Going green in the warehouse is no longer an afterthought, but a necessity to boost the bottom line.
When the US Green Building Council late last year issued its 20,000th LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification for a commercial project, it spoke volumes about the widespread industry acceptance of sustainable design.
Once an afterthought, the "greening" of warehouses and distribution centers has emerged as one of the most effective tools to boost the bottom line. With so many external pressures on profit margins, energy savings have the potential to provide that much sought after way out. Needless to say, we have moved well beyond simply dimming or turning off the lights (although not to be neglected).
If you have not considered such growingly common green features such as white roofs to reflect sun light, prismatic lenses for skylights, solar panels, and high-efficiency lighting, you know others are moving ahead.
A one-million square-foot distribution center in Fort Worth, Texas, for example, where temperatures frequently hit triple-digits, hardly needs to turn on the HVAC since the company installed an integrated fan control system, which uses 26 networked warehouse fans with 24-foot diameters. Designed to move high volumes at low speeds to cool indoor temperatures, it operates to the tune of 12% to 50% savings in heating and cooling costs.
Another example is the corporate campus of Somerset Tire Service in Bridgewater, N.J., which is constructed as a net-zero facility, by using a roof-mounted, 1.2 megawatt photovoltaic array. In less than five years, the system will have paid for itself.
And, to cite a third example, consider a recently completed building for Coca-Cola where clear story glass brings in an abundance of natural light. In combination with integrated daylight tubes, which automatically reduce or turn off when the sensors determine there is enough ambient light, the facility can frequently operate without any artificial lighting.
In fact, optimizing the building envelope and lighting solutions can yield as much as 40% in energy savings. Lighting is indeed the low-hanging fruit of going green, especially if your lighting system is pushing 20 years.
Common strategies such as dimming, occupancy sensing, and scheduling can be combined with more advanced lighting control strategies such as daylight harvesting (as in the Coca-Cola example), task tuning (light is adjusted depending on the needs of the space), demand response (light is adjusted at peak times based on signals from electric utilities) and software for energy management save up to 70% in energy costs.
But let's not forget that the good-old "location, location, location" is ever important as well.
One analyst put it this way: "Anytime you can reduce transportation distance, time, and costs for your network, you are also providing a green benefit... While there is much that can be done within a warehouse to save energy, optimizing the network is where some of the biggest bang for the buck."
When it comes to cutting energy costs in warehouses and distribution centers, where do you see the greatest potential for savings?