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Decarbonization Conference Yields Insights for Facilities Managers 

October 31, 2023

How to decarbonize buildings, including those that are dozens or hundreds of years old? A sold-out crowd of educational facilities professionals and other stakeholders in the built environment industry met in late October to explore this question in depth. The realities, of course, include the fact that building design, construction, and operation contribute close to 40% of global carbon emissions—and the opportunities include the potential of approaches such as digital documentation, building performance standards, and strategies for tackling refrigerants. 

The 2023 Decarbonization Conference for the Built Environment, sponsored by ASHRAE and cosponsored by organizations including APPA, “served as an impactful forum for building industry professionals to discuss the pressing concern of carbon emission reduction in buildings,” said Darryl Boyce, P.E., who attended as a member of both APPA (Emeritus Member) and ASHRAE (Presidential Member). A key takeaway, he said, “was that facility managers in educational environments have a critical role to play in decarbonization. By making changes to the way they operate and maintain buildings, facility managers can significantly reduce energy consumption and emissions.”  

Boyce cited the following actions among those that facility managers can take “to make educational institutions more sustainable and help to protect the environment.” 

  • Investing in energy-efficient upgrades, such as lighting and HVAC systems 
  • Implementing demand response programs to reduce energy use during peak demand periods 
  • Promoting energy conservation among staff and students 
  • Working with local utilities to develop renewable energy projects 

In addition to the sessions on decarbonization, Boyce noted that the ASHRAE conference also explored topics including the role of building materials in decarbonization, the economics of decarbonization, and policy and regulatory drivers of decarbonization. 

“The conference was a valuable resource for facility managers who are looking to learn more about decarbonization and how they can take action in their own facilities.” Boyce said. Issues related to decarbonization, including benchmarks and dashboards, will also be a key topic explored at the APPA 2024 Spring Conference.  

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