Greening of the Supply Chain

Responding to our request to provide a simple definition of green building design, Wesley Grandstrand, vice president for Leo A. Daly, Minneapolis, stated that the term "green building" is synonymous with "high-performance buildings," "sustainable design and construction." Sustainability is the concept that people can live in the present and meet their needs without compromising the needs of future generations.

The idea encompasses three underlying elements:
  • Cost effective, high performance design
  • Specification of building systems and materials that are less harmful to the environment than more traditional methods
  • As a result a more healthy environment for building occupants and their neighbors

    Those that voice the opinion that going green is initially cost prohibitive have not done their homework. Office facilities and distribution centers have energy savings and environment-friendly potential whether the owner intends to build new or renovate existing facilities. As with most initiatives there is a progression of options from reducing electrical use to pioneering new building models. Incremental changes in behavior and resource and/or energy use can make a big difference.

    According to those we interviewed the consensus is – going green is not an all or nothing proposition. Simple actions like upgrading insulation, shutting dock doors, turning off lights, and conserving water with a catch basis and reclaim system for truck washes are "green" actions with corresponding cash return. Return on one's investment can be measured, should be specified in the project's objectives and documented in the plan. This is true for the smallest of undertakings to the largest.

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the building industry's green building rating authority, has identified five areas to be taken into consideration in green building design.

  • Site planning
  • Water conservation and efficiency
  • Energy conservation and efficiency
  • Conservation and selection of materials and resources
  • ,/li> Indoor environmental quality
    (U.S. Green Building Council, LEED-NC Green Building Rating System, 2004)

    As Dave Franklin, president, of Food Facility Engineering, Inc. aptly noted the concept embracing "green" can be thought of as picking fruit from a tree, targeting the low hanging fruit and progressing towards incremental changes that can make a high degree of difference. Both Grandstrand and Franklin suggested that a good starting point is to assess utility consumption.

    There may be state and local incentive programs as well as tax relief programs for energy reduction. A utility-use assessment can help prioritize where to begin and what ROI to expect. Your utility company, state government office of energy and architectural/engineering professionals should serve as resources to assist your organization in identifying its goals.

    Grandstrand lists the following to outline typical food distribution energy consumption and possible targets for energy reduction consideration: Warehouse Lighting – 15 – 20 % of total
    Refrigeration System – 40 – 60 % of total
    Battery Charging – 15 – 20 % of total
    Office HVAC, Lighting, & etc. – 10 – 25 % of total

    LIGHTING All of the exhibitors participating in our interviews had comments on potential monetary and energy savings through "appropriate" use of lighting options. Discussions with Grandstrand, Franklin and Rick Martin, director electrical engineering, Webber/Smith Associates, made it clear that the ability to specify your physical requirements and objectives can have short term and long-term paybacks on a foodservice distributor's bottom line.

    For example, warehouse lights do not need to be on all of the time. All three A/E firms suggest the use of bi-level lighting fixtures with motion sensors thus having the lights at full brightness only when needed. This cost and energy saving can be applied to the office facilities as well.

    Assessing the appropriate use of various lighting options and expectation of energy efficiency are facts that should be thoroughly spelled out. The degree of lighting and/or the color requirements can vary and should be taken into consideration. Franklin spoke to the fact that picking boxes is different than picking vegetables, a more yellow lighting hue will not negatively affect pick productivity with case picking. A whiter hue may be more appropriate with vegetables.

    Thinking through lumen output requirements, lighting purpose, degree of heat released, maintenance requirements, length of life, color stability, number of fixtures required to achieve lighting objectives, and product warranty should be part of the discussion and ultimately the plan.

    In terms of green, Mike Golden, executive vice president, Food Tech, noted greater efficiency in electric use translates into lower emissions from power plants as well as long-term cost savings.

    REFRIGERATION SYSTEM Grandstrand hit the high points of what to think about in reducing refrigeration system kW consumption. His list includes:

  • Multiple and smaller compressors of non-similar horsepower
  • The use of premium efficiency motors
  • Use of large coils on evaporators and especially on evaporative condensers
  • Ammonia as a refrigerant in place of Freon
  • Evaporative cooled condensers in place of air-cooled condensers
  • Automatic air purgers to purge non-condensables from the refrigerant
  • Humidity control on docks serving freezers
  • Thermosiphon oil cooling for refrigeration compressors
  • Robust refrigeration control system
  • Low-pressure drop suction return valves on freezers and meat coolers
  • Multiple refrigerant suction temperatures
  • Properly sized and routed suction refrigeration piping
  • Properly sized and selected refrigeration control valves
  • Liquid refrigerant overfeed or recirculation system in place of direct expansion

    Steve Shaub, refrigeration systems specialist, Webber/Smith Associates, added the use of variable frequency drives (VFD's) for fan and compressor/chiller applications to increase energy efficiency and reduce fan run-time.

    As in case of lighting, our experts suggest establishing a baseline measure that includes utility bills/meter, temperatures and throughput. Spelling out energy reduction objectives and anticipated tactics to achieve a premium return are key to ensuring sustainability success.

    OTHER CONSIDERATIONS In fairness to our interview participants the above words barely capture their comments or cover the surface of green initiatives. Building envelopes, roofing, recycling, water run-off conservation, and alternative energy sources are all items that compose an organization's move to green.

    If one step towards energy use reduction and environment stewardship is appealing, our best suggestion is to visit the eight architectural/engineering firms exhibiting at the IFDA Expo. Ask for ideas. Ask for references of clients with similar energy saving objectives.

    This is not a new topic, but today's environmental awareness, unhappiness with fossil fuel dependency, and potential for cost reduction may make this conversation a worthy investment of your time.


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