Finding The Gold In Green

Sustainability initiatives in the food industry's warehousing and transportation operations equate to bottom-line performance.


Sustainability is in the lexicon of just about everyone today. Whether that means turning off an unused lamp at home, driving a hybrid car, or operating a LEED-certified warehouse using energy-efficient equipment, people are looking for ways to reduce their resource consumption in an effort to save money while reducing their carbon footprint.

But what exactly does sustainability mean as it relates to the industry's warehouses and DCs? These facilities are energy-driven hubs operating assets like forklifts, conveyor systems, HVAC, refrigeration and overhead lighting.

Energy reduction helps companies achieve impressive bottom lines and, in the broader perspective, it assures tomorrow's generations the energy they will need to sustain economies and qualities of life. As Rod Ellsworth notes: "I define global asset sustainability as the management of property, plants and equipment to meet the operations, economic and socio-economic needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own such needs."

Ellsworth is vice president of business consulting solutions for enterprise asset management at Infor Global Solutions in Alpharetta, GA.

The sustainability story begins with the design of a LEED certified building. Once the building is constructed, the next challenge is maintaining the optimal energy-efficient operation of assets within the box.

Energy Efficient By Design

Although companies can retrofit their existing warehouses and DCs to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, most LEED certified food and beverage warehouses and DCs are new construction, notes Jayme Wu, design project manager for Jacksonville, FL-based Stellar.

Upfront costs for designing and constructing a green building are higher compared to conventional buildings, but those costs are mitigated in a matter of years through reduced operating costs.

Companies can aim for one of four LEED certification levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. "At the design phase, companies determine what level is reasonable for them to attempt, because trying to earn some points can get very costly," notes Rex Smith, senior design project manager for Stellar.

Companies achieve a particular level after accruing a specified number of credits in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design.
• Sustainable sites: "Since warehouses usually have an office associated with the facility, you can get credit if you build close to public transportation so employees can get to work," explains Smith. In addition, providing parking areas for fuel-efficient vehicles will assist in earning more credits.

• Water efficiency: Choose plumbing fixtures requiring low-water usage such as waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures.

• Energy and atmosphere: Design the HVAC system to optimize energy performance. "Some of this has to do with the building envelope," explains Smith. "For instance, using more insulation in the walls will make the building more efficient."

• Materials and resources: Use building materials such as white TPO (ThermoPlastic Olefin), which doesn't create a heat island caused by dark roofs and asphalt parking lots. Using concrete rather than asphalt for parking lots will assist in earning credit.

"Most of these types of buildings are constructed with insulated metal panels, especially in freezer applications," Smith says. The wall system is solid insulation with metal skin on both sides, offering a high degree of insulation. Reusing and recycling building materials-or using products made from recycled content-will assist in earning points. So will buying products manufactured within 500 miles of your site or using only certified wood grown in a certified forest.

• Indoor environmental quality: Control the environmental quality during construction. Use adhesives, sealants, paints and carpets manufactured with low-emitting VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) to control the indoor environmental quality.

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