SFTool Blog

Welcome to the SFTool Blog. The Sustainable Facilities Tool (sftool.gov) helps you do more than learn about high-performance buildings and purchasing. SFTool helps you put this knowledge into practice, and assemble the people you need to help you get stuff done.

We’ve decided to share some of our experiences while developing SFTool. We’ll talk about interactions with the building community, challenges we’ve overcome designing the site, and other stories about putting high-performance ideas into practice.

Note: The SFTool blog may contain links to websites of public and private organizations, as well as references to specific products used in development. A link or mention anywhere on SFTool is not an endorsement of the views, products, or services provided by the mentioned resource or product.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Circadian Light

In its December newsletter, the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings highlighted some of its recent work on circadian light and its effects on office dwellers. Circadian rhythms are defined as "physiological processes that occur in the body approximately every 24-hours." The most well-known of these is the wake/sleep cycle we all experience with the sun every day. The light we see in the morning and throughout the day tell our bodies it's time to be awake and alert. The darkness of night encourages sleep. Here are a few excerpts from the newsletter:
  • The average person spends only 17 out of 169 hours each week outside in the sun.
  • Receiving more circadian light during the day results in better sleep and more positive moods.
  • The design of a building significantly affects the ability of its occupants to get sufficient daylight exposure.
You should definitely check out the rest of the newsletter; it's a quick, interesting read. But if you're looking for even more, follow the links within the newsletter, and check out our resources on daylighting and its effects on occupant health. Go get some sun!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Happy Halloween!

We're brushing up on tactics to fight energy vampires this Halloween! Didn't know there was such a thing? Energy vampires are scary  vampire plug loads can account for as much as 10% of your electricity bill.

So how do you fight energy vampires? Check out SFTool's Plug Load page and more strategies from the Department of Energy (DOE).

Visit DOE's Energyween page for more Halloween-themed tips plus some great costume and pumpkin ideas!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

New SFTool Framework on Managing Climate-Related Risks to Federal Supply Chains

Weather-related events, such as heat waves, hurricanes, and flooding events, have disrupted the movement and provision of goods and services throughout the United States and abroad, increasing operational costs for Federal agencies. To avoid future disruptions and associated costs, Executive Order 13653 calls on Federal agencies to mitigate risks to their supply chains posed by climate change.

To help Federal agencies meet the requirements of this EO and manage climate-related supply chain risks, we've partnered with GSA's Office of Acquisition Management to develop a new set of pages, Managing Climate Change Risks to Federal Agency Supply Chains. They provide a framework for assessing climate- and weather-related risks to supply chains and developing plans to minimize those risks.

The framework, outlined in the figure to the right, offers information for approaching risk management in the context of climate change through four common risk management steps. Each step provides flexible guidance to meet the needs of different agencies, as well as background information on the fundamentals of climate change. By working through the framework, agency staff can determine whether new risk management strategies or changes to existing risk management practices may be necessary to accommodate climate change-related risks.

An Excel-based companion workbook allows you to document findings as you work through the framework. This workbook, as well as a PDF version of the framework for offline use, is available for download from the new pages.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Energy Exchange 2016

We just got back from the Department of Energy's Energy Exchange training and trade show, held in Providence, Rhode Island last week. Check out the photo of the Rhode Island State House! Energy Exchange provides stakeholders from every aspect of green buildings and energy the opportunity to connect and learn from each other. Members of the SFTool team took the opportunity to promote our resources through presentations at Energy Exchange! We demonstrated FEDSAT and how it can help Federal building managers and operators meet the requirements of the Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act (FBPTA). SFTool staff also highlighted our ability to educate all employees about sustainability and its impact on the world around us. Energy Exchange was a blast, and we’re already looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Green Leasing: Coming Soon to SFTool!

On Monday, the General Services Administration accepted two awards at the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. They’ve got a great blog post  describing the awards they won, which included being recognized as a Green Lease Leader. Here at SFTool, we’ve had green leasing on our mind for a while, and are preparing to launch content that will help you figure out what green leasing is and why it has become so important. Our panel of industry experts spoke at BOMA's conference on Monday as well, and will speak again at Greenbuild in Los Angeles in October, so if you’re curious, come to the session! What we’ve learned is that tenants, both Federal and commercial, are increasingly requiring sustainability in their buildings, but a large part of their facilities are leased; GSA has more than 8,000 leases nationwide! Incorporating sustainable strategies into leases is necessary to successfully make the building you occupy more green and efficient. However, green leases are still not fully understood by everyone involved. Landlords, tenants, and brokers can all benefit from learning more about how green clauses impact a building’s performance and how they affect everyone’s bottom line. To this end, we are working on a Cost-Effective Upgrades Calculator to help building owners and tenants see what building upgrades or adjustments could be made and paid back during the life of a lease. The results are based on building size and climate zone, and can be bookmarked so you can always revisit or share with your building’s decisionmakers. On top of all that, you will be able to select individual building upgrades to learn about what they are, how they impact your building, and how to start implementing them. All of this will be framed by the information from our conference panels, so don’t worry if you can’t make it to LA. Look for the prototype on www.SFTool.gov in the next month or two!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sustainable Child Care Centers

Those involved in sustainability and combating climate change often cite a desire to leave a better world for their children as part of their motivation. Many may forget that there is plenty we can do for the kids right now to keep them healthy and get them started early on the path to living green. We recently released our Child Care Center module, which is loaded with everything you need to make sure a child care facility in your building is designed and operated sustainably, with the kids in mind. You can tour the different areas of a child care center, learning strategies and tips for making the spaces kid-friendly and kid-healthy.

There are many building aspects we take for granted as adults that affect children differently. For example, windows at a height acceptable for an adult might be too high for a child to see. Lighting fixtures should promote indirect lighting; the children will be looking up at the adults in the classroom and shouldn’t be looking into direct light! A lot of these seem like no brainers, but you would be surprised at how these little considerations come together to have a big impact on child care centers. Design from the child’s perspective.

Material selection is especially important for children’s facilities. It is no secret that kids spend a lot of time on the floor (and occasionally licking it!). Non-toxic flooring and furniture with VOCs well below the legal limit are important, as are any cleaning products used on the toys, furniture, and flooring. All this ensures that children are protected from anything that could harm their growth or intellectual development at this early stage of life.

You might be wondering where this all comes from. We’ve got you covered on that too. GSA has a comprehensive Child Care Center Design Guide, full of information and requirements for planning in GSA controlled spaces (but applicable to everyone). We’ve also curated a list of credits in major green building rating systems that relate to child care centers.

All of these efforts offer a golden opportunity to involve young children in sustainability conversations. If they grow up turning out the lights, using less water, and understanding their place in the environment, future generations will be well suited to protect and improve the planet when it is their turn.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bike to Work Day 2016!

Bust out the air pumps and oil up those chains, because Friday is Bike to Work Day! Bike to Work Day is a day where anyone can try biking to work. Often, people associate a decision about whether to bike to work based on distance alone – but there is much more to it than that.

First and foremost, where your building is located is paramount to encouraging biking or walking to work, not just this Friday, but every day. Choosing a sustainable site can have as large an effect on the greenhouse gas emissions of your building as any other consideration. Commuting often makes up a significant portion of emissions, and biking and walking are zero-emission methods! In addition to access to public transportation, any location should be evaluated for its walkability and rideability. GSA and EPA recently released their Smart Location Calculator, which rates buildings for several location efficiency factors – enter your address to find your Walk Score and more!

Second, providing the infrastructure for employees to easily bike is crucial to increasing adoption. Bike racks are a must, as are showers and changing facilities. You probably don’t want your employees spending their day in sweaty gym clothes, so make sure they’ve got access to a place to clean-up and change. It may be worth seeking an agreement with a nearby office or gym with the appropriate facilities to accommodate cyclists if your building doesn’t have them.

Third, incentivize! Bicycling is not only good for the earth, it’s great for building occupants’ health and happiness. All over the country on Bike to Work Day, cities and towns set up events, offer breakfast, and even sponsor convoys between major employment centers around town to encourage newbies to come out. Haven’t pulled your bike out of the shed in a while? Many events offer free tune-ups, and more experienced riders should be carrying the tools and tricks you need to have a successful ride to and from work. Make sure you’ve got an extra inner tube, just in case.

Also, it may have been awhile (or it may be your first time) riding on public streets alongside traffic, so safety is paramount! Wear reflective clothing, especially if you leave before the sun is fully up. Don’t forget a lock either, if your workplace does not have indoor bicycle storage. Perhaps most important is your helmet; wear it and make sure it fits properly. Check your brakes too – we know you’re in a hurry to get to work, but you’ll have to slow down and stop at some point! On top of all this, make sure to have fun this Friday while you make the Earth a better place with a little less traffic!