Facilities Toolbox: Sustainability Tools
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Does sustainability make a difference?

Photo of the log visitor's center.

Minimizing energy use is important at Lolo Pass
Visitor Center, which remains open year round.

Forest: Lolo, Clearwater
Region: 1

Yes, sustainability makes a difference in several ways.

Personnel Costs: Sustainability includes preventing mold and microbial growth, ensuring adequate ventilation, providing daylight and views for all work areas, assuring that building occupants have at least some control over the temperature in their work area, and selecting construction materials, interior finishes, and cleaning products that aren't toxic and don't emit volatile organic compounds. These measures all lead to reduced absenteeism and significantly improved worker health, satisfaction, and productivity. The costs for a typical Federal office are $315 per square foot per year for salary and only $15 per square foot per year for building operation (including amortized construction cost or rent), so even a modest 5 percent increase in productivity could lead to a reduction in total costs that is larger than the annual cost of building ownership and operation.

Energy Use Costs: Sustainable practices can make a difference in the energy costs billed to our units. New construction built sustainably will have energy bills that range from 20 percent lower than those of standard construction to zero net energy use. Zero net energy use means that over the course of a year, the building generates as much energy as it uses. While such structures tend to be more expensive to construct than can usually be justified with Forest Service budgets, 30 percent lower energy use is readily achievable. More information on energy efficient buildings is available at the Whole Building Design Guide Web site.

Operations and Maintenance Costs: We can also improve the sustainability of our existing facilities, and it can be done cost effectively. Ordinary operations and maintenance work can be a great opportunity to improve the sustainability of offices, warehouses, crew quarters, homes, utilities, and all the facilities that enable Forest Service employees to do their work. Making thoughtful choices about insulation, windows and doors, heating, air conditioning, lighting, water use, and even landscaping can make a big difference in operations and maintenance costs. Incrementally Greener—Improving Sustainability Over Time Through Operations and Maintenance (Optional link for FSweb users) tells how to make it happen.

Future Generations: Implementing sustainable practices will help ensure a healthy economy, environmental integrity, and human well-being for our grandchildren. If we don't make sustainability improvements, life will not be pleasant for future generations. Because about 40 percent of total energy usage, 12 percent of fresh water use, and about 40 percent of raw materials are dedicated to the construction and operation of buildings, it is vital for our grandchildren that our developments and operations be as sustainable as we can make them.

How much difference can be made by changing Forest Service practices? The documents below provide statistics on the current environmental footprint of some Forest Service units, summaries of some current sustainable practices and changes that have been made, and ideas for changes that can be made.