Sustainability has become a very hot topic in today's business environment. At its most basic level, sustainability is defined as a characteristic or process that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This concept, which can be traced back to a 1987 United Nations conference, came about as environmental problems caused by various human activities began requiring serious attention. The objective of sustainability is to have sustainable development by managing natural resources and using methods, systems, and materials that will not deplete resources or harm natural systems and cycles.

The convention workshop, Going Green, Developing Your Company's Corporate Environmental Policy, discussed specific actionable methods for greening cold storage facilities, reducing energy costs, and developing a reputation for corporate environmental responsibility. It was conducted by officials with Innovative Construction & Process Design (ICPD), a design and construction company for the retail, cold storage, refrigerated, and food industries.

Obviously, it is easier to build greener performing buildings than retrofit them, said the company's Steve Kelly. With new construction, there can be a designed-in integrated systems approach. The bigger challenge is greening existing commercial facilities, warehouses, distribution centers, and the like.

He pointed to the US Green Building Council (USGBC) as a good source for information. A non-profit organization, it is dedicated to expanding “green” building practices and education.

The group created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. It is a voluntary certification program and?the nationally accepted benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Buildings have a huge impact on the nation's resources, ICPD's Jeff Remtema noted. They account for 39% of carbon dioxide emissions, 71% of electricity consumption, 65% of waste output, and 12% of water use.

Energy

During the workshop, a number of recommendations were offered on how temperature-controlled operations can lessen their impact on the environment. The very first step, said Remtema, is to conduct an energy audit identifying energy conservation opportunities to minimize energy costs. Among the next steps:

  • Outdoors

    Incorporate variable frequency drives and use high-efficiency motors to minimize energy use of equipment.

  • Make sure energy and water systems are installed and are performing properly.

  • Establish a best-practices systems maintenance and operation plan, and train employees annually on how to implement and update.

  • Use thermostat set-backs in office areas to conserve energy. Energy savings are typically 2 to 4 percent for every one degree of change over 24 hours for a building's heating/cooling expenses, he said.

  • Install metering equipment to allow a measurement and verification program of energy use.

  • Consider green power or on-site renewable energy systems.

  • Make use of heat recovery systems from energy of compressors for service or process water.

As for a facility's site and exterior environment, Remtema recommended using a white roof, or considering a vegetated roof to minimize impact on microclimate and human and wildlife habitat.

A white roof reflects the sun's rays, minimizing the heat absorbed by the building.

Popular in Europe, vegetated roofs, also know as green roofs, typically include layers of drainage material and planting media on a high-quality waterproof membrane to control runoff volume, improve air and water quality, and promote energy conservation.

Further, he suggested using natural landscape to reduce irrigation requirements and reclaiming roof drainage and storm water runoff for irrigation use.

Retrofitting refrigeration systems should be done to reduce or eliminate chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) or hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), said Innovative Construction & Process Design's Eric Rantanen. Using natural systems, such as ammonia or carbon dioxide, have no ozone depletion or global warming components.

Central refrigeration systems ought to be designed for efficient future disassembly. He explained that means using individual components that can be replaced when necessary, instead of having to replace an entire piece of equipment.

When it comes to lighting, Jeff Baxter advocated replacing all light fixtures with high-efficiency lighting, or installing high-efficiency bulbs. Exterior lighting should be minimized, lighting only the ground for safety purposes.

He said occupancy sensors or daylight sensors should be used to reduce interior light loads. Occupancy sensors are automatic switching devices that sense movement and turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Daylight sensors sense natural light in a space and automatically dim or brighten lights according to available daylight.

Reducing lighting electricity usage reduces energy costs and reduces the environmental impacts associated with electricity generation.

Water

Low-flow fixtures on sinks and showers can conserve many thousands of gallons of water, Baxter noted. Water use can be decreased further with the use of dual-flush valves on toilets or by using waterless urinals. These drain without flush water and use a sealant liquid that prevents odors from being released into the air. Waterless urinals also help reduce sewage and maintenance costs.

Water use also can be reduced by finding ways to capture and reuse water. For example, store roof water and use it to flush toilets or irrigate landscaping.

Materials

Other recommendations presented by the Innovative Construction & Process Design officials:

  • During construction and demolition, recycle construction and earthwork waste.

  • Provide designated areas within the facility for recycling.

  • Specify regional materials to reduce transportation energy consumed.

  • Use Green Seal products or cleaning products with minimal volatile organic compound (VOC) levels to clean facilities to improve indoor air quality and occupants' comfort. (The Green Seal is awarded to products that have less impact on the environment and work well.)

  • Designate a no-smoking policy or locate all exterior smoking locations away from building entrances, and confine all interior smoking areas with dedicated exhaust and negative air pressure.

Green or sustainable buildings use such key resources as energy, water, materials, and land much more efficiently, reducing operations and maintenance costs, Kelly said. What's more, they also create healthier work environments, which contributes to improved employee health, comfort, and productivity.

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