Facilities of the Year: Going for the Green

Our winning facilities demonstrate that less pollution means more profits

Environmental Protection salutes five outstanding facilities that represent a new progressive attitude in dealing with environmental issues. Our top picks show that a forward-thinking approach, industrial development, and greater profit margins can be balanced with a cleaner environment. As more facilities follow the examples set by our award winners, the trend toward smarter ways of handling air emissions, hazardous and solid waste, wastewater, energy efficiency, and landscaping should produce positive, long-lasting results for the environment.

Ford Rouge Center -- Dearborn, Mich.
The Ford Motor Company's Rouge Center revitalization project includes a 1,750,000-square-foot truck-manufacturing plant within a 200-acre site as the first increment in the transformation of a historic 1,100-acre brownfield manufacturing property. The facility received the 2003 American Institute of Architects Award of Honor. The project included such vanguard designs as a green roof on the assembly plant, which constitutes the world's largest "living roof" on an industrial building, effectively turning the roof into a 10.4-acre meadow. The roof was planted with indigenous sedum that absorbs carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, releasing oxygen and reducing greenhouse gases. The green roof also provides a habitat for local birds and wildlife.

Native plants installed as part of the site greening were selected because of their ability to clean the soil using the biological process phytoremediation. The plants break down and remove polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination from the soil, which is a byproduct of years of steel manufacturing.

The construction project also included many other environmentally friendly practices. For example, materials from the demolition of the larger portion of the historic glass plant, (specifically glass and concrete) were recycled and/or used as fill materials for on-site road construction. As well, the designers of the facility selected a number of materials high in sustainable characteristics such as TPO roofing, linoleum flooring, low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints, and recycled-fiber carpet.

Designed to handle a different environmental problem, the stormwater management system directs run-off from all surfaces into various storage locations on site. The stormwater held in these storage locations is channeled into newly constructed wetlands and vegetated swales where it is filtered by natural means prior to being discharged into the Rouge River.

The facility has received the following recognition: the 2003 Michigan Chapter of the American Society of Architectural Engineers Award in Planning; the 2004 Green Roof Awards of Excellence (the extensive industry/commercial category); the 2004 NOVA Award, given by the Construction Innovation Forum; and designation as a wildlife habitat by the Wildlife Habitat Council.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory -- Richland, Wash.
In 2003, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) won the 2003 Award of Excellence from the International Facilities Management Association for the facility's initiative in implementing a facility management policy to promote energy conservation; the acquisition of technology improvements to increase energy efficiency and conserve water; and the transition to dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound energy sources.

PNNL's environmental achievements have been far-ranging. For instance, the laboratory reduced its use of river water on its land by 9 million gallons; this water was then made available for beneficial use in adjoining farm lands and leased properties. PNNL researched state-of-the-art techniques for grounds management and used the knowledge to develop a long-range (10 year) grounds-management plan. To optimize water use, the staff learned about predictive computer models used at golf courses, a technique typically not used by federal agencies or institutions with large campuses. As part of its water conservation strategy, the facility realigned its irrigation system to save water sent to the sewer system, which resulted in a savings of $10,600.

PNNL conducted energy audits at seven buildings at its facility and determined that energy could be conserved by eliminating unneeded computers and placing inactive networked computer monitors in a standby mode. PNNL's model indicated that such conservation measures are expected to save the facility approximately $341,704 (8,542,601 kilowatt hours) per year. Additionally, through investments in more energy-efficient lighting and building comfort systems, along with the promotion of energy conservation practices, PNNL had the first buildings in eastern Washington to achieve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star® label.

Through a partnership with the city of Richland and Bonneville Power Administration, PNNL purchases wind power from a local generator. The purchase of 8,760,000 kilowatt hours of wind power means that 13.7 percent of the energy needed by PNNL now comes from renewable resources.

Abbott Laboratories Lake County Facility -- Abbott Park, Ill.
Abbott's business practices incorporate all components of the pollution prevention triangle: source reduction, reuse, and recycling. The facility has numerous projects that demonstrate its commitment to the environment. For instance, Abbott developed a solvent selection guide for use at its research and development labs to help scientists identify the least toxic solvents to use. The company has established green chemistry metrics to compare the environmental impact of process improvements.

In 2003, Abbott made several important advances in the area of pollution prevention. By replacing the solvent used in cleaning operations with a less toxic alternative, hazardous material usage was reduced by 26 tons, hazardous waste was cut by 26 tons, and hazardous air pollutant emissions were reduced by 1.1 tons. In the same year, the facility replaced disposable Tyvek® apparel with reusable clothing, resulting in 67,000 cubic feet of nonhazardous waste being diverted annually from a landfill and a net savings of more than $460,000 each year. Furthermore, the on site salvage and recycling operation processed 3,740 tons of paper products, 1,410 tons of scrap metal, 178 tons plastic, 127 tons of commingled glass, 14,000 toner cartridges, and other materials for a total revenue of more than $500,000.

The facility has received the following honors: the Illinois Governors Pollution Prevention Award for Continuous Improvement (2001 - 2003), the Grand Award for Ground Management Excellence in the Industrial or Office Park Competition (2001 and 2003), the designation as a partner in GreenScapes (EPA program for environmentally beneficial landscaping) and the designation as a steering committee member of Partners for Clean Air Program.

Robins Air Force Base -- Warner Robins, Ga.
With more than 25,500 employees, military members, and contractors, Robins Air Force Base is the largest industrial complex in Georgia. It has worldwide management and engineering responsibility for a wide variety of military aircraft.

Robins has a number of key programs that focus on pollution prevention, such as paint substitution initiatives requiring the use of a thermoset powder-coating system in place of a solvent-borne coating process. The powder-coating system eliminates volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants, and hazardous wastes associated with the previous process, while still providing a durable finish.

Robins' switch to a selective stripping coating system has reduced the use of chromate conversion coating and chromated primer, essentially eliminating chrome-containing waste. Implementation of this new process reduces worker exposure to hazardous materials by 97 percent. As well, Robins is a leader in the use of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs); the base currently has a fleet of 161 AFVs. Another successful achievement is Robins' new solid-waste management program that allows for more than 52 percent of the facility's solid waste to be diverted for reuse and recyling.

In 2003, Robins received the following recognition: the White House Closing the Circle Award (waste/pollution prevention category); the Air Force General Thomas D. White Award for pollution prevention (industrial category); the U.S. Secretary of Defenses Pollution Prevention Award (industrial category); and the Georgia Water and Pollution Control Association's Gold Award for Groundwater Treatment, Best in the State Award, Public Education Award, and Safety Award.

Kent County Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility -- Milford, Del.
Recent studies show that 40 percent of all sanitary sewer overflows, where untreated wastewater flows on to local roadways and over lawns into receiving waters, are directly related to fats, oil, and grease (FOG). Due to its increasing quantity, FOG is having a larger impact on sewer pipes and other infrastructure. FOG tends to accumulate and then starts to restrict the flow through sewer pipes.

To help deal with this threat to pubic health, the personnel at the Kent County facility implemented a three-fold approach to reduce or prevent FOG from entering the sewer system. The first step was to educate the people who discharge FOG into the sewer system. The primary dischargers are local restaurants, other food-related facilities, and the general public. The educational outreach efforts have included the development of a FOG page on the Kent County Department of Public Works Web site, a series of presentations on the effects of FOG and how to properly handle it, the creation of informational booklets, and the development of a comic/coloring book for younger students using the spokesperson "Nofogman." A computer-animated version of the comic book is currently under development.

The second element of the program was to develop a permit program for commercial and institutional organizations that discharge FOG into the county system. As part of the process, all subject organizations must have contracts to collect and properly treat FOG and all grease traps must be pumped out at least monthly. The third element is enforcement, which will be instituted in 2005. This involves yearly inspections of all grease traps, the maintenance of pump-out logs, and significant fines for not complying.

Because of its FOG program, the facility was selected as one of the recipients of the 2004 National Association of Counties (NACO) Achievement Award.

Honorable Mention for Environmental Achievers
Pfizer Global Research and Development -- Michigan Laboratories, Ann Arbor, Mich., received the 2004 Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Business of the Year Award based on its success in promoting economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social equity.

Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill., was honored in 2004 with the Outstanding Governmental Leadership Award by the Illinois Recycling Association.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Mass., has implemented an innovative automated environmental, health, and safety training program for its employees and students. The program automatically determines necessary regulatory and best practices training, and it can also schedule the individual for live training if appropriate.

Los Alamos National Laboratories Heavy Equipment Maintenance Shop, Los Alamos, N.M., won a Pollution Prevention Award from the Nuclear Security Administration in 2004 and the Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable in 2003.

Texas Disposal Systems Landfill, Inc., Buda, Texas, received in 2002 the Texas Governors Blue Ribbon Selection Committees Texas Environmental Excellence Award (small business division) and the Environmental Vision Award (the recycling and waste minimization category) from the Austin Sustainable Business Council

Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., was one of the recipients in 2004 of the White House Closing the Circle Award for its success in increasing the quantity of purchased construction material with recycled content. It achieved these improvements in the purchasing system through contractual language, training, and performance monitoring.

Idaho National Engineering Environmental Laboratory's Fleet Operations, Idaho Falls, Idaho, received an Idaho GEMStars membership from the governor of Idaho in 2003 for its leadership in pollution prevention.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2004 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

Angela Neville, JD, REM, is the former editorial director of Environmental Protection.

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