Sustainability: Facility Design

Building Green Warehouses Is Just One Step...


...towards reducing your carbon footprint. In an exclusive interview, APL’s Gary Griffith offers other ways to achieve environmental sustainability.

Henry Ford once reportedly said that a customer could choose any color for his car that he wanted “so as long as it was black.”

Today’s logistics professionals can surely relate, although their color of choice is decidedly brighter.

“There are a lot of things a well-functioning distribution center in this day and age needs to do,” says Gary Griffith, an executive director at warehousing and supply chain company APL Logistics, Oakland, CA. “But one of the foremost is to be green and support its company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.”

As concerns about global warming gain momentum—and more logistics professionals participate in voluntary environmental initiatives—Food Logistics sat down with Griffith to get his perspective on how companies can use a wide variety of warehouse and other supply chain design principles to make sustainability work for them.

When you hear the terms “sustainability” and “facility design,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Site selection. Freight movement typically accounts for far more of a company’s carbon footprint than warehousing. As a result, the most important green warehouse design initiative a company can undertake is often network optimization.

So when it comes to being green, many of the classic rules of supply chain management still apply?

Effective warehousing has always been closely related to strategic site selection. And green warehousing is often no different. If you want a location to help reduce your organization’s carbon footprint as much as possible, then transportation efficiency, flexibility and accessibility are paramount.

That said, there’s a lot of emphasis on the LEED rating system, which is predominantly a facility design issue.

LEED is a great initiative, and it’s clearly become the standard for sustainable industrial construction. One thing that particularly impresses me is how multifaceted it is both in terms of the levels of recognition that facilities can achieve—certified, silver, gold and platinum—and the variety of categories in which they can earn the necessary points for each level. It sends a clear message to the industry that there’s more than one route to achieving sustainability and smaller carbon footprints. And that’s a message all of us can get behind.

Many of LEED’s initiatives focus on new construction or remodels. But with warehousing starts in decline and many companies trying to do what they can not to undertake any costly new initiatives such as construction/renovation, how can companies achieve the smaller carbon footprint they desire?

One option is to participate in LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Like the other LEED certification systems, this initiative does involve making the physical aspects of a building and its equipment greener. However it also focuses on the processes that take place in and around a facility—all of which can also significantly impact a company’s carbon footprint.

Another option is to work with carriers or 3PLs who participate in other green logistics initiatives such as SmartWay. Like LEED, its many participating companies have made strides in reducing the supply chain industry’s energy consumption, so in working with these organizations, a company can say it’s part of the green solution.

And of course, companies can always emulate LEED best practices without formally pursuing certification. In fact, if a company has made any green improvements to its distribution centers in the past few years, it’s been doing this already—even if it didn’t think of its improvements in those terms.

Can you provide some examples?

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