Tag Archives: Sustainable facilities

Advancing Sustainability Through Innovation

A recent Ceres report analyzed 613 of the largest publicly traded corporations in the United States to reveal that while a growing contingent of companies are steadily building sustainability into their business operations, the vast majority are not. As detailed in the report, hundreds of companies are taking steps to reduce their green house gas emissions, but most have not set clear time line goals for these programs. Ceres’ corporate program vice president Andrea Moffat summarized the report by saying, “We’re seeing a change, but not fast enough and not to the extent that we think is really possible for US companies. We are not seeing the scale of change that we really need.”

The intention and action is there, but many corporations still struggle to advance the sustainability of their products and production methods. Many companies who make sustainability a priority have turned to eco-labels to provide third-party accreditation to validate their sustainability efforts. Yet, nearly all eco-labels focus solely on identifying performance within a specific product or service category and therefore cannot offer a holistic sustainability platform or incentive for continual improvement. Other problems with traditional eco-labels can lead consumers to question the true meaning of the label, for example when the certification is self-identifying.

Corporations need a neutral third party who can both provide a path forward for sustainable innovation, as well as ensure they are continuing to make substantial progress and improve their impact on the world. The Cradle to Cradle Certified Products program provides companies with a verified continuous improvement sustainability platform that addresses the five most crucial aspects of corporate sustainability: water use, energy consumption, material health, material reutilization and social fairness.

The program helps corporations choose safer alternatives for ingredients in their products and set clear goals and deadlines for the improvement of the five core areas moving forward.

To get on the path toward making safer products with the Cradle to Cradle Certified program:

1. Determine if your product is appropriate for certification.

–Does it comply with the banned chemicals lists?

–Is there a commitment to continuous improvement and product optimization?

2. Select an Accredited Assessment body for testing, analysis and evaluation of your product.

3. Compile initial application forms.

4. Work with you assessor to compile and evaluate data and documentation.

–Collect information on your supply chain.

–Work with assessor to develop optimization strategies.

–Submit a Certification Summary Report assembled by your assessor to the Institute for final review.

5. Receive Certification Summary Report Review: The Institute issues a certificate, conferring use of the mark.

6. Apply for Recertification (every two years under version 3).

–Work with assessor and supply chain to gather any new data.

–Assessor evaluates data and progress on optimization strategies; evidence of progress is required for re-certification. The progress is context specific.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard provides a continuous improvement pathway toward the development of safe and recyclable products. Product certification is available at five different levels (BasicBronzeSilverGold, and Platinum), with each higher level addressing a more rigorous set of requirements.

The Basic certification level is a “provisional” level designed to help companies “get on the path” toward the development of safe and sustainable products, recognizing the difficulty of transition and honoring human intention as an important part of any successful protocol for continuous product improvement. Certification at the Basic level requires a commitment to future assessment of the chemical ingredients in a product, and optimization of the product by phasing out harmful substances, implementing reutilization strategies, increasing the use of renewable energy, and implementing water stewardship and social fairness programs.

Up to this date, 205 companies have participated in the program and currently there are 306 active certificates representing an estimated 2,139 product variations. We have witnessed some amazing product breakthroughs occur through the certification process. After Puma’s 2010 Environmental Profit and Loss Account linked 57 percent of its impact with the production of raw materials (leather, cotton, and rubber, included), the brand turned to “clever raw materials” such as biodegradable polymers, recycled polyester, and organic cotton. Puma’s Incycleline was released in 2013, and a Cradle to Cradle Certified fashion product line represented a first in the fashion industry. In addition to improving the sourcing of their raw materials, Puma also improved the material health of these products through pigment positive lists and instituted an in-store take-back program to claim used Puma-ware for industrial composting and upcycle.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified approach is spreading worldwide. The Alcoa Foundation recently awarded a grant to the Institute to develop a new web-based education program that focuses on sustainable practices and designs for product designers. Following the course, participants have the opportunity to get their product certified and recognized as part of the Innovation Challenge. Learn more about this program here.

With the expansion of sustainability initiatives through company innovation and product development, we can build the new economy – one where products have a positive impact on people and planet.

Bridgett Luther is president at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Reference: environmentalleader.com

This Building’s Facade Literally Maps Out a Sustainable Future

If all buildings lit up with signs and indicators of how much energy is being consumed and where that energy is going, we’d all be a little more sensitive to our power usage. No one wants to broadcast how wasteful they’re being, right?

Perhaps energy-shaming isn’t the answer but it is something to delve deeper into and address — at least some of the guesswork would be taken out of environmental impact — as the conversations around terms and phrases such as “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “green,” and “environmental footprint” multiply year after year. Although these terms mean many things to different people, and we have yet to specify a universal definition for them, we can still use the concepts as tools for discussing the greater vision of using more than we produce.



Take a look at Peter Hogg + Toby Reed Architects’ design for the Dandenong Precinct Energy Project (P.E.P.) in Australia. The P.E.P. produces electricity and heating thermal energy to surrounding buildings in the form of hot water. This supplies both high-efficiency energy for heating and cooling, as well as low carbon emissions. However, the remarkable aspect about this project is the fact that it provides the community with valuable information via the structure’s façade: a dot matrix on the front displays information about power production, consumption, and the building’s greenhouse gas savings; the rear has engineer schemes for the internal machinery; a large light switch and power socket, circuit diagram, as well as a cogeneration diagram all decorate the exterior walls.



At first glance, all of this data doesn’t exactly make sense. But, the guessing game you play with the structure (there’s even a Rorschach splatter image!) helps to facilitate public curiosity and knowledge. Even the most nonchalant of passersby will be curious and this inquisitiveness nods toward the general confusion surrounding energy production and consumption as a whole.





Image via ArchDaily, photo by John Gollings



Though the sculptural, ready-made quality of the building is straightforward enough to give pause for inquiry and education, what if buildings in heavily trafficked, public nodes of the future did more to engage and blatantly spell out what we’re doing to our environment. What if all (or even just commercial) buildings indicated on their façades the amount/type of energy they are producing and consuming? Maybe then, building-owners everywhere would take responsibility for their environment and examine the waste they’re producing — the publicly revealed numbers just may inspire a call to action. Or, possibly, that’s just wishful thinking.

Source: http://architizer.com/

HVAC Systems Common Target Of Sustainability Projects

HVAC systems are targets for sustainability improvements in many facilities because of the high costs related to their installation, operation and maintenance. A properly designed and installed HVAC system can provide years of comfort for occupants, lower energy bills and improved water consumption. But a lack of proper planning can jeopardize material costs for preventive maintenance activities, energy costs and occupant comfort.

If in-house technicians and operators are especially comfortable with certain types of HVAC technology and equipment, managers can enhance productivity by asking mechanical engineers to base designs on such technology. If technicians have no experience or preference, managers might want to hire another mechanical engineering firm to provide a third-party validation of the selected approach. The second firm can help technicians prepare for such situations as running the HVAC system with 100 percent outdoor air during preoccupancy or early occupancy to flush out contaminants as a way of achieving LEED’s indoor air quality requirements.

Geothermal HVAC systems are popular options for projects pursuing LEED certification. These systems can help managers effectively reduce energy costs and environmental impact, and they can provide occupant comfort if designed, installed, and operated correctly.

If a project involves a geothermal system, managers need to ask the following questions early in the planning process:

• Were soil borings taken to analyze the geological and hydrogeological data and ensure soil characteristics will enable the system to perform optimally?

• Is the spacing of the wells correct?

• Is the grout mixture correct?

• Were monitoring and testing points specified and installed to ensure system performance can be verified and trended?

If the answer to each question is yes, the geothermal system might be an effective system.


Building automation systems (BAS)

BAS have become more complex in facilities in recent years, and they have come to encompass more than just HVAC controls. Today’s BAS also consist of electrical-power monitoring, lighting controls, condition-based monitoring, access control, and audio/visual system control. They enable technicians to optimize these facility systems to reduce energy use and maintenance costs.

But BAS also can come with hidden costs associated with developing information-technology security plans and the purchase of annual licensing agreements. Also, software upgrades are inevitable over the life cycle of a BAS. Other issues that can arise involve support to provide virus protection if the system is on a network as a way of ensuring hackers do not get in, especially with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, which provide control across multiple sites and large distances.

One important issue for technicians is the expertise to program multiple systems. In some cases, BAS are proprietary, and manufacturers in some cases can hesitate to provide training or detailed user manuals. This might delay return to service of equipment that displays cryptic failure codes.

If multiple or new BAS are part of a new sustainable building, managers must ensure technicians receive proper training and that the training is documented. It is not uncommon to forget the content of the training by the time they return to using the system.

Sustainable facilities will remain a high priority due to environmental awareness and the need to reduce energy costs. As a result, maintenance and engineering managers need to understand the role of BAS and HVAC systems in achieving these goals and be informed when working with architects, engineers and construction companies in the design and construction of such facilities. Good decisions will ensure a successful, bottom-line friendly transition to sustainable operations and maintenance.

Christopher R. Williamson, P.E., CMRP, CEM, LEED AP — cwilliamsonpe@gmail.com— works for Jacobs Engineering as a maintenance director of a federal installation in Southeastern Virginia with more than 270 buildings. He has more than 20 years experience as an electrician, electrical design engineer and maintenance manager.