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Facility Management

The sustainability challenge: The case of California’s drought


Changes to the environment caused by global warming will have a number of consequences for the FM and services industry in the coming decade. These changes will affect supply chains, building designs, management practices, as well as maintenance.

ISS has identified global warming as one of the main sustainability challenges within the coming century in their 2020 Vision Study, conducted in collaboration with the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies.

Currently, California is experiencing the challenges that result from environmental changes, as the state continues to endure the worst drought in 500 years.

Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown attempted to alleviate the issue by calling for a voluntary 20% reduction in water usage for state residents. The program failed to catch on, forcing Gov. Jerry Brown to mandate a 25% reduction in water usage for both residential and commercial properties on April 1st, 2015.

Extreme conditions call for extreme measures. Here is an example of one of the initiatives that the state of California is using to combat water shortage.

Changing the water consumption habits of 38.8 million people may seem like an insurmountable undertaking, but with California home to some of the most innovative companies in the world, innovation is not in short supply. Companies such as Google, Adobe, and eBay are taking creative measures to reduce water usage within their corporate headquarters. For example, Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, installed water efficient landscaping, saving the company an estimated 9 million gallons of water a year. The company is also working on developing a new type of urinal cake that would save up to 500,000 gallons of water from its office bathrooms. These small technological innovations will play an important role in improving the environmental efficiency of corporate offices.

Initiatives such as Google’s are about more than just preserving the environment; they are examples of the significant cost savings that companies can achieve through efficient facility management.

Another example of an organization striving to decrease energy costs through improved facility management techniques is Del Mar Country Club, based in Del Mar, California. The country club’s water bill has almost doubled since the drought officially began in 2010. As part of a state rebate program established to tyd the replacement of thirsty turf, the club’s management embarked on a plan to replace 43 acres of lush landscaping with more geographically appropriate desert plants for a rebate worth almost $4 million.

These examples illustrate how efficient facility management can be beneficial to the environment, and can create a competitive advantage that translates directly to a company’s bottom line. Integrated facility management providers, such as ISS can and should play a leading role in the changing landscape of climates around the world, not just California.

By working together with companies to install low-flow faucets, energy-saving light bulbs, water efficient landscaping and other innovative solutions, FM providers can deliver substantial energy and cost savings to companies. The question is the degree to which organizations are making investments. Examples of changes range from small to large:


In order to tackle the environmental scarcity challenges facing corporations in places like California, management will have to become more efficient in their energy usage. FM providers like ISS can serve as educators and strategic partners in implementing these changes.

Here are some of the environmental challenges FMs need to plan for in the future:

  1. In many coastal regions, rising sea levels could present a significant challenge due to the fact that many of the world’s fastest-growing cities are located in high-risk areas.
  1. Malaria and other vector-borne illnesses are emerging or re-emerging in many high-income countries. The threat of vector-borne illnesses will lead to the need for a number of adaptive solutions in Europe and North America.
  1. Weather events are becoming more unstable and powerful, causing larger downpours, storms, floods, blizzards and droughts. These events will challenge the infrastructure of buildings.

These challenges will require innovative solutions, and today an opportunity exists for FM providers to join the discussion in order to reshape the office of the future. Read more about the 9 megatrends changing and shaping the future of the Facility Management industry here.

This blog post is features research from the whitebook ISS 2020 Vision: Scenarios for the future of the Global Facility Management Industry.

Are you a Facility Manager in California or any other region challenged by environmental scarcity, we would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

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