After learning about the environmental benefits of serving in-season, locally grown vegetables in the “Arthur” episode “Muffy’s Car Campaign,” the students at Lakewood Elementary petition for more school buses to help one day make Elwood City car free. Fearing this will be the end of her dad’s car business, Muffy looks to derail the petition only to learn that Crosswire Motors is changing with the times by adding a new electric car to the mix. With her dad’s help, Muffy alerts her friends that the fictional car manufacturer agreed to buy the school several electric school buses.
Warehouse operations also seem to be changing with the times as the concept of sustainable facilities has become a must for today’s operations managers.
“We have seen that sustainable facilities are being considered more and more the norm by larger companies,” says Lloyd Snyder, senior principal at Woodard & Curran, Portland, Maine. “LEED is not the focus, sustainable practices that are win-win from a business model is becoming the norm. Demand by shareholders and consumers that companies create less waste and consume less resources.”
Snyder notes that increasing costs across the supply chain as well as increases for energy and waste disposal are prompting facility managers to investigate sustainable alternatives.
“Projects to reduce energy, materials consumption and waste are making it easier to justify capital expenditure,” he says. “In addition, water costs and water rationing are driving beverage facilities to rethink traditional ways to treat wastewater.”
Steps to sustainability
Whatever the influence might be, warehouses have a plethora of solutions that can be employed to support sustainable practices.
“Changing your warehouse lighting is one of the easiest ways to make your operations more eco-friendly,” Snyder explains. “In the past, facilities used fluorescent or HID lamps in their warehouse lighting system. Today, with the technological advancement of LEDs (light-emitting diode), these are now used for every type of lighting application, including high bay lighting.”
Snyder adds that installing high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans is another easy expenditure to support sustainable facility models.
“Unlike a small, high-velocity fan that creates small, quicker air streams that quickly scatter, a high volume, low speed (HVLS) fan relies on size, not speed, to move a significant amount of air,” he explains. “The air is circulated from the ceiling and pushed throughout the area of the facility to prevent warm air from being trapped in the ceiling. The result is a constant state of thermal equilibrium within the building. In addition, HVLS fans give about 30% energy savings as they bring down the temperature by 4 degrees Celsius.”
Yet, not all sustainable solutions are easy to employ. Although it might be more complex, Snyder notes energy consumption and operational efficiency is a major factor in sustainable practices, citing the high amount of energy used in lighting and HVAC/refrigeration within warehouses.
“The use of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) do two things, increase operational efficiency and decrease energy use,” Snyder says. “Warehouses can be run in ‘dark mode’ and space minimized, which reduces HVAC costs. These projects are complex and require a large amount of planning and cost justification. Sustainable initiatives will not be the only driver, but a contributor.”
Warehouse operations also are taking sustainability outside the four walls. Snyder notes that green roofs are a solution that can reduce the heat flux through a roof, which can decrease the total energy needed to heat and cool spaces.
“Shading the outer surface of the building envelope has been shown to be more effective than internal insulation,” he explains. “The plants on the roof trap dust and harmful gases to purify the air. The only negative would be that the additional structural load must be considered when designing the roofing system.”
Solar panels is another example of facilities taking sustainability outside the four walls. Earlier this year, Intelligent Blends, San Diego, announced the completion of a massive solar installation, which now powers all of its house-brand operations.
“We believe that good coffee starts at the source, which is why we make sure that every step we take in manufacturing Maud's products is thoughtful, ethical and environmentally responsible,” said Michael Ishayik, founder and CEO of Intelligent Blends, in a statement in April. “The addition of solar-power to our production facility was a logical next step in ensuring that we continue our legacy of producing great products for our customers and partners the right way.”
Whatever sustainable practice that facility managers are looking to employ, Snyder notes increasing efficiency will be the deciding factor.
“ROI models are used to justify capital expenditures. In order to justify projects, managers need to show that the project will increase efficiency,” he says. “For instance, the change in energy KPI such as kW/square foot warehouse can justify a lighting or fan installation project.”
Snyder adds that various incentives are helping facility managers to opt for sustainable practices.
“The incentives for warehouses include electrical rebates from utility companies for efficient lighting systems,” he says. “In addition, if solar panels are designed and installed on a roof, federal and state tax rebates are available to offset costs.”