Monday, September 27, 2010

The Promise of Green Manufacturing

When you think of green building design how often do you think of manufacturing buildings?  We hear and read about like schools, office buildings, environmental centers much more often than we do manufacturing facilities.  McGraw Hill Construction which tracks the construction industry found that today green building comprises roughly 30 percent of the market where in 2005 it had 2 percent.  This growth in market share shows the definite traction in the marketplace which now exists and will likely continue.  I especially see lots of potential and need for growth in the manufacturing and the consumer products, and retail sectors given the rise of corporate responsibility and accountability driven by better educated consumers and demanding company stakeholders.  Frankly, in these sectors, a lot of energy and resources are wasted or ineffectively used.  It seems to be a no-brainer and good business sense to find ways to more effectively manufacture, distribute and bring products to market, and if our planet can be cleaned up and our environment improved all the better!

For those companies who in some way are already aligned with corporate social and environmental responsibility concerns this is old news.  For them it's a competitive necessity to actively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water consumption while building and operating more effective high performing buildings with resource optimized and energy efficient production equipment to drive innovation and product differentiation.  It's a bit harder to do in manufacturing areas with intensive equipment and production line demands along with the providing a high performing building envelope and building systems. 

Designing a green sustainable manufacturing building then involves looking deeply at improving equipment efficiencies, sourcing of raw material off-site, dealing with internal waste and recycling streams.  It also might examine Lean Manufacturing principles focusing on continuous improvement, waster reduction and paying attention to worker and workplace functioning.  Manufacturing buildings are also very different from office buildings or schools for few other reasons.  They often can range from 20,000 to 200,000 or more square feet with proportionally larger roof areas to wall area and expansive sites for shipping and receiving and general employee parking.  Other more typical buildings may have narrower floor plates and multiple stories to help with internal program layout and daylighting, with far less roof area.  With these more narrow buildigns it's much easier to introduce day-lighting into narrower buildings, relying less on energy intensive electric lighting.  It's not a good idea to apply a cookie cutter approach and a generic set of assumptions and design solutions from other building types to the manufacturing sector.  It's a different game.

With deep floor plates in manufacturing buildings, daylighting must come from top lighting from above from either skylights or roof top daylight monitors with exterior windows on the perimeter playing a diminished role on the internal experience.  Access to daylight may seem like a small thing but people need to see the sky or have access to views beyond.  With large roofs, it's even more important to heavily insulate them well beyond typical building standards.  It's also important to provide lighting controls such as daylight and occupancy sensors to maximize light where it's needed and turn it off or dim it when it's not.  

Sometimes there will be an office component with shared common spaces connected to manufacturing and warehousing space.  Finding ways to strategically locate these shared functions can sometimes be a challenge.  When creatively located to connect various parts of the sprawling facilities together they present a great design opportunity enhancing way finding and legibility in what can sometimes be labyrinthine like spaces.  Possibly popping up the roof with daylight monitors with lots of windows or larger skylights can break and bring relief to otherwise cave-like spaces.  This can likely help improve morale and organizational cohesion by reducing maze like confusion and improving way finding.  Exploring surface material changes and color shifts in these areas might also be helpful as well designing in reasons workers would want to or need to congregate there like placing break areas, rest rooms, recreational functions etc. 

Designing efficient and robust performing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems play a much larger role in manufacturing plants than in other simpler buildings, other than perhaps laboratory buildings.  Given the process energy and resources needed in these critical systems supporting manufacturing greater dedication to space for these functions is critical with accessibility for ongoing maintenance a must.

A critical aspect to consider in designing manufacturing facilities whether or not Lean design principals are adopted is looking at and optimizing flows between and within manufacturing areas, warehousing, office and common shared functions. It's really important in the initial programming phase to observe various work functions and meet with key area managers and users to see how the pieces fit together and essential flows worked out. Understanding how raw materials, people, parts and finished products move throughout the facilities over the course of a day, a week and a season I think could really impacts overall effectiveness and productivity of the building.  The other aspect which is more intangible is building a sense of teamwork and ownership with workers sharing a common sent of principles, visions and goals.  A way to do this is to design and build Green buildings with an open participatory process engaging workers and stakeholders as much as possible in the process.

LEED certification requirements can often be an ally in creating an effective and transparent design process by using its checklist and educational programs to help building users, stakeholders and other team members unfamiliar with the green building and integrated design process. The LEED certification system is organized into five environmental categories: Sustainable Sites (SS), Water Efficiency (WE), Energy and Atmosphere (EA), Materials and Resources (MR) and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). An additional category, Innovation in Design (ID).

For example, the first section of the LEED certification system begins with the Sustainable Sites portion which looks at access to public transport, storm water management, the albedo or heat island effects of vast amounts of paving and roof areas, trucking site material off site to name a few key areas.  By using the LEED design checklist as a common framework for design, owners and the design team can work through areas of key concerns using a common shared set of parameters whether or not LEED is ultimately adopted.  The same goes for the other general categories of  LEED.  In each area, using the checklist to address possible decisions in the categories, especially for those less familiar with green building, can really help educate and inform key stakeholders while providing the same "playbook" all can understand and work with.  By looking at the proverbial "sum of all the parts" you begin to understand the holistic effort required to design a high performance building and manufacturing workplace.

A key method of pulling all this together is monitoring ongoing performance and using various kinds of integrated controls to understand the integrated nature of manufacturing processes and building performance.  It's absolutely essential to have access to performance dashboards which allow for real time modifications and adjustments to enhance performance and advance continuous improvement.  It's one of the lens by which to ultimately judge effectiveness of green manufacturing strategies in the quest for continuous improvement.  The information is also very helpful in verifying to stakeholders and independent verification organizations companies like the GRI  or (Global Reporting Initiative )are doing what they say they're doing.  This produces credibility and transparency ultimately benefiting the brand, consumers, the earth and hopefully the corporation's bottom line.  Check out the featured Corporate Sustainability Reports showcased on the GRI's website. They're from all over the world and mimic the diversity of our planet.  They're a fascinating backward look through the lens focusing on the motivations of the many to do well by doing good.
The USGBC, (the United States Green Building Council) is the organization which introduced the Leadership in Energy and Envrionmental Design or LEED system about 15 years ago with a stepped point based certification system of certified, silver, gold and platinum levels.  The independent GBCI runs the third party verification system on behalf of the USGBC.   When beginning of the process the design and building team assists the building owners by identifying and assessing the certification programs most suited to their values, goals and objectives for their project.  They do so with preliminary point and certification level assessments identifying the end value added to the owner while studying possible additional costs and benefits and return on investments of choices being considered.  Each situation varies in unique ways.  Choosing LEED isn't always the best answer.  What's more important is listening and dialoging with the client and to find out what's important to them.  Regardless of pursuing LEED, using the LEED checklist as a means to reach consensus on green design strategies to adopt makes a lot of sense.

With the market transformation over the last decade architects, engineers and contractors are much more familiar with LEED.  Earlier reports of LEED in intial years of the program costing substantially more have been replaced now by knowledge pursuing LEED certification adds 2-3% on top of typical project hard and soft first costs.  This additional expense is often outweighed with the potential savings from energy and water use reductions along with lowering of Greenhouse gas production.  Sure there is a plaque at the end with some marketing buzz and nutrition label simplicity.  But the bottom line to adopting LEED is the facility is generally better designed to higher verifiable standards and with the maturing of the certification system requirements, more likely to be a more effective performing building as well.

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