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.

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, July 6, 2016

How to Make an Image Map

Web buttons are easy to use, but for some topics they’re a little too vague. To make it easier for our users to choose a climate zone in our Cost-Effective Upgrades Tool (coming soon!) we decided to implement an image map. An image map allows an image to become interactive by adding a hover action or hyperlink to a section of the image. We implemented both of those actions and made an interactive map of the United States that clearly describes the boundaries of the climate zones.

You can make your own image maps in no time using ImageMapster. It’s a very easy to use (free!) jQuery plugin that allows you to make your images come to life before your eyes. Here’s how we used ImageMapster and Gimp to make our own image map like the one above:

Making the image map:
  1. Navigate to http://www.outsharked.com/imagemapster/default.aspx?what.html and download the latest release of ImageMapster.
  2. Open the image that you wish to map in an image editor. We used Gimp, a free image editor, for the following steps.
  3. Navigate to FILTERS > WEB > IMAGE MAP. This should open a new window.
  4. Choose the tool along the left side of the screen that works best for mapping your area (rectangle, circle, or polygon). Left click to mark a coordinate, right click to erase the last coordinate, and double click to finish mapping the area.
  5. Even though the URL field says required, you can still save your area without it. You can add one if you want and make sure the link is correct later in the html code. You can also add alt text to help remember where the coordinates are mapped on the image, but that's optional. Click apply and then OK to save it. After you hit apply you should see the area added to the selection window on the right side of the screen.
  6. Make sure to save your image map constantly. Save as .map for now.
  7. You can edit an area by double clicking the area in the selection window (right side) or by highlighting an area in the selection window and clicking the paper and pencil icon to the left of the selection window. You can move a coordinate point by clicking and dragging one of the rectangles, or coordinate points. You can also delete an area by selecting the area and clicking the trash can icon underneath the paper and pencil icon.
  8. Once you're satisfied with your image map, make sure the most recent version has been saved and navigate to where you saved the image map. Make a copy of the image map (so that you can edit the areas later) and rename the copy with InsertYourImageMapName.html. You will probably get a warning telling you the file may become unusable if you change the file type. Don't worry, click OK.

Adding the Image Map to the View:
  1. Open the .html file with notepad or any other text editor, copy all text, and paste it into your code. The text should look something like this:
    <img src="[YourImageName] (imported)" width="224" height="225" border="0" usemap="#map"/>
    <map name="map">
    <!-- #$-:Image map file created by GIMP Image Map plug-in -->
    <!-- #$-:GIMP Image Map plug-in by Maurits Rijk -->
    <!-- #$-:Please do not edit lines starting with "#$" -->
    <!-- #$VERSION:2.3 -->
    <area shape="circle" coords="90,93,42" alt="Area1" href="#" />
    </map>
    

  2. You'll probably have to change the image source, so make sure that's correct. If you would like more than one area to be mapped together (for example, if you hover over Virginia on a United States map and California, Texas, and Iowa are all highlighted with it) add a data-key to each and make sure it's the same for all of those areas. It should look something like "<area shape="circle" href="#" data-key="Hot" coords="...">"
  3. Include the ImageMapster script inside your view. Next, write a new script that designates all the JavaScript features. The climate zone map in the Cost-Effective Upgrades tool uses this code:
    <script src="~/Scripts/Ceu/ImageMapster.js"></script>
    
    <script type="text/javascript">
        $('#climateZones').mapster(
            {
                fillOpacity: 0.4,
                fillColor: "ffffff",
                stroke: true,
                strokeColor: "000000",
                strokeOpacity: 0.8,
                strokeWidth: 2,
                singleSelect: true,
                mapKey: 'data-key',
                clickNavigate: false,
                isDeselectable: false,
            });
    </script>
    

    You should insert your image id instead of “climateZones” in the first line.
    fillOpacity is the opacity of the highlight when the mouse hovers over the area.
    stroke is the outline of the area. If it's set to true, the area will be outlined if moused over.
    strokeOpacity is the opacity of the outline.
    singleSelect means only one area can be selected at a time (if set to true).
    If isDeselectable is combined with singleSelect, only one area will be selected at a time, and once an area is clicked there will always be one highlighted.
There are many more features that can be implemented with image maps, and they can be found at http://www.outsharked.com/imagemapster/default.aspx?what.html.

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!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Earth Day 2016: Trees!

Did you know that Earth Day gets a theme each year? This year’s theme, defined by the Earth Day Network, is Trees for the Earth. Trees are certainly crucial for our continuing survival as a planet, but how does that affect your building? You may be surprised by all of the ways trees and wood products are accounted for in the realm of sustainability.

Even as steel skeletons dominate the skylines of many cities today, wood is still widely used in buildings. Floors, walls, and tables are just a few, and wood can be new or reused from other sources. In any situation, it is important to ensure your wood was sourced sustainably, and our new Verifying Delivery page can help you do that. Organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative ensure responsible forest management through their industry certification programs, and are another way of confirming a wood resource’s sustainability.

Wood products, like hardwood flooring, that contain sealants, adhesives, or other coatings may contain volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs. Make sure any wood product complies with international standards, which will ensure the indoor environmental quality of your building remains impeccable.

Forests play a key role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a process known as ‘sequestering’ CO2. According to the Earth Day Network, an acre of trees sequesters enough carbon every year to offset 26,000 miles driven by the average car. In addition to preserving and managing forests, reusing and recycling wood products is also a great way to avoid chopping down trees unnecessarily. Often, this method is not only sustainable, but can be cheaper and produce more aesthetically pleasing results than new wood.

Planning an expansion or some landscaping? Save those trees! Any efforts in landscaping or development on your site should utilize low-impact development (LID). LID emphasizes maintaining a site’s existing hydrology as much as possible. Maintaining undisturbed areas or planting of local tree and plant species are two of the best ways to achieve this.

Regardless of theme, Earth Day is all about protecting the natural resources of the Earth in a way that will allow every future generation to experience them as we have. If you’ve recently completed a project that highlights Earth day principles, or your organization does something special for Earth Day, share it with us, or connect with us on Twitter so we can see!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SFTool on the Road – NFMT Conference

In our efforts to be a leader in green building education, SFTool goes out to meet building professionals and spread the good word on buying, building, and living green in your building. This month, we will be at the National Facilities Management & Technology Conference/Exposition in Baltimore, Maryland from March 22-24.

The focus of our booth is the Federal Facilities Skills Assessment Tool (FEDSAT). FEDSAT is a no-cost online skills assessment tool designed to help federal facilities personnel comply with the Federal Buildings Personnel Training act (FBPTA) of 2010. FEDSAT allows FBPTA affected personnel to demonstrate knowledge of high priority FBPTA “performances,” defined as typical job functions for facilities personnel.

FEDSAT helps facility managers assess their knowledge of the high-priority performances, fill gaps in those performances, and locate free training resources available from the Federal government, industry associations, and other sources, including resources that count for continuing education credits.

GSA’s Facilities Management Institute allows federal facility managers to manage and track progress towards fulfilling FBPTA requirements, and FEDSAT is fully integrated with the system to evaluate personnel on the 80 highest-priority performances. FMI also allows qualified individuals to ‘opt out’ of certain performances in FEDSAT if they are already satisfied by another professional certification or educational course.

Come over to booth #2395 and chat with us about everything FEDSAT and our other educational resources have to offer! We’ll be looking sharp, like we did at the Greenbuild Conference in November – check it out below!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Social Sustainability

Sustainability is most often associated with environmental friendliness, energy efficiency, or improving occupant comfort. However, the social aspects of sustainability are just as important to the effort as the more publicized ‘green’ benefits. Taking a lifecycle approach to identify all aspects that affect human life in sustainability efforts ensures Social Sustainability is not overlooked.

Social Sustainability, is defined broadly by the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability as “the social relationships, interactions, and institutions that affect, and are affected by, sustainable development.” SFTool’s new Social Sustainability module describes best practices, offers strategies, and provides resources from around the world designed to identify sectors at-risk for human rights violations so organizations and individuals can easily verify compliance with national and international standards. Follow the guide to help your building and procurement projects achieve their economic, environmental and social sustainability goals.

Concerns over socially sustainable development can originate both domestically and abroad and can come in many forms, such as:
  • Unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and other workers’ rights violations
  • Human trafficking
  • Child labor or forced labor
  • Privacy rights

The Social Sustainability page brings a wealth of information from across the globe into one place, including guidelines from the UN Guiding Principles, Global Reporting Initiative, US Departments of Labor and State, and many more. Procurement resources are further broken down into pre-award actions, like identifying human rights risks by category and country, and post-award actions, including verification of contractors’ claims of sourcing sustainably. In fact, there’s a whole separate page dedicated to resources that help with verification.

Those more interested in the issues or looking to ensure their projects, organizations, or business efforts are in line with international standards can go to the Initiatives, Guidelines, and Standards page. You can search by industry or guidance organization to see resources relevant to many social sustainability concerns.

SFTool’s new Social Sustainability module incorporates many strategies, best practices, and resources, but if you have an additional resource you think may be beneficial, send us a note using the ‘Give Feedback’ button at the bottom of every sftool.gov page!