HVAC Manufacturers Turning Various Shades of Green
November 1, 2007
In an era where a press release about the next green product arrives faster than we can say “sustainable building practices,” we wondered how many manufacturers are walking the walk in their own operations. These stories represent a sampling of companies who are greening the industry from the inside out.
Manufacturers in all sorts of different industries are advertising their green offerings these days - products that help the enduser save energy, lower emissions, reduce waste, etc. Nowhere does that make more sense than in the HVAC industry, where high-efficiency heating, cooling, and ventilation products are in great demand by building owners looking to cut energy costs and lessen their impact on the environment.
This plethora of green products comes at a good time, as ASHRAE recently announced that it is partnering with the DOE to increase building energy efficiency standards for the year 2010 by 30% over 2004 standards. This partnership will involve the two agencies working to “improve the efficient use of energy and the viable and widespread use of renewable energy sources and to minimize the impact of energy use on the environment.”
While many HVAC manufacturers can offer highly efficient products to help building owners meet the new ASHRAE/DOE objectives, several are going even farther by turning their own facilities into models of sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Melink Goes For The GoldGreen has quickly become a way of life at the Melink headquarters in Milford, OH. The company manufactures Intelli-Hood® commercial kitchen ventilation systems and provides HVAC testing and balancing services to restaurant and retail chains around the U.S.
The reason for the switch to green can be attributed to company president and CEO, Steve Melink, P.E., who had an epiphany while attending a green building conference in 2004. “The conference opened my eyes to the fact that sustainable design was a real movement and the biggest thing to happen in our industry in my professional career. We decided we wanted to be a leader in this emerging energy age.”
After the conference, Melink embarked on an ambitious quest to design and build the first LEED® Gold-certified building in the state of Ohio. The company’s new headquarters, which was completed in December 2005, consists of 30,000 sq ft of manufacturing and office space and incorporates myriad green features, including:
- Geothermal heat pumps
- Dedicated outside air unit with ERV
- Electric lighting controls (occupancy, photo-cell, three-stage)
- Indirect lighting fixtures
- Operable windows for individual comfort control
- Solar PV system on roof (20 kW) with net meter
- VSDs for water pumps
- Heat pump water heater
- Dual-flush toilets
- Water-free urinals
- Faucets with aerators and infrared sensors
Approval was also obtained to install a 10 kW wind turbine up to 130-ft in height to further reduce energy costs. In fact, Melink’s goal is to make the headquarters a net zero energy building in five years. To achieve that goal, more solar PV panels will be added to the roof, a solar thermal system will be installed on the second water heater, and the wind turbine will complement the solar PV during the winter and at night.
The company is also in the process of implementing a load shedding strategy, due to current electric bills of which 40% is demand-based. “We want to get our utility bill to zero, and the only way to do that is to get better control of the demand,” said Melink. “We’re going to minimize our demand through load shedding strategies, then we’ll procure what we need from renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind.”
And what was the price tag for the company to go green? Melink estimates it cost approximately 10% of the total building cost, or about $250,000, to incorporate all its current energy-saving features. However, utility costs for the new headquarters are less than $0.60/sq ft/yr compared to a conventional office building in the U.S. that, according to BOMA, averages closer to $2/sq ft/yr. Melink figures the payback on the initial investment will be in the range of five to eight years.
While it was extraordinarily rewarding to create the first LEED Gold-certified building in Ohio, Melink stated the whole process has affected him in ways he hadn’t anticipated. “Going green has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I believe the culmination of my work experiences has put me in a unique position to positively influence the green movement. It is very empowering when you come to work and know you have something more important to sell than another widget for another dollar.”
Johnson Controls On A Green RollJohnson Controls is well known for its BAS and controls solutions, which improve the performance of facilities and positively impact the bottom line of the organizations that operate them. What some may not know about the company is that it recently designed and constructed a high-performance, or green, building at its Building Efficiency group headquarters in Milwaukee.
The 130,000-sq-ft Brengel Technology Center (BTC) was built for a cost just under $17 million, which puts it in line with the market average construction cost of $125/sq ft. The new building was one of the first to be certified Silver under the LEED program, and it is the first to be re-certified from Silver to Gold. The company’s headquarters building is also part of the LEED for Existing Building’s (LEED-EB) Pilot Program, and together, the 460,000-sq-ft headquarters complex features numerous energy-saving features.
“This process began as a labor of love by a few very passionate people, like our facility director, Ward Komorowski, who invested a great deal of personal energy into developing one of the first green certified buildings. The results have been so rewarding that they’ve allowed us to substantially reduce the energy and environmental footprint of our buildings,” said Gerrit Reinders, director, global energy and sustainability for Johnson Controls.
Reducing the impact of its environmental footprint is apparent throughout BTC, as evidenced by the following:
- Compared to 1999 preconstruction levels of energy consumption, the following emissions were prevented since additional fuel was not required: 2,201,200 lbs of carbon dioxide; 13,940 lbs of sulfur dioxide; 5,500 lbs of nitrogen dioxide; and 180 lbs of carbon monoxide.
- The facility consumes just 0.86 W of electricity per sq ft due to a state-of-the-art lighting system and the effective use of daylighting. This is significantly less than the state energy code requirement of less than 1.2 W/sq ft. Daylight accounts for 10% of the building’s potential energy use and allows perimeter light fixtures to be dimmed.
- Although the facility added 130,000 sq ft to the headquarters complex, not a single maintenance person was added as a result of the innovative practices used.
- Total square footage for the complex increased nearly 45%, yet total energy costs increased just 17% in the first year. Overall energy consumption increased only 15% over the same period and actually decreased 20% when expressed as Btu/sq ft.
- The building is realizing more than $76,000 in energy savings annually and a 35% reduction in operating costs. Energy and operational savings for the entire complex are more than $333,000 annually, which will equate to more than $4.2 million over 10 years.
“We learned through the experience with BTC that green buildings are very cost effective,” said Reinders. “Those savings have been so compelling that we when we recently remodeled our Johnson Controls Inc. corporate headquarters building in Glendale (WI), we designed it to the highest level achievable under the LEED rating system, by going for LEED-Platinum. We are also in the design stages of another building for our Power Solutions business, which will also be built to LEED Platinum standards.”
WaterFurnace Is Green Before Its TimeThe geothermal heat pumps that WaterFurnace manufactures are some of the most efficient heating and cooling systems available. They’re so efficient that the company decided to install 41 of its own systems when it built its 115,000-sq-ft headquarters in Fort Wayne, IN in 1990.
“Our story may be a bit different from many other manufacturers,” said Bruce Ritchey, president and CEO of WaterFurnace International. “Geothermal technology is inherently, significantly more energy efficient than conventional, fossil-fuel based heating and cooling technology, and the reservoir of available geothermal energy is vast and renewable. So, our product was green long before green was fashionable and before all the emphasis and urgency on green and sustainable construction practices. So, we didn’t go green, per se; we’ve always been green.”
When WaterFurnace constructed its new building, the goal was for the headquarters to be a model for commercial geothermal applications worldwide. That involved installing what was, at the time, the largest geothermal pond loop system in North America to provide heating and cooling for the building.
A combination of WaterFurnace geothermal units and water-to-water units were installed. The system consists of horizontal units conditioning various zones within the two-story office space and seven large capacity horizontal units that total 70 tons conditioning the manufacturing area. The total capacity of the system is 153 tons, with 134 tons installed in 1991 and 19 more in 1995. The 168 tons of lab support equipment uses the pond loop as a tempering medium when lab requirements fluctuate outside of specified limits. A high-tech BAS helps to substantially reduce operating costs while providing higher levels of safety, comfort, and convenience for the occupants.
Energy savings have more than offset initial costs. Ritchey estimated the energy savings at the headquarters facility to be 25% to 40% with the use of geothermal heating and cooling vs. a conventional system.
WaterFurnace is proud of its green reputation and is continually looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint and create a positive environmental impact. The company has issued a list of its own environmental impacts and practices, which include the following:
- An initiative across all office areas to eliminate the use of paper wherever possible.
- Help for employees to install geothermal heating and cooling units in their homes. The program so far has reduced carbon consumption by 33 metric tons per year, or the environmental impact of taking 100 cars off the road permanently.
- All high-efficiency fluorescent lighting in the plant and office, which saves 50% on electrical consumption for lighting.
- Geothermal heating and cooling equipment used to heat, cool and provide hot water for the office and manufacturing facility, reducing carbon emissions by 70 metric tons per year (the environmental equivalent of taking 140 cars off the road permanently).
Echelon Is Clean, Not GreenWhen Echelon Corp. built its 80,000-sq-ft headquarters in San Jose, CA in late 2001 the LEED certification program was not yet well known. But the manufacturer of LonWorks®-based networking technology knew it wanted to create an energy efficient facility that integrated all the key building systems, including security, lighting, elevator, and HVAC, using LonMark®-certified devices from multiple manufacturers.
While the total integration of systems provided the ability to monitor and control almost every function in the building, it also resulted in an incredible amount of energy savings. “When we built the new headquarters, we didn’t know much about LEED, but we were paying attention to the rolling blackouts that were taking place throughout California,” said Steve Nguyen, director of corporate marketing for Echelon. “As a result, the building was constructed with a high degree of integration on the control side, with the idea of customizing and optimizing energy efficiency to control our operating costs.”
That customization and optimization comes courtesy of 1,100 smart devices and 16,000 I/O points located throughout the company’s headquarters. The devices represent over 16 suppliers that use LonWorks device networking technology in the heating, air conditioning, lighting and other building control systems. Through this precise control system, the company has been able to reduce demand significantly; indeed, it can drop electrical demand by 30% within three minutes of an energy demand notification from the local utility without affecting the work environment.
Even though the company’s headquarters uses 70% less energy than a comparably sized Class A office building in its area and its comprehensive controls system saves approximately $30,000/yr in energy costs, some would argue that it’s not truly a green company, because it does not have LEED certification.
“Our feeling is that green is really about energy efficiency and the processes that provide the ability to control a building to make it ‘actively’ green,” said Nguyen. “Still, we’re green in the sense that we do a lot of recycling, we’re located near a light rail stop, we offer showers and bicycle storage facilities, we have a bus stop right in front of our building, we offer employee incentives and paybacks for taking public transportation, and we meet with the facility manager on a quarterly basis to try and find new ways to save energy through our smart building system. We haven’t gone through the LEED qualification process yet, so in that sense, we’re clean, as opposed to green.”
The company is working on it, though, and Nguyen hopes they will be able to obtain the LEED Existing Building certification in the near future. “The controls systems and the strategies we have in place give us about 75% of what’s needed for certification,” said Nguyen. “So right now we’re a clean tech company, providing technology that enables a lot of green activity in the form of efficiency. We’d like to get green from a building sense as well, so obtaining the LEED certification would be nice.”
Danfoss Goes Green GloballyDanfoss has a presence in just about every corner of the HVAC industry. The Denmark-based organization supplies mechanical and electronic components for air conditioning systems, commercial and industrial refrigeration systems, and electronic controls for supermarket applications. In addition, the company produces compressors and condensing units, appliance thermostats, and industrial controls.
Danfoss has always felt the need to be green, primarily due to the fact that the products it manufactures promote energy efficiency. “It is the right thing to do, and it fits with Danfoss’s business of providing energy-saving solutions to our customers,” said Robert Wilkins, president of Danfoss Inc. (U.S. and Canada). “We are a leader in VFDs, which improve performance and reduce energy in many applications, and our air conditioning and refrigeration controls and compressors are contributing to much higher energy efficiency in those applications than was thought possible only a few years ago.”
To keep with the overall vision of reducing the company’s consumption of energy, water, materials, and the cost of disposing of waste, all Danfoss factories (and certain other facilities) globally have environmental management systems certified under ISO14001. The system and certification ensure that steps are taken to manage the use of resources responsibly, comply with laws, and minimize impacts on the environment.
In Danfoss’s North American offices in Baltimore, for example, the system has helped the company find ways to reduce consumption of electricity relative to the level of activity; reduce waste that would normally go into the county landfill, relative to the level of activity; and increase the percentage of waste that is recycled. Wilkins noted that the company has more than doubled the percentage of its recycled waste between 2002 and 2007.
The company’s factories show similar reductions in the use of energy, water, chemicals, and heavy metals, and thereby show reductions in the disposal of undesirable substances. While incorporating these green strategies makes the company’s 20,000 employees feel like they’re making a difference in the environment, it also makes good financial sense.
“Saving energy saves money. Reducing landfill waste saves money. And it costs less to dispose of special materials,” said Wilkins. “This has been a win-win for Danfoss. Overall costs have declined significantly, and it fits nicely with providing energy and environmental solutions for our customers.”
While each of the manufacturers discussed here opted for different energy-efficient solutions in their quests to green their own facilities, their ultimate goals were the same: Save energy, reduce waste, encourage others to become environmentally responsible, and become role models for other manufacturers to join in the green movement. Kudos to these HVAC manufacturers for walking the walk and showing others in the industry how easy it is to be green. ES