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5 Ways to Make Your Facility More Eco-Friendly

According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), buildings accounted for 28 percent of global carbon emissions in 2018. Unsustainable design and the use of low-efficiency technologies are partly to blame for the problem. But how can you put up or maintain an eco-friendly facility to minimize environmental degradation while enhancing long-term operational efficiency? Here are five ways to generate substantial cost savings by making your business premises, warehouse, office, or institutional facility "greener."

1. Use of Recycled Construction and Demolition Materials

Consider using recycled construction and demolition (C&D) materials in your next facility renovation project to help protect the environment. Your objective here is to reduce the amount of construction waste you have to dispose of in a local landfill or incineration site. You can also save costs by reusing C&D materials.

Some recycled C&D materials you may use include metals, concrete, asphalt, wood, and cardboard. Benefits of doing this include:

  • Curbing greenhouse emissions: Using recycled building materials minimizes the generation of carbon and other pollutants associated with the extraction and transportation of new construction materials over long distances.
  • Conserving energy: You save energy by avoiding the unnecessary extraction and manufacture of some new building materials.
  • Minimizing overall building project expenses: Recycling helps to reduce or avoid C&D disposal costs. Also, some recycled construction materials are may be cheaper alternatives to new products.
  • Employment opportunities: Recycling operations are economic activities that create jobs.

The Cost of Recycling Vs. Disposing C&D

You might be able to salvage as much as 90 percent of your C&D debris at a significantly lower cost than disposal. But the exact price depends on your recycler, type of construction waste, and business location. In the Portland metropolitan area, for example, you may pay about $94 per ton to dispose of such material. In contrast, recycling fees for sorted C&D debris may be as low as $35 per ton in the area.

2. Use Energy-Efficient Equipment and Systems

You can make your facility more eco-friendly by incorporating efficient equipment, for example, Energy Star rated products. Such devices or systems may come at a high upfront price, but they justify their cost in the long run. That's because they consume less energy, resulting in lower electricity bills.

Here are some recommendations for operating/installing energy-efficient equipment in your facility:

Lighting systems: Use lighting systems designed to convert as much electricity as possible into light energy. For example, in place of conventional fluorescent lamps, you may install energy-efficient T-8 or T-5 fixtures that cost about 75 percent less to use. Additionally, the eco-friendly solutions also last ten times longer than most standard lighting products.

This DLC-certified Green Creative 4ft. T8 LED tube, which costs roughly $9.38, works much more efficiently than a 32-watt fluorescent tube, such as this one priced at $1.68. The former has a higher price tag, but it compensates for that by cutting energy and maintenance costs in the long term.

Also, you may incorporate occupancy sensors to automatically turn on/off light in the building based on the presence/absence of people. This way, you can cut lighting costs by up to 30 percent.

Office equipment: Configure your computers, printers, fax machines, and other office equipment to minimize their power consumption rates when not in operation. Usually, these devices can automatically go to "sleep mode" when they're on but idle for a preset duration. If there's standalone equipment in the workplace, consider consolidating it such that ten or more users can share it. This way, you can reduce business electricity, hardware, and consumable costs by up to 40 percent.

Heating and cooling systems: Commercial HVAC equipment, from boilers to chillers, may account for about 40% or more of a facility's energy consumption. But optimizing these systems can increase their energy-efficiency by up to 40 percent, bringing significant energy savings. HVAC optimization involves tracking the performance of each system component and deploying instrumentation like flow meters, power meters, and temperature sensors to facilitate measurement, validation, and real-time control decisions.

3. Architectural Daylighting to Save Energy

Daylighting is an eco-friendly design option available to building owners looking to control and optimize the amount of natural light that enters physical workspaces through apertures like high-performance windows or skylights during the day. It's usually a combination of building designs and technologies employed to reduce a facility's dependence on electric lighting. The end-game is to not only conserve energy and lower electricity costs but also to create a visually stimulating and optimally productive work atmosphere.

To make the most of daylighting techniques, be sure to integrate them with the original building design.

Benefits of Having a Daylighting System in Your Facility

With daylighting, you can save as much as a third of your building's overall energy costs, according to Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG). But the exact energy savings differ from building to building. Firstly, these depend on how optimally you're able to incorporate architectural daylighting into the design of your facility's electrical, mechanical, and lighting systems. The building's geometry, orientation, and fenestration (the positioning/proportioning of apertures) can also impact daylighting outcomes.

Here's a breakdown of potential daylighting design benefits:

  • Lighting savings: According to WBDG estimates, integrating daylighting architecture with dimmable ballasts, automatic control mechanisms, and fixtures can reduce lighting costs by between $0.05 and $0.02 per square foot yearly. These estimates assume a marginal or differential cost of between $0.50 and $0.75 for each square foot of occupied space.
  • HVAC energy savings: All types of electric lighting lamps (including energy-efficient products) generate and release heat into their immediate surroundings when in use. In turn, cooling equipment in the affected spaces has to "work extra harder" to keep interior temperatures at comfortable levels. But additional cooling loads translate to higher energy consumption rates per day. Fortunately, optimal exploitation of natural light means reduced reliance on electric lighting, which can cut your facility's cooling energy usage by up to 20 percent.
  • Reduction of your facility's carbon footprint: By minimizing the amount of electricity you use to illuminate and cool your work environment, optimal daylighting architecture reduces your consumption of power/energy from natural gas, petroleum, coal, or other carbon-intensive sources.

Daylighting Techniques/Solutions to Use for Eco-Friendly Facility Design

You may integrate different daylighting strategies and technologies to sufficiently illuminate your facility's occupied spaces. The main options include:

  • Optimizing the facility's footprint: One option is to position the building for maximum south and north exposures.
  • Optimally-sized daylight apertures: You may consider the window-to-wall area ratio recommended for your climate zone to optimize window design for daylighting. In the optimization, be sure to factor in thermal requirements such as wintertime heat loss and heat gain during the summer.
  • High-performance windows: These incorporate a glazing system that allows more light and less heat into workspaces than a traditional window without increasing the building's cooling requirements (and energy consumption) in hot weather.
  • Optimal fenestration design: According to WBDG, daylighting-optimized fenestration design entails installing high-performance windows with two discrete elements. One of them is a daylight aperture with a high visible light transmittance (Tvis) rating of 50 to 75 percent. The other is a view window with a low Tvis rating (less than 40 percent in most climates) to prevent glare.

Other useful components of an integrated daylighting design are:

  • Skylights
  • Daylight redirection systems
  • Exterior (solar) shading controls
  • Daylight-sensitive electric lighting controls (for switching or dimming)

4. Water Management in Commercial and Institutional Facilities

Conserving your tap water and rainwater is another practical way to make your facility a little greener. Therefore, consider applying appropriate water-efficient strategies to applications such as lawn irrigation, restrooms, and heating and cooling.

By curbing water wastage or overuse in your facility, you can achieve your environmental sustainability goals, such as:

  • Reducing operational costs by saving water
  • Minimizing energy costs associated with heating water
  • Reducing your facility's carbon footprint
  • Attaining green certifications

Here's a look at some practical water conservation techniques for commercial and institutional facilities:

Water-Efficient Fixtures and Appliances

Consider installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances in your business buildings to curb wastage. For instance, WaterSense-certified products can save at least 20 percent more water than traditional alternatives, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Typical solutions that can bring significant water savings in the office include:

  • Water-Efficient toilets: This WaterSense-certified Advanced Clean® 100 SpaLet® toilet releases 1.32 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or 0.92 gpf. It costs $4,000.00
  • Low-flow faucets: These incorporate automatic mechanisms to limit water usage. For example, the Sloan EAF-275 faucet with an infrared sensor activates automatically after detecting hands beneath it, and it similarly shuts off the water once the user has removed their hands. It costs about $525.00

Water-Efficient Lawn Care

About 20% of your water may be going to lawn care, making it essential to target landscape irrigation design for water conservation practices. You can do this in the following ways:

  • Xeriscaping: This means growing vegetation that's best suited to the local climate, such as drought-resistant plants that thrive on less water.
  • Smart lawn irrigation systems: These usually incorporate "intelligent" components to automatically activate and deactivate sprinklers based on the local weather in real time. An example is the Rachio 3 smart sprinkler controller that costs about $229.99.

Efficient Cooling Tower Management

Cooling towers use a lot of water to regulate indoor temperature. Efficiently managing these systems helps to minimize the amount of water required to cool occupied spaces in offices and facilities. Practical measures to optimize water usage in cooling towers include:

  • Using alternative sources of water: Use of captured rainwater in cooling towers may minimize reliance on municipal water, which costs more and has a bigger carbon footprint.
  • Check mineral buildup in the system: Accumulation of chemicals and sediments in the cooling system can hinder its efficiency. But installing a side-stream filtration system can fix the problem by filtering out sediments and maximizing the number of times water can be reused in the cooling tower. According to a lifecycle cost analysis performed by the U.S. Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), a hypothetical pressure side-stream sand filter for a 400-ton chiller that costs around $45,000.00 to acquire and install can bring $8,800 (or more) in annual cost savings.

5. Go Paperless With Asset Tracking Technologies

Digital asset-tracking solutions simplify asset management workflows, including inventory taking, routine equipment inspection, data entry, and reporting. Also, using GPS-integrated QR codes, RFIDs, or NFC technology to track items, products, or devices minimizes your reliance on paper to capture, store, and retrieve information. These technologies can help to curb your business' carbon footprint in ways such as:

  • Reducing your transportation carbon footprint: Cloud-based asset management software provides data, such as each asset's location and condition. This info is available to supervisors or managers in real time once inspection technicians have captured it on site or off site via GPS and internet-enabled mobile devices. In this case, there's no need to transport clipboards and sheets of paper by road, air, or other means associated with high carbon emissions.
  • Saving trees: A single computer hard drive can store terabytes of data, eliminating the need to write inventory or asset details on tons of paper. By curbing your use of paperwork in the office, you're playing your part in conserving forests.
  • Curbing pollution: Going paperless reduces your facility's role in carbon emissions associated with the pulp and paper industry.

What Investing in Eco-Friendly Asset Tracking Entails

There are several ways to go paperless with asset tracking technology. Each viable method includes cloud-based management software that you can leverage for a monthly subscription fee.

One option is the Quick Response Code technology. Here, QR codes are for tagging items, while GPS-enabled smartphones with QR label reading apps are for capturing and saving asset information to a cloud database. The cost of the entire hardware setup depends on the price of mobile devices in use. Nonetheless, it costs less than a dollar to generate a QR tag.

Alternatively, you may use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to track inventories in an eco-friendly way, especially in confined spaces, such as warehouses or shipping facilities. This option requires RFID scanners, which may cost as much as $4,205.50 per unit, such as this Motorola MC9190-Z reader. On the other hand, the price of an RFID tag ranges from a few cents to several tens of dollars.

By making your facility more eco-friendly, you're doing your part in enhancing the viability of life on earth. But you're also making economic sense since environmentally-friendly business practices can generate significant cost savings on resources such as water and energy.

So, are you looking to implement an eco-friendly asset management strategy today? Contact us at GoCodes to get started now!

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