Some of the world’s smartest business people are prioritizing sustainability and re-envisioning what manufacturing looks like, and it is saving their companies millions of dollars in the process.
On-site renewable energy. High-efficiency lighting and air conditioning. Architecture that provides ample natural light, improves worker happiness and along with it, productivity. Through the pursuit of LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, industrial users are embracing these sustainable practices and saving money while making their products more attractive to a growing group of sustainability-minded buyers.
In Ohio alone, there are nearly two-dozen LEED-certified industrial facilities, and worldwide there are more than 1,755, totaling more than 496 million square feet. That number is expected to grow as there are an additional 2,710 projects registered for LEED certification, totaling nearly 737 million square feet.
“LEED in Motion: Industrial Facilities,” a recent report from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the organization behind LEED, provides a telling snapshot of ways industrial facilities around the country are having a major impact on the bottom line by being more sustainable. It’s something I have seen working for Heapy Engineering, where sustainability and energy efficiency are cornerstones of our business model. It is our goal to help businesses and organizations across the spectrum build and operate highly efficient and productive facilities. These include the PolyOne (formerly Spartech) plastics plant in Greenville, Ohio, to corporate headquarters, healthcare projects and educational buildings.
A focus on sustainability is absolutely vital for industrial facilities. The manufacturing sector consumes energy at a much higher rate than conventional buildings. Industrial facilities are responsible for 30 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption and use an estimated 15,900 million gallons of water per day. In Michigan, for example, an engine plant owned by Fiat Chrysler reduced its energy use by 39 percent, saving $1.25 million per year. Beauty manufacturer L’Oreal reduced waste per unit by 55 percent and water per unit by 50 percent at its plant in Kentucky since becoming LEED certified in 2005.
And while we’ve made great progress, there is more we can do to grow both the sustainability movement and the economy. In fact, the continued impact of green construction in Ohio and nearby Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky is projected to be tremendous. According to USGBC’s 2015 Economic Impact Study, green construction will contribute nearly $83 billion to this region’s Gross Domestic Product from 2015-2018, while creating 975,000 jobs in a wide range of occupations – construction managers, carpenters, electricians, architects, truck drivers, and many more.
These are the kinds of good-paying jobs we need to succeed in the 21st century economy. Green/sustainable building (facilities and materials used to build those facilities) is positioned for explosive growth. However, if we don’t act soon, we risk losing green jobs to other states and risk falling behind on sustainability measures that position our industrial facilities to be more efficient and thus more cost effective.
Smoky, sooty, dirty factories can – and should – be relics of a bygone era. Green manufacturing is the future. Business leaders, government officials and all of us should come together to position our states at the forefront of this exciting movement. By expanding our vision of what it means to be green, we can help grow our economy and reposition ourselves as leaders in this already quickly growing new industrial revolution.
Michael Berning is the Director of Sustainable Design and Senior Principal at Heapy Engineering, a nationally recognized design, energy and commissioning services firm based in Montgomery County. He is also President of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Southwest Ohio Region.