Sustainability How-To Guide Series

IFMA and the IFMA Foundation, with support from IFMA’s Sustainability Committee, produce a series of white papers to provide data and information associated with a wide range of subjects related to sustainable facility management.

All Guides are now housed in the IFMA Knowledge Library.  Simply click here, and search for the title of the desired Guide.  All are available free of charge. 

Getting Started

The “Getting Started” guide details how facility professionals can implement sustainable facility management (SFM) programs in existing buildings. While building certification programs require extensive time and resources, there are alternative tools which can reduce resource consumption and improve overall facility efficiency without decreasing the bottom line. “Getting Started” enables the implementation of such initiatives by providing a roadmap whereby facility managers can assess their organization, find a starting point, identify initiatives to determine their value and implement, measure and monitor program effectiveness.

Waste Stream Management

The “Waste Stream Management” guide comprehensively defines waste as the useless expenditure of materials, time and money. The guide presents a multi-faceted approach to waste reduction, which entails both resource and waste stream management. Sustainable facility management practices necessitate the assessment of a product during its production, its use and its disposal. This life cycle assessment is discussed in “Waste Stream Management,” along with environmentally preferred purchasing programs and various disposal methods, all of which save time and money when properly applied.

Carbon Footprint

Carbon footprint is the standard measurement of greenhouse gas (GHG) production and is used in energy management, waste handling, environmental impact, purchasing, air quality and many other sustainability issues. The facility manager, therefore, must measure and monitor both building- and workplace-related carbon emissions. IFMA’s “Carbon Footprint” guide defines carbon footprinting and provides the tools necessary to understand the process, analyze the results and plan for the future. Additionally, the guide presents the GHG emission inventory process, discusses best practices and benchmarking and explains climate action planning and reporting.

US Government Policy Impacts and Opportunities for Facility Management

In the interest of promoting sustainability, the U.S. federal government has declared that it will take a leadership role in energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental stewardship. In particular, various government agencies will develop supporting resources that cover sustainable buildings and campuses, operations and maintenance, greenhouse gases, water efficiency, data center efficiency, industrial facilities and federal fleet management. The “U.S. Government Policy Impact and Opportunities for Facility Management” guide examines the government’s initiatives and describes the opportunities which they afford to facility managers who implement sustainability plans. The materials provide a significant body of knowledge, including best in-class tools, resources, benchmarking information and further support.

Commissioning Existing Buildings

Commissioning an existing building involves introducing and advancing sustainable practices in order to lower operating costs, resolve occupant complaints and reduce environmental impact. IFMA’s “Commissioning Existing Buildings” guide provides research-backed instruction regarding the implementation of sustainable measures within existing structures. The commissioning process is described from beginning to end, and the guide explains how to select a project, issue a request for qualifications and develop a current facility requirements document. “Commissioning Existing Buildings” also explains what facility managers should expect from their commissioning team and provides budget guidelines for time, money and resources.

Global Green Cleaning

Green cleaning involves the purchase of environmentally preferable materials, the use of practices which ensure occupants’ health and safety and the implementation of innovative cleaning programs. The steps necessary to establish a comprehensive green cleaning program are outlined in the “Global Green Cleaning” guide, which covers key topics including indoor air quality, green cleaning products and equipment, greenwashing, green cleaning service providers and performance measurement, among others. The guide includes international perspectives on diverse cleaning operations, providing facility managers with a wide range of green cleaning options.

Data Centers

Data center reconfiguration can greatly reduce energy consumption, but requires careful planning and significant capital investment. Facility managers must prepare a plan that communicates all of the available solutions and prioritizes each initiative based on cost, return on investment and business impact. IFMA’s “Turning Data Centers Green” guide outlines how to construct such a plan and discusses the major obstacles for improving energy efficiency in data centers. Specifically, the guide emphasizes the necessity of strong project leadership, executive support and funding, power usage effectiveness calculations and strategies to increase data center energy efficiency, modularization and sustainability.

Green Building Rating Systems

Whether or not certification is sought, green building rating systems provide a framework which can help facility managers structure sustainability plans. The “Green Building Rating Systems” guide presents an unbiased evaluation of the 15 most prominent rating systems that currently exist. Charts and graphics provide at-a-glance information about each system’s popularity and basic features, while subsections supply detailed cost analysis data and insight from facility management experts. The guide also discusses key findings of the IFMA Green Building Rating Systems Survey, including the most common reasons for certification, the most frequently used rating system and reasons why some organizations opt out of certification.


Sustainable landscaping provides practical, recreational and aesthetic benefits while balancing environmental, economic and social needs. The “Sustainable Landscaping” guide reviews the design, construction and maintenance stages of landscaping and explains how to incorporate sustainability at each phase. Facility managers are presented with detailed information including plant-specific recommendations, tips for forming a landscape team, options to decrease maintenance costs and steps to calculate return on investment (ROI).


Population expansion and water supply decrease necessitate extremely efficient water use, both inside and outside of commercial buildings. IFMA’s “A Comprehensive Guide to Water Conservation: The Bottom Line Impacts, Challenges and Rewards” provides instructions to help facility managers benchmark, evaluate and reduce water consumption. It defines domestic, processed and outdoor water types and explains strategies to reduce each. The guide cites recent legislation regulating water efficiency and emphasizes the financial payoff of water conservation.


Addressing a facility’s lighting system is one of the easiest ways to realize cost savings through energy efficiency while simultaneously bettering indoor environmental quality. Improved efficiency, lower energy costs, enhanced aesthetic quality and higher employee productivity are some of the many benefits of an upgraded lighting system. IFMA’s “Lighting Solutions” guide relays knowledge amassed from extensive research, lighting specialists and general experience to provide a comprehensive description of sustainable lighting options. Key ideas discussed include basic lighting concepts and terms, lamp and ballast types, occupancy sensors and natural light, lighting upgrades and the future of lighting technology.

No Cost/Low Cost

Based on the BetterBricks article “Common Opportunities: The Top Four,” the “No-Cost/Low-Cost Energy Savings Guide” enables facility managers to reduce energy use. The guide reveals the top four energy consumption pitfalls (equipment scheduling, sensor error, simultaneous heating and cooling and outside air usage) and provides specific instructions to combat each. It presents many different no-cost/low-cost solutions and offers ways to simplify implementation processes through the use of checklists, templates and software. The guide allows facility managers to explore various energy reduction strategies and provides a framework for the selection, execution and maintenance of the most cost-effective solutions.

Food Service

A sustainable food service environment seeks to balance social, economic and environmental factors while providing group sustenance. The “Sustainability in the Food Service Environment” guide instructs food service managers and facility managers in how to introduce and advance sustainable practices. It addresses local purchasing, waste management, energy conservation, green building design and other key sustainability topics. The guide provides practical directions on how to implement these measures and includes a list of resources for additional information.

EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager

Rising energy costs and increasing interest in sustainability are driving the development of strategies for better energy management. To accommodate this need, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a free online resource that determines a building’s energy utilization index and facilitates the comparison of data across a multi-property portfolio. The “EPA’s ENERGY STAR Measurement and Tracking Tool: Portfolio Manager” guide explains energy terminology, how to use Portfolio Manager and how to generate an ENERGY STAR score. The text also helps readers evaluate facility performance while identifying potential energy-saving measures to improve overall efficiency.

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