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Going 'green' has building services contractors seeing green

KBM Building Services offers tips for selecting a provider

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Nowadays when someone mentions a "green" building, they're most likely not talking about the color. As the environmental impact of buildings becomes more apparent, these Earth-friendly buildings continue to gain momentum.

"Buildings can significantly affect our health and environment," said Rene Tuchscher, vice president of San Diego-based KBM Building Services, a building services contractor. "The design, construction, maintenance and waste removal of buildings take enormous amounts of energy, water and materials. They can generate large amounts of waste, air and water pollution, as well as create storm water runoff. Buildings can also develop their own indoor environment, which presents an array of health challenges."

Tuchscher said these are important issues companies and organizations need to consider when choosing a building services contractor. She added that companies should do their homework on not only what kind of services the contractor provides but on what kinds of chemicals, equipment and processes it uses. She said building services contractors like KBM who are using certified Green Seal chemicals use green processes and employing U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) cleaning standards can save a client time and money, not to mention improve the health of its employees, tenants and environment.

"More and more we are seeing clients who need to have their policies and procedures documented for the green compliance system in order to get valuable 'points' for the certification of their building," Tuchscher said.

One of KBM's main charges is to consult with their clients on implementing and maintaining their green building compliance program. Green buildings include resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition.

Tuchscher said companies that obtain the "LEED" (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification earn building tax incentives and rebates, as well as energy and water savings. The certification can also result in higher lease rates since the building is so "desirable" for tenants.

Tuchscher and her team at KBM not only use certified Green Seal cleaning products, but they also make sure their clients are up to par with keeping the earth and their tenants' lives healthy. Green Seal is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that certifies environmentally friendly cleaning products, equipment and processes.

"We want to make sure the commercial real estate community is doing its part and that we are doing our part in order to make sure that their buildings are being maintained in a sustainable way that is in line with the current state, regional and even global environmental goals and objectives," she said. "A building services contractor should be a knowledge base for USGBC cleaning information and LEED certification programs."

Besides being keen on the environment, KBM, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has created a comprehensive building services approach by providing janitors, day porters, window washers, carpet and floor cleaning, maintenance, construction cleanup and other additional labor that is needed to maintain buildings. The firm, founded in 1981 by Maureen Gray, also has a tenant improvement and construction division. The company provides commercial cleaning services to some of San Diego's highest profile office buildings, production and manufacturing facilities, retail centers, high-tech and biotechnology firms, medical and health care facilities, industrial parks, educational institutions, banks, hotels and restaurants.

KBM, whose client list includes Jerome's, Scripps Hospitals, Biogen Idec, CB Richard Ellis, Meissner Jacquet, Gen-Probe and Titlist, is ranked as one of San Diego's top 17 women-owned businesses.

The most significant growth in the U.S. economy will be in the services industries, with janitorial services expected to grow faster than almost any other service industry, according to government studies.

According to recent studies, the cleaning industry will grow 7 percent a year, reaching $128 billion in 2008. Cleaning represents about a third or more of the operating cost of an office building.

"Given those figures, companies must choose wisely on who they contract their cleaning and other building services out to," Tuchscher said. "It will not only impact the environment and their employees and tenants, but it will also affect the company's bottom line."

Tuchscher offered the following checklist for companies to review when choosing a building services contractor:

• Watch for consistency in services. Many building services providers are good for only one to two weeks a month. Make sure the provider you choose is available always and that internal processes are set up in order to provide consistent, daily service.

• Communication is critical. Make sure the provider follows up with client needs and concerns immediately.

• The provider you choose must be in the technology age. Make sure the provider's workers are easily accessible via cell phones, Blackberries and e-mail in order to ensure a quick response. Cleaning equipment should be state of the art, including micro-fiber mop systems and backpack vacuums with HEPA filters.

• Make sure the provider has the management team, employee experience and knowledge base to support and implement your environmental policies, procedures and certifications.

• Make sure your provider has a good reputation and standing in the industry and the community.

• Building services providers need to know what trends are affecting their clients' needs, so make sure the one you chose is involved in industry organizations such as the United States Green Building Council, International Facilitates Managers Association, the Building Owners and Managers Association, Institute of Real Estate Management and BSCAI. Such organizations help providers stay on the edge of trends and issues facing the industry.

• The provider should have knowledge of regional issues affecting the community, such as the ability to hire experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated employees combined with the management to oversee them.

• The provider should be promoting the continuing education and certification of its employees, through programs such as mandatory OSHA training, BSCAI (Building Service Contractors Association International) certification and HR programs that deal with workplace issues.

• Make sure the provider is doing everything possible to serve its clients and the community from an environmental perspective.

• Keep an eye on the provider's management team. Retention of staff and management is important in building a relationship with a client. Make sure there aren't different managers handling your account.

For more information on KBM Building Services, visit www.kbmsd.com.

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