As more and more end users are insisting upon a sustainable supply chain, distributors are increasingly looking for ways to make their facilities greener. And for many large end customers, sustainability in their entire supply chain is not just a preference, it is a requirement. But beyond satisfying your customers’ demands for a sustainable supply chain, implementing sustainability initiatives to reduce your carbon footprint as well as fuel and water consumption is a win-win – for both the planet and your wallet.
If you were to build a new distribution facility from the ground up, you would have the ability to select the most sustainable site possible plus the advantages of technologies available to construct an extremely energy efficient building from the ground up. But is even the highest scoring, award-winning LEED platinum building really the greenest?  Many studies have shown that the benefits of reusing and retrofitting buildings outweigh the benefits of constructing new energy-efficient structures. That new building that is 30% more efficient than the average building takes 10 to 80 years to overcome the negative impacts of carbon emissions and climate change caused by the construction. So what steps can you as a distributor take to make your existing facility greener and more sustainable?
One of the first steps towards becoming greener is to become familiar with the certification criteria for LEED v4  Building Operations & Maintenance (LEED O+M) for Warehouses and Distribution Centers. LEED O+M applies to existing buildings that are undergoing improvement work or little to no construction. You do not necessarily need to become LEED-certified to prove to your customers that you are doing your part (more on that later), but LEED O+M offers useful guidelines for implementing green initiatives. Using LEED O+M as a guide, here are some things to consider when greening up your facility.

Water Efficiency

The water efficiency section addresses indoor use, outdoor use, specialized uses, and metering.  Reducing water consumption both indoors and out is a key component of LEED certification and should be part of any green initiative. Installing low-flow or no-flow toilets in the restrooms and creating landscapes that require little to no irrigation are two things that will make a significant impact on your water use.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Green buildings with good indoor environmental quality protect the health and comfort of building occupants. This category includes air quality, thermal comfort, daylight and quality views, interior lighting, green cleaning, and even pest management. Some things you can do:

  • Select materials (such as floor coverings, adhesives, and paint) that emit no or low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Install quality lighting (for safety and comfort), achieve a direct line of sight to the outdoors for 50% of all regularly occupied floor area (for daylight and quality view.
  • Have CO2 monitors in all densely occupied spaces.
  •  Implement and maintain an HVAC system maintenance program.
  • Have in place a green cleaning policy.

Energy and Atmosphere

The Energy and Atmosphere category addresses energy use reduction, energy-efficient design strategies, and renewable energy sources. Some things you can do:

  • Enroll in a demand response program that allows utilities to call on buildings to decrease their electricity use during peak times, reducing the strain on the grid and the need to operate more power plants.
  • Conduct an energy audit.
  • Use skylights to reduce the need for electric lighting.
  • install low-wattage fluorescent or LED bulbs, and minimize exterior lighting.
  • Insulate your roof with light colored materials that will reflect light and heat instead of absorbing it.
  • Use renewable energy technologies (such as solar panels) to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Avoid the use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-based refrigerants in heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems unless a third-party audit shows that system replacement or conversion is not economically feasible.

Materials and Resources

The Materials and Resources category focuses on the constant flow of products being purchased and discarded to support building operations. To reduce the overall impact of a building during its operations phase, take a close look at the purchasing and waste management operations in your existing building. Some things you can do:

  • Implement an environmentally preferable solid waste management policy that addresses reuse, recycling, or composting of products.
  • Implement an environmentally preferable purchasing policy for products purchased during regular operations of the building.
  • Establish storage locations for recyclable materials, including mixed paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics, and metals.
  • Establish safe storage areas for batteries and mercury-containing lamps.

These are just some of the areas you can address and steps you can take to become a part of the sustainable supply chain, help reduce your facility’s carbon footprint, and improve your bottom line. But if you don’t go for LEED certification, how can you assure your customers that their supply chain is operated in a more sustainable manner and that you are doing your part and taking the appropriate steps to create a greener facility? This is where monitoring and measuring come in.
Measure/benchmark current energy consumption Establishing a baseline against which future reductions will be measured is an important first step in tracking progress. EPA ‘s Energy Star program has developed a free tool called Portfolio Manager that can be used to benchmark consumption against other buildings of a similar size, type, and function. Once you’ve established a baseline, you can continue to track consumption and progress on an ongoing basis.
Track, measure, and report. You’ll want to track your energy and greenhouse gas reductions to verify you are meeting your goals, to track your operational savings, and to report on all successes or failures in order to inform your next steps. Use newsletters, regular reports, e-blasts, and other communication channels to keep your staff and the community informed of your commitments and progress.
Next Level is more than a manufacturer of pallet racks and material handling products; we are a true material handling solutions provider, offering innovative warehouse facility design to help you meet tomorrow ‘s needs today. Click here to contact us or call 800-230-8846 to speak with a design expert today.