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Green Retrofits Help Facilities Achieve a Sustainable Future

Even if new construction isn't on your company's agenda, building owners can still reap sustainability's benefits with green retrofits.

November 2010
(page 2 of 3)
Fourth, the project must improve the user's overall profitability. With factors like lower construction costs, government incentives, and mainstream adoption, the opportunity to translate sustainability into profitability is now more attainable than ever.

But the first part of a building to assess during retrofits is also the most overlooked. Truck yards are one of the most important components of an industrial facility. And these blacktop behemoths are only expanding in size and importance, particularly in port cities, due to volatile global commerce.

July 2010 represented one of the best months in several years for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In Los Angeles, imports were up 21 percent over the previous year, and overall port traffic rose 26.8 percent. Long Beach posted even higher gains, with imports up 32.5 percent and port traffic up 35.8 percent over the previous year. These dramatic spikes have required many users to rapidly scale up to meet new demand, making the size and function of their truck yards even more important. Inventory fluctuations have called for larger yards with generous turning radii, expansive trailer parking, and additional storage capacity. But large, asphalt surfaces also absorb heat and rely on petroleum-based products. Many users are now considering switching to concrete, a stronger, cooler, and environmentally friendly material. Concrete truck yards are also more durable, saving money on maintenance and ongoing replacement.

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Evaluating water fixtures and landscaping presents an opportunity to capture substantial cost savings. Upgrading fixtures such as urinals, water closets, and faucets proves that material upgrades can immediately reduce consumption and yield savings. At one Watson industrial property, we calculated the annual water consumption of upgraded fixtures, compared to standard fixtures in compliance with the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The upgraded facility produced annual water savings of more than 42 percent. Landscaping upgrades told a similar story. Drought-tolerant landscape design and high-efficiency irrigation fixtures resulted in annual landscape water savings of more than 36 percent.

Inside the facility, lighting systems represent the best opportunity to reduce energy consumption and operating costs. Buildings with skylights and large clerestory windows harness natural sunlight for illumination, reducing electrical loads. Besides trimming costs, daylight is associated with increased employee satisfaction and productivity.

Upgrading lighting systems adds to the savings. Replacing eight-foot florescent strip lighting with energy efficient T5 or T8 lamps can reduce total energy output by more than 65 percent. Adding photocells with automatic shut-off and motion detectors ensure the lights are on only when needed.

Just look up to see the built-in advantages of industrial facilities compared to smaller buildings. Rooftop solar panels are one of the fastest growing segments of renewable energy. Industrial facilities' expansive, flat roofs provide an optimal environment for solar energy systems, which turn sunlight into significant electricity savings. Besides reduced monthly expenses, the government provides rebates, grants, and tax credits to encourage the adoption of such renewable energy systems.

Get with the Program
With a wealth of environmental benefits, savings, and government incentives, property owners are executing renovations with sustainability in mind. Sustainable building programs are leveraging the benefits of ground-up sustainable development to create cost-effective retrofit programs. While each facility differs in form and function, similar sustainable features are implemented in each new project. This allows for benchmarking progress and maintaining a sustainable "scorecard" that will yield predictable energy savings across the entire portfolio.

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