Understanding How Security and Sustainability Go Hand in Hand at GSX 2023

The building hosting security pros in Dallas next week focused on occupant health and efficient, sustainably sound practices. You should too.

Security unites us, as does another important element of the industry: sustainability.

Security and sustainability go hand in hand. They both have effects on the building’s occupants and owners.

GSX 2023 will take place in Dallas at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center next week. You’ll be in a hurry to get inside the show, but first, look near the entrance of the building.

You’ll see a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) plaque. This means the building you’ll be in all week during the conference is certified for placing a large focus on occupant health and efficient, sustainably sound practices. The U.S. has more than 120,000 LEED-certified projects, with the Dallas Convention Center being the first LEED certified building in Texas.

Whether you knew it or not, you’ve likely been involved in a LEED project. Did you ask about the efficiency of the access control products? What about the footprint of the product (embodied carbon, material ingredients, packaging, etc.)? These questions keep you relevant as a security and sustainability professional.

Why Security Pros Should Care About Sustainability

The 2021 DODGE World Green Building Trends Report found that the most important building green’s most important business benefit is lower operating costs, followed by improved user well-being and future-proofing assets. As a security professional, all three of these benefits are imperative to the products and services you provide to your customers. With these benefits comes opportunity.

A CBRE survey of global property professionals found that more than 50% of customers would consider paying a premium for smart technology in support of efficient building operations and reduced environmental impact.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) revealed that we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, meaning considerations of building design and operations on human health is imperative for building owners.

According to market research, the global construction compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for 2023-2027 is 6.2%. The GREEN global construction CAGR for 2023-2027 is 11%. You are missing business opportunities if you are not paying attention to sustainable construction.

Green construction may differ depending on your geography, market type, budget, and owner demands. Here are some examples of green building/product certification programs that you should become familiar with. Many systems and products have documentation to support these programs.

LEED, administered by the USGBC, is the world’s most accessible and widely used green building certification program. LEED is a rating-based system that provides a framework for healthy, efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.

The USGBC reminds us that LEED aims to amplify the positive and mitigate the negative by building upon design goals that focus on economy, utility, durability, and comfort.

LEED-certified buildings provide a framework to incorporate the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and prosperity. As it relates to our industry and CSI divisions, the emphasis is primarily placed on where the products came from, how they were made, and what they are made of.

Manufacturers are encouraged to supply this data to project teams, and in the spirit of transparency and continuous improvement, many do.

The WELL Building Standard is, you guessed it, focused on the wellness of the building occupants. This rating-based system is administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and has grown in popularity since the recent pandemic.

The WELL Building Standard measures features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. It uses a holistic approach by addressing behavior, operations, and design. All products and systems in the building have the potential to contribute positively to this program.

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the world’s most stringent green building certification program, but that doesn’t stop project teams and owners from attempting to achieve it. LBC envisions a future where all materials in the built environment are regenerative and have no negative impact on human and ecosystem health.

The program utilizes a ‘Red List’ to guide ingredients permitted in the specified products. Much like LEED and WELL, this encourages manufacturers to be aware of their full bill of materials (BOM) and the potential to make positive changes to toxic ingredients.

How You Can Go Green on Your Next Project

The data required for green building certification programs can be found through a variety of documentation. Referred to as transparency documents and issued by the manufacturer, they are likely one or more of the following:

  • Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): A standardized way of communicating the environmental impacts of a product, by utilizing a life cycle assessment
  • Health Product Declaration (HPD): A reporting format that provides information on the contents of building products, along with the potential health related hazard for each ingredient
  • Declare label: The LBC promotes the use of this ‘nutrition label’ for the product. The label lists ingredients, source of material, and other facts.
  • GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold certificates focus on testing a product’s harmful off-gassing levels. In a healthy building, it is important to understand the volatile organic compound (VOC) content of a product; GREENGUARD tests and certifies products for low levels. For openings, this applies to doors, frames, and gasketing/seals product types as metal-based hardware products are inherently non-emitting.
  • Third-party verification: this documentation confirms that a third party has audited and validated any claims about a sustainable product or process. Always look for third party involvement when working on a sustainable project.

In the spirit of true transparency, this documentation can be found on the manufacturer’s website as well as various industry websites and databases, such as mindful MATERIALS, UL Spot, HPD Collaborative, Declare database, GreenCircle database, and Toxnot by 3E.

For some customers, product decisions may be driven by one or more factors of a manufacturer’s sustainability focus. It could be one or many of these sustainability considerations: cost savings derived from greater energy efficiency, reduced heating and cooling loss, or a focus on using healthy materials (for example, use of red list free materials, etc.).

Some projects around sustainability programs are set by the building owner or developer. Owners are looking for healthier products, efficient products, and the ability to identify the health hazards typically present in that material/product.

The Demand Is Growing

Sustainability is not limited to one region of the country or world, nor is it specific to one type of market or customer. Motivations and criteria for sustainability will differ. If you work with or at the types of buildings mentioned below, take note of what is important:

Education: Universities are setting the bar high in response to the expectations of students who want to know if they’ll be living, learning, and participating in a school community that puts importance on their health and wellbeing. Many end users, especially higher education projects, have ambitious energy or footprint reduction targets. Access control solutions help them achieve those goals and add to the student’s user experience. Ideally, all stakeholders’ partners are fully aligned to help to drive sustainability together in a collaborative process that takes place early netting better outcomes.

Healthcare: Group purchasing organizations (GPOs) have sustainability metrics for measuring and qualifying their suppliers through sustainable procurement programs. Healthcare facilities want to ensure their employees and patients occupy spaces that are conducive to productivity and healing, with a focus on good indoor air quality, daylighting, soft close hardware, and secure medication cabinets as well as patient records.

Government/Military: Much emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and transparency. Ecolabels, from various labelling systems, identify products that have proven to be environmentally preferable within a specific product category. Recently, the US government announced the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), issuing billions of dollars in support of greenhouse gas reductions, EPD assistance, and labelling for low embodied carbon construction materials.

Hospitality: This market places a heavy focus on user experience, and sustainability plays a part in that. Access control solutions allow for efficient check-in through mobile-supported technology. Many large hotel chains have strict guidelines for sustainable purchasing and are seeking products that use quality ingredients, recycled content, are energy efficient, and have low levels of off-gassing.

Your Role in Sustainable Security Solutions

Take every product into consideration, no matter the market segment, and deeply understand its impact on the building occupant in terms of wellness, health, security, and sustainability.

Integrated access control solutions offer advantages because they operate with fewer components which means less overall impact, lower footprint, less maintenance, and less time and expense during installation.

Almost every product has a unique sustainability attribute. Products associated with security are an often-forgotten contributor to green building projects and sustainability efforts. That’s why it’s necessary to create more awareness and education around this topic. Remember that our industry and technology are constantly changing, and resources and training opportunities are available to keep you in front of it.

While at GSX this year, actively look for examples of sustainability on the expo floor. Talk to manufacturers. Tell them what is important to you as an owner, integrator, installer, designer, consultant, and decision maker.

Look for products and solutions with sustainable attributes such as thermal comfort, low levels of chemical off-gassing, and access control solutions designed to be energy efficient and utilize power from existing infrastructure, like PoE (Power over Ethernet) and WiFi.

This year at GSX, there is an added focus on social impact, the “people” part of sustainability. GSX has partnered with SocialOffset, a nonprofit organization that will funnel 100% of the funds donated to local Texas nonprofits that deliver programs, services, and advocacy for racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, hunger relief, housing security, environmental responsibility, and the fight against human trafficking.

These organizations have been chosen in alignment with ASIS diversity, ethics, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and in the interest of honoring the commitment of ASIS members to keep all persons safe and secure.

Our industry has begun to place a greater focus on responsibility and advocacy. It is working toward responsible supply chain practices, social health and equity compliance, and conscientious investments for diversity, inclusion, health, and stewardship.

This can be seen through the Design for Freedom movement, development of the Just label, inclusion into the mindful MATERIALS Common Material Framework (below), etc.

Don’t get left behind. Take what you’ve learned about sustainability and adopt a new approach for how you and your organization markets, sells, services, and supports a more progressive built environment.

The demand for sustainable access control knowledge and solutions is only growing. Let’s prepare together.

Amy Musanti is director of sustainable building solutions and Erin Spadavecchia is program manager, sustainability, for ASSA Abloy.

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