Raising the Bar for Greener Buildings

Raising the Bar for Greener Buildings

This week's "man bites dog" story comes courtesy of Procter & Gamble, which just released a new study on green cleaning practices in the U.S. It turns out that it's not just art that imitates life. Maybe it's because of the recession, but now business has to go and step all over art's toes by also imitating life. In this instance, it turns out the professionals in the facility maintenance business are personally motivated to do the right thing, but have difficulty wading through the information available to make a green choice that works

P&G found that most cleaning professionals do not know who to trust with green labeling or how to define sustainability in the context of their profession. Sounds like the buildings sector about 15 years ago. The good news is that people care enough about the legacy of their work and how it affects others ("sense of personal responsibility" was listed by almost 70 percent of respondents as the top motivator, followed by "concerns about employee health and safety"). However, the products have to do the job, otherwise it doesn't matter how supposedly green they are. Of course, in the building maintenance field there are a lot of myths about what attributes product needs to prove it's doing the job (for example, it's got to smell strong). 

Shearer's plant in Massillon, OhioInterestingly, maintenance companies like BMS in New York, which serves some of the largest property owners in the country, find that ionized water is as, or more, effective in most of the cleaning situations they find themselves in on a daily basis, though they do still keep a (locked) closet of the nasty stuff for the toughest jobs.

Everyone "knows" that photovoltaics are not cost effective on a large scale. It's too bad no one told that to Butte College in Oroville, California. As the result of covering its parking lot with photovoltaic carports, the entire campus will be energy positive for a total investment of $17 million, most of which is covered by a low-cost federal loan.

The 25,000 solar cells will generate an estimated $150 million in energy over their life, all of which makes for a very nice return on investment for the school. The project's construction, operation and maintenance will be an integral part of the on-the-job training for Butte's sustainability based curriculum, which includes coursework on green buildings, solar photovoltaic and solar thermal installation and maintenance, as well as energy fundamentals.

Speaking of fundamentals, Chris Cheatham writes about the GSA's work with the USGBC to more aggressively move toward the building operations aspects of the LEED system. Although it's unlikely to be renamed LEEP (GSA's Kevin Kampschroer suggests substituting a P for "performance") any time soon, the market is voting with its feet toward LEED for Existing Buildings: OPERATIONS & Maintenance (emphasis added for those who stubbornly refuse to understand that LEED is a comprehensive system that covers all aspects of a building's life, not just its design and construction). 

So far in 2010, LEED-EBOM has registered and certified more U.S. floor area than all of the other LEED rating systems combined. Although we haven't crunched the numbers yet for this year's Green Building Market and Impact Report (to be released in early November), the average measured Energy Star rating showed that LEED buildings were in the top 15th percentile with an average Energy Star score of 85. 

And speaking of top of the class, this week's Look-Grandpa-I-picked-up-the-$20-bill-you said-was-fake-but-it's-real! goes to Shearer's Foods for building the first LEED-Platinum food manufacturing facility, which makes it one of a handful of Platinum-certified manufacturing facilities of any kind worldwide. (Disclosure: Shearer's is compensating me for participating in their ribbon cutting ceremony.) Located in Massillon, Ohio, the Millennium Manufacturing facility reduces overall energy consumption in the facility by 30 percent per pound of production (including process and facility energy) and provides 90 percent of its heating requirements from a waste heat recovery facility. 

If this 30 percent savings were repeated across the entire food manufacturing industry, it could eliminate the carbon pollution equivalent of 5 million cars each year. The facility also reduced its water use by 40 percent and meets almost half of what's left from rainwater capture system, in all reducing municipal water use by about 600,000 gallons a year. The facility sourced most of its materials and expertise within 100 miles of the facility to reflect its commitment to local economic development. 

Rob Watson is the executive editor of GreenerBuildings.com. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Kilrwat.

Top image of the atrium of Eaton Corporation's LEED-Gold certified Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai, courtesy of Eaton. Inset image of the LEED-Platinum certified Millennium Manufacturing Facility in Massillon, Ohio, courtesy of Shearer's Foods Inc.