As with many fields, labor shortages continue to be an ongoing struggle for health care facilities management departments. However, as today’s facilities directors age out of the workforce, younger generations are bringing a strong commitment to sustainability.

“I think the workforce is demanding progress on sustainability,” says Kara Brooks, MS, LEED AP BD+C, senior associate director of sustainability at the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE). “As we’re seeing the new workforce come in, that’s being demanded of our leadership.”

“We’ve seen a lot of really good progress within organizations at a grassroots level generated by having younger blood there that brings a fresh outlook on furthering the green movement into the operations and maintenance arena,” says Caleb Haynes, PE, vice president of business development for Bernhard TME, an engineering firm.

The 2023 Hospital Construction Survey, conducted by ASHE’s Health Facilities Management, reflects this shift. Only 5% of respondents report staff engagement as “extremely challenging” in driving sustainability improvements forward, and 24% say a lack of adequate staff available to support these green initiatives is extremely challenging. 

While manpower may be limited, this broad support for sustainability is helping drive significant progress.

“When I was a facility manager 10 years ago working on sustainability, lack of staff engagement was my No. 1 issue,” says Jonathan Flannery, MHSA, CHFM, FASHE, FACHE, senior associate director of advocacy at ASHE. “We’ve seen a significant change. We have staff engagement now, and that’s big.”

As he explains, this impacts everything from the types of projects pushed to energy usage reductions. “Conservation is a huge part of sustainability,” Flannery continues. “When you have 15,000 employees, the actions every one of them takes every single day can significantly impact your energy usage.”

Chad Beebe, AIA, CHFM, CFPS, CBO, FASHE, deputy executive director at ASHE, agrees. He adds that environmental awareness is driving some of the commitment to sustainability from the C-suite as well, and a resultant shift in the approach to decarbonization. “Organizations are looking at their communities and saying, ‘We’re not doing this [just] because there’s an added economic value to it. We’re doing it because there’s a social responsibility here that we, as the largest employers in our communities in most cases, need to be doing this. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it.’” ■