighted to the regional audiences the regional approaches to achieving these targets.

In the west midlands for example, accelerating the installation of smart meters, insulation, and double glazing in homes by 2026 is part of the energy efficiency plan, along with retrofitting existing heating systems (which is also part of the commercial plan).

Even at micro levels, local authority councils have set targets to reduce their emissions and regions are putting forward plans to achieve Net Zero.

Birmingham city for example introduced a clean air zone in summer 2021, while in Solihull, plans have been put together to create a heat network across the town centre.

Click here to view all our Road to Net Zero Roadshow regional presentations.

The plot

So, what are the sequences of events that make up this story?

For Mitsubishi Electric, it’s the future of offices, decarbonising heating, and the digital future of HVAC. Retrofitting buildings, proper service, and maintenance of existing HVAC equipment and designing for net zero at all stages of new building development are chapters where we can make a difference.

A key action is the plot is using smart building systems to control, monitor and report on energy use. Our MELCloud web-based controller for example, enhances optimisation and performance of equipment, increasing energy visibility, supports service and maintenance regimes and ultimately leads to energy and carbon reductions.

Our highly skilled Service and Maintenance teams also use the SFG20 solutions and the best in-field systems to carry out diagnostic health checks and address short-term and long-terms needs.

“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him”
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The conflict – the struggle between opposing forces

Did you know there are 7 types of conflicts in a story? From Person Vs. Person (good and evil) to Person Vs. Technology and Person Vs. Society etc.  

The most obvious conflict in this story is Person Vs. Nature because without action, if we allow global temperatures to rise and for emissions to increase, the environmental results will be catastrophic.

Therefore, addressing any other conflicts must happen to order to keep the Paris Agreement on track.

Technology exists or is being created to tackle the problems. Air Source Heat Pumps for example, are ideal for decarbonising heating, while smart building systems such as commercial MELCloud allow for Facilities Managers to monitor how their HVAC systems are being used and where best to optimise usage.

Furthermore, SFG20, the standard maintenance specification for building engineering services, is an advancement in using technology to help FM’s with asset maintenance.

To tackle the societal conflicts, sharing knowledge, thought leadership and connecting with everyone involved in the construction life cycle (from architect to Facilities Manager) keeps us all aligned when it comes to updated and new legislation, new technology and sustainable solutions.

The most famous novel which covers this mix of conflicts is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, so to borrow one of their most famous quotes "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” we all must fight the conflicts no matter what challenges stand before us.

The resolution

So, what is the resolution? Obviously, we don’t know that yet. Will we achieve Net Zero Carbon? Will we keep the global temperature rise under 1.5C?

Unfortunately, these are unanswered questions and untied loose threads because we are still in the thick of the plot and have another 30 years or so in this position.

I do however feel like we can get on the right track and to achieve the goals.

Working with the major players and influencers in the construction section is why I am pleased to work for Mitsubishi Electric, but as I mentioned before, we all have a part to play whether that’s day to day or as part of job roles.

I look forward to working more with Facilities Managers and the IWFM to help drive buildings to Net Zero Carbon and I look forward to getting involved in other areas where I can, because unlike the famous quote from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, “frankly my dear, I DO give a damn”.

Ellina Webb is Channel Marketing Manager