Mark Petruzzi

You probably have a decent handle on the Internet of Things and how more of the digital devices, mechanical equipment and control systems in your buildings are communicating and interacting with each other. You may have a piece of equipment that regularly uploads usage data to the Cloud so the manufacturer can track and recommend maintenance or automatically reorder supplies. You may also have schedules for lighting and HVAC based on occupancy sensors instead of staff walking around and turning off lights and adjusting thermostats.

It wasn’t that long ago — in the time before software as a service and the Cloud — that we used to sit in front of our desktop PCs loading disc after disc to install new programs. I doubt many people would recall those long hours of changing discs and rebooting as time well spent. Both Cloud-based software and interconnected building systems (when they’re working properly) can provide more flexibility, access and efficiency.

A recent concept that also drives efficiency on a broad scale is the Circular Economy. The general idea is that in a circular system (versus a linear take-make-dispose system that generates considerable waste), resources would continue to circulate thanks to better design and increased utilization of options to repair, reuse, refurbish and recycle. This publication has devoted many column inches to the challenges of dealing with materials in your facilities at the end of their life. Circular thinking has the potential to impact numerous streams that are currently being “wasted.”

Exploring products as a service with your equipment vendors is a more circular option that is markedly more robust than simpler equipment leases. Under an old lease, you might get the use of the equipment for a monthly fee and were responsible for turning in the equipment in a specified condition at the end of the lease to avoid a financial penalty.

With a product as a service arrangement, you still avoid purchasing and owning the equipment up front, but the manufacturer can be responsible for routine maintenance, consumables and software upgrades to keep the equipment running in top condition. If the equipment needs major service, you might get a loaner to use. Ultimately, you are getting the use of the product without most of the hassles of actual equipment ownership. In some cases, such as with new innovative equipment, the product as a service model may be the preferred option offered by the manufacturer.

If the manufacturer ultimately has more responsibility for the equipment, would it be designed more simply or to last longer? Would it be easier to maintain with better access? Would brushes or filters last longer? Would chemicals be more concentrated? Would parts really be able to be refurbished or remanufactured and readily available?

There may be hurdles if your procurement system is based on outright purchases and equipment depreciation, and you may be the one initiating the circular conversation with your vendors. With big potential benefits for sustainability and efficiency — and a remake of The Lion King 25 years later — it’s time to expand circular thinking in our facilities.

Mark Petruzzi is Green Seal's former SVP of Outreach and Strategic Relations. He's in his third decade of striving for more sustainable purchasing and operations by using his engineering powers for good. He can be reached at