Sustainable Practices & Building Design to Reduce Operating Costs.

Sustainable design looks at old problems in new ways and, aided by changes in construction materials and process systems now available, provides new solutions that reduce both environmental impact and operating costs.

Sustainable design considerations are sometimes defined by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating systems, popular in the United States. A description of this system is beyond the scope of this booklet, but the applicable principles are discussed later in this chapter.

Sustainable design addresses the following seven categories in food and beverage facilities:

  • Market Trends.
  • Corporate Environmental Policies.
  • Site Selection.
  • Process Engineering, Including CIP Protocols.
  • General Operation and Maintenance of the Facility.
  • Facility Design and Construction.
  • Incentive Programs.

Market Trends

Retailers and consumers are becoming more aware of the carbon footprint created by the products they buy. Consumers have a growing desire for locally grown or produced foodstuffs, driven by an expectation of enhanced freshness and flavor. This local orientation is also associated with the long-term societal impact on the local community. It is more important than ever that the food or beverage facility be a good neighbor.

Corporate Environmental Policies

Companies are developing Corporate Responsibility/Environmental Stewardship position statements that establish measurable objectives for reducing their carbon footprint, increasing recycling efforts, reducing energy consumption, and improving water management for their operations and products.

Many companies have adopted ISO 14001 Certification (International Standard for Environmental Management Practices) to formalize their approach to increasing environmental awareness and reducing environmental impact. The standard aims to decrease the pollution and waste that a business produces.

Site Selection

Sustainability can be viewed as an overlay of requirements that are sometimes complementary. It is also possible, however, that these additional requirements may add a level of complexity to the site selection process.

Regional/Natural Conditions

The selection of sites with ample solar access, abundant and benign water supplies, and good air quality will facilitate the implementation of sustainable design features described elsewhere in this chapter.

Host Community

Local and state sustainability incentives can influence decisions to proceed with higher first-cost systems such as photovoltaics or on-site waste treatment systems. Also, suppose the local area supports sustainability and thus attracts other like-minded industries. In that case, it is probable that over time, infrastructure and support businesses will emerge – furthering sustainability objectives for the food and beverage facility. This may include added bus routes, reduced on-site parking, higher prices for recyclable materials, or the introduction of municipal grey-water systems.

Utility Infrastructure

Is the electricity supply dependent upon coal- or fuel-oil-fired plants subject to ever-increasing regulation (with its added costs)? Conversely, utilities that have already adopted solar, wind, biomass, or geothermal power sources may see a future with greater rate stability – in relative terms – than competitors.

Parcel Selection

Selecting sites that avoid floodplains and wetlands proximity will facilitate permitting and reduce the need for mitigation strategies. Using relatively flat sites and/or design strategies that can accommodate existing topography will reduce site development costs by minimizing the disruption of existing vegetation, drainage, and other natural features.

Process Engineering

Process electrical loads were once viewed as sacrosanct, but today, all opportunities for improved efficiency are on the table. The low-hanging fruit here uses energy-saving motors and conveyors and introduces waste heat recovery. Lighting is another relatively easy improvement, addressed later in this chapter under Facility Design.

Water management is equally important for many facilities, with water employed as a critical product ingredient, sanitizing agent, cooling media, and mover of materials. In many locations today, however, water supply and quality may need improvement, and local municipalities may need more capacity to meet the water treatment needs.

Re-using process water for another use with less stringent water quality requirements may be a cost-effective means to reduce overall water usage. For example, reuse the final rinse water for initial cleaning during the next CIP (Clean-In-Place) cycle. When coupled with fog or atomizing nozzles, a multi-stage rinse process can save up to 90% compared to conventional single-stage systems. The use of filtration systems can further extend water usage in some applications with the recognition that the type of filtration is product-dependent.

Reduced water usage may increase effluent concentration when local wastewater treatment facilities increase their acceptance requirements, thus requiring additional on-site treatment.

Process refrigeration requirements can be met sustainably and efficiently using ammonia systems, as ammonia does not contribute even minimally to ozone depletion or global warming. Ammonia-based systems are highly efficient as well.

General Operation and Maintenance

A major area of consideration in the context of sustainability includes building commissioning and systems monitoring to ensure the facility operates as designed and continues to do so. When systems deviate from specification, efficiencies usually deteriorate. The ability to chart energy use trends is an added advantage of extensive monitoring and metering.

Of particular importance is the policing of compressed air systems; leakage can often exceed 20% of capacity. Cooling tower water management is another area that requires frequent attention.

Employment of pallets, returnable/reusable shipping containers, and packaging materials may be appropriate for some operations. At the very least, recycling stations should be established to collect fiberboard, cardboard, and other recyclables.

Methane co-generation, fueled by waste or process by-products, is only one of many opportunities for the development of on-site power generation. Biogas or ethanol systems may also be applicable.

Facility Design and Construction

Sustainable design of new construction or significant facility renovation is to some degree related to existing local conditions such as climate, air quality, and degree of urbanization.

Sustainable design addresses the following project areas and more:

  • Stormwater management, Including Control of Vehicular Pollutants.
  • Heat Reduction Strategies of Site and Building.
  • Energy Optimization.
  • Alternative Energy Considerations.
  • Use Recycled Content and Regional Materials.
  • Use of Low-Emitting Materials (Paints, Sealants, etc.).
  • Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control.

Stormwater Management

Stormwater is a significant source of pollution. Site development and extensive paved surfaces produce runoff with substantial natural and man-made contaminants; the nature and volume of this runoff is a particular challenge to municipal treatment facilities. In some situations, stormwater can be captured, filtered, and used for gray water applications.

Both quantity and quality of stormwater runoff should be managed to minimize the environmental impact of operations. Strategies include minimizing paved areas, using porous paving surfaces to encourage percolation into the soil, and establishing retention basins and bioswales to prevent surface run-off from leaving the site under normal storm conditions.

Heat Reduction

Dark, non-reflective surfaces for paving, roofing, and other hardscape features absorb the sun’s warmth, which radiates into the surrounding buildings. This artificial temperature increases the air surrounding a building, ranging from 20° F to 100° F compared with nearby undeveloped areas, and increases the facility’s air conditioning load.

Employment of white PVC or other light-colored roofing materials instead of built-up roofing systems will significantly improve this condition. Using concrete paving instead of asphalt paving is also very important in reducing heat reduction if project budgets can accommodate the extra cost. The introduction of shading elements over paved areas can help as well.

Energy Optimization

The need for energy efficiency and control of energy costs is the highest priority for all operations today.

In many parts of the country and in appropriate areas of the facility, introducing high-performance skylights can significantly improve the efficiency of interior illumination without material thermal gain or loss. Increased roofing insulation and shading of windows can offer significant benefits as well.

Occupancy sensors for lighting control and point-of-use (spot) cooling reduce wasted energy expenditure.

Alternative Energy Considerations

Wind power continues to emerge in many parts of the U.S. as a viable energy source. Solar energy installations are becoming more prevalent due to state incentive programs.

Using PV (photo-voltaic) systems in large-scale applications is becoming viable in terms of technology and financial return on investment. For many companies, PV is part of their overall sustainability strategy.

Consideration may be given to the use of PV, especially in the western states where annual solar gain is greatest. Due to roof area limitations and project budgets, solar power generally only contributes a portion of the electrical power required of the facility, but the expansive roof area of most food facilities allows a greater solar contribution than for many project types.

Once the suitability of PV for a given project is confirmed, the potential power output is calculated based on the receptor field area available and the statistical solar gain for the geographical area. The electrical distribution system integrates this power source with utility power via an inverter system and grid tie. An efficient approach is to power DC (direct-current) ventilation fans directly from the PV power source.

Recycled Content/Regional Materials

Products with recycled content reduce the use of virgin materials and the quantity of solid waste sent to landfills. The catalog of recycled content building materials has increased exponentially, with carpet and ceiling tile, ceramic tile, gypsum wallboard, rubber flooring, and insulation now readily available. Due to current fabrication processes, structural steel is also a heavily recycled material.

Using locally produced construction materials provides an economic benefit to the community and reduces the cost and pollution of transportation impacts. Selection of locally produced wood products, finish materials, and other major building components such as concrete may lower transportation costs and improve product support.

Low-Emitting Materials

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) significantly impact indoor air quality and contribute to smog generation and air pollution. Low-emitting materials, conversely, do not have these adverse effects.

Many products in the marketplace today meet stringent low-VOC or no-VOC standards for adhesives, sealants, paints, sealers, coatings, etc. It is essential to avoid using formaldehyde in millwork, wall panel assemblies, and furnishings.

Chemical Source Control

Proper management of hazardous materials, including cleaning or processing chemicals, improves the operating atmosphere for employees and reduces the potential for product contamination.

Intercept pollutants are carried into the building by foot, or forklift traffic on substantial walk-off mats, and any vehicular bays are segregated from the remainder of the structure. Provide noxious chemical mixing rooms with dedicated ventilation systems, drop seals on doors, and sealed partitions to isolate fumes from other building areas.

Incentive Programs

Many electric and natural gas utility providers offer energy-conservation incentives. Cash rebates may be provided for the installation of high-bay energy-efficient light fixtures, LED (light-emitting diode) parking lot lighting, installation of occupancy sensors, use of strip curtains for walk-in coolers, and cooler/freezer door gaskets and auto-closers.

Other programs provide cash incentives for kW or therms saved annually due to facility conservation projects for equipment replacement or process improvements. Generally, incentive funds are limited and are awarded on a first-come basis.


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