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Benchmarking Research Shows How Economy, Sustainable Practices Impact Workplace Operations

The study, “Operations and Maintenance Benchmarks, Research Report #32,” outlines the facility trends affecting workplaces throughout North America. Among the new report’s findings are that the average space per person has risen nearly 40 square feet since 2007 - likely due to recent corporate layoffs - and that companies are adjusting their thermostats higher or lower by an average of one degree Fahrenheit, compared to data from three years ago, in an effort to minimize energy use and cut costs.

The amount of square footage per building occupant, a measurement IFMA has calculated for the past 15 years, has increased to an average of 435 square feet in 2009, up from 415 in 2008 and 396 in 2007. This additional space per person is not attributed to employers allocating greater individual office space to employees, but instead is likely the result of the ongoing economic downturn, layoffs and fewer workers occupying the same amount of space.

The report also highlights developments in built environment sustainability trends. Of those surveyed, only 11 percent report managing buildings with no green elements or certification, with 28 percent reporting one or more certified buildings and 61 percent saying their buildings contain green elements but are not certified. Additionally, more than four out of five businesses now utilize recycling programs, and 62 percent use green cleaning supplies in their facilities.

Organizations are also increasingly performing their building maintenance with fewer personnel. Respondents report employing one maintenance staff member for every 49,000 square feet of office space this year, compared to one staff member for every 47,000 square feet in 2006. Layoffs and a sluggish economy are likely contributing factors to these changes.

Survey respondents report spending on average 25 cents more per square foot on janitorial costs than they did in 2008, the last time similar data was collected. Given that labor makes up two-thirds of this cost, the rise is likely due to the implementation of mandatory wage increases. To combat mounting costs, the frequency with which certain janitorial tasks are performed has decreased. When compared to IFMA’s 2006 measurements, survey respondents report that practices such as daily trash removal and restroom cleaning have declined, while other tasks remain about the same.

In an effort to reduce utility consumption, facility professionals are going to great lengths to modernize building equipment and implement controls such as sensors and building automation systems. Changing the operating hours of a building’s heating and cooling systems and adjusting thermostat settings are two prime examples of how facility managers have achieved energy savings with little expense involved. When compared to IFMA’s 2006 measurement, the average summer low thermostat setting has risen by one degree to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average winter low setting has dropped a degree to 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

The amount of electricity buildings consume on average continues to decrease as more sustainable practices are being implemented. Survey respondents who manage buildings with no green elements report using an average of 82 kBtus of electricity per square foot, while those whose buildings contain green elements but not certification report using an average of 72 kBtus per square foot. For those who manage certified green buildings, electricity use is even lower, at 69 kBtus per square foot. In total, utilities constitute the largest component of a facility’s operating cost, with electricity use alone making up 25 percent of the entire cost of operation.

“While focusing on providing healthy and productive work environments, facility professionals have found ways to reduce energy consumption, conserve water, harness natural sources of light and ventilation and minimize waste, all without increasing their operational costs,” said IFMA Director of Research Shari Epstein. “This year’s results demonstrate that by implementing a variety of cost effective practices, workplace professionals have improved the operational efficiency of their portfolios and contributed positively to their organization’s bottom lines.”

The study provides data from 1,422 facilities comprising more than 600 million square feet of commercial space, representing organizations from Fortune 500 companies to the U.S. government.

Operations and Maintenance Benchmarks

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