The chaos theory in FM

How unchecked FM strategies can result in chaos around us

Alan Millin
Alan Millin

You’ve probably come across the chaos theory in one form or another. The butterfly effect is a commonly referenced example where the formation of a hurricane might be caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in a distant location at some earlier time.

Facilities management seems to be generating its own form of chaos. Can, for instance, a single operational act, carried out under the outward claim of improving occupant security, have a significant adverse effect on the well-being of our planet? Apparently so!

The example of a developer issuing facility access cards and forcing huge numbers of owners and occupiers to collect the cards at the developer’s convenience provides us with an insight.

A few simple calculations, based on freely available figures and factors, reveal that the developer in question created the potential for over 1,000,000 kg CO2 emissions as a result of its actions. With a little consideration this potential could easily have been reduced to less than 1,000 kg CO2.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency tells us that fossil fuel combustion for energy production and transportation are the two main human activities that result in CO2 emissions.

Many FM companies have realised the bottom line benefits that fleet management strategies can yield while reducing the environmental impact of vehicle operations, confirming that sustainability initiatives can be good for business.

The developer in our example has, unfortunately, simply transferred responsibility for emissions to its customers rather than taking positive, environmentally responsible action itself.

Water consumption should be another high-priority focus area. Given the greenery that surrounds us, it is easy to lose sight of the fact we live in a region of water scarcity. Water mismanagement contributes to rising groundwater problems affecting facilities in the region.

Irrigation system leaks pour water into the ground. Unchecked, the ground becomes sodden, water tables rise and building foundations start to suffer.

Could a small, overlooked leak today result in a building or development collapse at some point in the future? News reports and publications from around the region tell us that rising groundwater is causing problems, yet irrigation systems can still be seen creating local ponds.

A butterfly would be blissfully unaware of any long term potential effects of its wing flapping. There are probably no butterfly libraries where they can learn about chaos.

For us, however, there is no such excuse.

The information we need to protect the planet is available today, much of it free of cost. We need to be fully aware of the environmental impact of our operational decisions and we need the will to reduce our environmental impact.

If we are to succeed, we need to fully consider the environmental and social impacts of each and every FM decision we make.

About the author
Alan Millin is an FM consultant, trainer and thinker.

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Construction Week - Issue 767
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