Sustainability is generally understood as the measurement, management, and reduction of energy consumption and carbon emissions/carbon footprint to reduce both environmental impact and operating costs. Influences driving recent attention in sustainability range from governmental regulation, environmental concerns such as global climate change, and the ever-increasing costs to care for facilities.

Buildings have huge environmental footprints. In 2010, facilities directly accounted for nearly 40% of primary energy use, 12% of water use, and 60% of all non-industrial waste. And the processes used to produce and deliver energy to facilities for heating, cooling, ventilation, computers, and appliances accounted for 40% of US greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the need to better understand and manage the performance of publicly-owned buildings and facilities has taken center stage.

While Cityworks and GIS are most often associated with managing infrastructure and other assets outside, this is only part of the story. Buildings, floors, and rooms also have geography that can be mapped and analyzed. Beyond design and construction, ongoing maintenance is more efficient and effective when facility asset data is managed in a GIS. Cityworks users have long recognized the inherent benefits of GIS. Using the GIS database as the asset repository to manage outside infrastructure, many now leverage the same technology to inventory and manage indoor assets.

Sustainable use cases include:Operations and Maintenance – From changing a series of light bulbs in a library to refinishing the floor of a fire station, preventative maintenance ensures the appropriate performance of publicly-owned assets while extending the useful life of the facility over time.

Energy Management – Visualizing and tracking energy usage within a building allows operators to optimize usage by location and time of day within a building.

Building Thermal Efficiency – Assessing energy “leakiness” with GIS helps facilities maintenance personnel locate and remedy costly environmental issues.

Space Usage — Operational costs are reduced when existing space is utilized more efficiently, which often lowers capital cost by mitigating the need to build or acquire additional facilities. GIS helps facilities managers visualize and organize space usage through the distribution of personnel, assets, and the storage of materials.

Solar Potential – The ability to determine the solar potential of an individual rooftop is an inherently geographic problem. Both public and private entities are utilizing GIS to identify buildings with the best potential return on solar investment.

Climate Action Plan – A GIS-based, campus-wide greenhouse gas inventory including landscape irrigation requirements, tree canopy analysis, estimated storm water runoff, and the effect of solar reflectivity allows the informed development of a range of possible sustainability measurement and action steps, including identification of on-site renewable energy sources.

Facility sustainability is directly related to the ongoing care and maintenance of publicly owned assets. GIS is a natural fit to managing spatially-related assets and understanding their relationship across a variety of business functions. Reducing energy and water usage, efficient and effective waste disposal, and preventative maintenance all reduce the carbon footprint of a building.

Today’s economic pressures, government regulation, and public opinion all demand that facilities managers find sensible ways to increase efficiencies and the overall sustainability of publicly-owned buildings. Extending their GIS and Cityworks inside to manage the care and maintenance of assets associated with everything from a light switch in a single room, to an entire community center, is proven to achieve these goals. These enabling technologies provide facilities managers and executives with the appropriate tools to be better stewards of the built environment.

by Shelli Stockton, Global Facilities Industry Manager, Esri