Facebook: Efficiency Empowered

By Esra Kucukciftci, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Facebook, MBA Candidate at Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Facebook is on the move… literally. In relocating its headquarter campus, the company recently redesigned and retrofitted the former Sun Microsystems campus in Menlo Park, CA, to LEED Gold standard while also integrating attributes of its own culture into the retrofit. New open office spaces reflect Facebook’s ways: flexible, comfortable and social. The company greatly values its employees’ comfort in and preferences for their work spaces. It sees its built environment as a prominent contributor to their productivity.

When I was charged with developing Facebook’s integrated energy management program earlier this summer, it quickly became apparent that this task was inherently about improving indoor environmental comfort.  I knew this was a unique opportunity, as I would be able to present energy efficiency as a means to improve the building occupants’ efficiency. Using integrated design to enhance work space efficiency is an up-and-coming concept for efficiency practitioners, and I’m excited to be working on the forefront.

Integrating Efficiency into Design: Perception is Everything

The most energy efficient design is not always the desired solution, especially when it comes to weaving the company culture into the built environment. This is where an integrated energy management system (EMS) comes into play. The analytics to be provided by Facebook’s new EMS will optimize energy consumption with respect to the occupants’ comfort and use patterns. Enhancing the occupants’ perceived indoor comfort through integrated energy management can be an invaluable way to gain insights and buy-in for advancing an energy efficiency mindset. The Center for the Built Environment in Berkeley, CA, and energy practitioners all around the country, recommend periodically surveying occupants’ perceived indoor environmental quality- as a best practice.

Energy Efficiency Benefits: Going Beyond Cost Savings

Building owners, facility managers, and designers can make better-informed choices when they understand the positive impacts of energy efficient design. Many emerging studies have sought to quantify the value of the non-energy benefits of energy efficiency. For example, Hall and Roth of TecMarket Works investigated the public benefits of energy efficiency programs. Among the operational areas examined were sales levels, productivity, equipment life, personnel needs, defect and error rates, and employee morale. They reported that “businesses place significant importance on the non-energy benefits associated with the installed technologies, and that the value of these benefits are equal to about 2.5 times the projected energy savings for the installed measures. On average, each Partner reported 3.27 non-energy benefits that have cash value to their business operations for each technology installed.”

To Attract Top Talent, Energy Management is Mandatory

For technology companies such as Facebook, a critical issue to consider when implementing energy best practices is their immense competition to attract the best talent. Since Generation X and the millennials will have major effects in the future of talent it is equally important for technology companies to adjust company policies to appeal to the expectations of this particular talent pool. Cetron and Davies argue (World Future Society, Trends Shaping Tomorrow's World: Forecasts and Implications for Business, Government, and Consumers-Part Two) that “[e]mployers will have to adjust virtually all their policies and practices to the value of these new and different generations.”

The built environments for technology companies, as for many companies, are part of their core culture and success factors. Since sustainability is a rising concern for Generation X and millennials, it will be all the more essential for technology companies to appeal to and accommodate this talent pool’s expectations when designing their built environment.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.