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Green infrastructure shows potential for facilities managers in challenge

Green infrastructure is now a serious consideration for facilities managers and designers after the success of the 2017 Green Infrastructure Challenge, according to the Facilities Management Group of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

The Challenge, which saw a radical plan to transform a poorly performing Council waste site into a green centre for wellbeing and sustainability win out, was held during Green Sky Thinking Week and was organised by the CIBSE and the ARCC Network and held at Build Studios in London.

Whilst the plan included many proposals for green infrastructure implementation, the most intriguing impact will be on facilities managers, for whom the technology opens up a raft of new options to improve wellbeing and efficiency, according to FM Group Vice Chair David Stevens.

The plan presented by Louise Handley of environmental services company Amey saw many of the 1980s building’s performance issues, including poor air quality, overheating and low efficiency, without the use of mechanical infrastructure. Instead, the scheme will utilise a combination of plant based solutions such as living walls and roofs to achieve a range of outcomes from improving wellbeing and staff morale, to reducing flooding and cooling the site.

Externally, rain gardens will be used to trap waste water and prevent it causing a flooding risk as well as to provide shade and increase air quality. The addition of living walls to the outside of the building will have the dual effect of shading in the summer and trapping heat in the winter, as well as improving air quality and staff wellbeing. Internally, ‘vertical farming’ will be introduced on walls to provide air quality and cooling benefits, as well as a ‘biophilic’ effect which will positively impact staff morale and increase their engagement with the process by having them care for the plants.

David Stevens, Co-Vice Chair of the CIBSE Facilities Management Group, said: “As one of the judges behind this challenge I was blown away by the ambition and versatility of the solutions that the winner presented. It is clear that green infrastructure is now a real option for facilities managers looking for new alternatives.

“Research into green technology has come a long way in the last few years, and we are finally in a situation where solutions such as rain gardens and ‘green ceilings’ are actually first choice options in new projects. Not only is the performance of the building improved, but the performance of the occupants too.”

The Challenge aims to change the way that built environment professionals think about green infrastructure, and to demonstrate its potential as a way to contribute to improving indoor air quality, resilience to climate change and staff productivity. The Challenge culminated in an event exploring green infrastructure as a building service during Open City’s Green Sky Thinking Week, at Build Studios in London.

The runners up in the competition were Deependra Pourel, Bernadette Widjaja & Karan Patel from the University of Westminster, who applied the scientific principles of green infrastructure to the Clarence Building at London South Bank University to model the effects of changes including green roofs, living walls and green ceilings.