Building In Sustainability
Rick Carter | April 1, 2015
A large construction project at Endress+Hauser’s U.S. headquarters operation significantly advances the site’s sustainability factors.
Because European companies have traveled the sustainability road longer than most of their U.S. counterparts, key green practices like energy efficiency, recycling and others are often the rule for these entities, not the exception. Thus, it’s no surprise that Endress+Hauser, a Switzerland-based instrumentation and process-automation company with operations around the world, has infused its Greenwood, IN-based U.S. headquarters with impeccable sustainability credentials. But it has only been within the past half-decade or so that the 70-acre campus, 10 miles south of Indianapolis, has come to resemble the parent company’s high level of sustainability in nearly every way. Thanks to a recent construction boom, the site features two new LEED-certified* manufacturing buildings and a new high-tech Customer Center that awaits LEED certification, which added nearly 300,000 sq. ft. of space to the campus. The project also added a long list of impressive sustainable features, not the least of which is a $1.2 million geothermal heating and cooling system that serves the new manufacturing facilities.
The large, concurrent building project was OK’d not just for its environmental returns, but as part of the company’s long-term strategy to gain U.S. market share. It also reflects the company’s worldwide (and sustainable) policy to manufacture as close as possible to its customers rather than sourcing product from overseas operations. The U.S. team is extremely proud of its recent site improvements, most of which came together over a short period of time.
“For over five years, this campus has been a construction zone,” says Todd Hubbell, Vice President of Operations. First, he says, Endress+Hauser Flowtec AG (USA), the company’s U.S. flow-meter-manufacturing operation, built a new facility in 2008 and expanded it in 2012. That same year, Endress+Hauser Automation Instrumentation, Inc. (USA), where the company manufactures level and pressure instrumentation devices, built a new building, which finished 30 days apart from the other one. “And immediately after those two buildings were done,” says Hubbell, “we tore down Automation’s old building, and built an energy-efficient and sustainable Customer Center in its place.”
Despite the enormous inconvenience caused by simultaneous, large-scale construction projects taking place next to each other, Endress+Hauser’s North American customers had no idea things weren’t humming along normally in Indiana. “No production was ever down here in Greenwood,” says Mike Moore, Industrial Engineering Manager, and 36-year Endress+Hauser veteran. “We promise that customers will get their products on time, and none of our delivery dates were compromised or missed,” he says. “We didn’t want any customer to notice anything that was happening here.”
Considering the unusual business hierarchy used at Greenwood—the site actually encompasses five independent Endress+Hauser companies—and that all company products are made-to-order, the feat is exceptional. It’s also indicative of this operation’s ability to work together toward common goals. “Our organization is different, but unbelievably successful because it forces us at a campus level for the general managers and the management structure to work together,” says Hubbell.
Greenwood’s team strength developed in response to the company’s plan for the site to not just be a distribution/sales outpost, but a functioning manufacturing arm, each part of which (within the five companies) has its own challenges to resolve. In the 40 years Endress+Hauser has been in Greenwood, the staff has proven its resourcefulness in this regard, and positioned itself as a good steward of the company’s sustainability policies.
“The whole culture of producing close to the customer is part of sustainability,” explains Steve Demaree, Technical Services Manager and 37-year Endress+Hauser veteran. “Compared to a lot of our competitors who produce offshore, no matter what they do, they are less flexible. When you try to produce far from your customer, your options are long-distance deliveries or some type of regional stocking program of completed instruments. To have the broad flexibility to reach your customer throughout the world is using sustainability as a competitive advantage. And it has been an effective business model for us.”
Demaree adds that the privately held Endress+Hauser has always been more focused on long-term improvement projects. “They have to be good investments,” he adds, “but if it has good long-term return, it’s likely to be accepted, which is also part of sustainability, to not be so tightly controlled.”
When it came time to expand Greenwood, it was assumed any new design under discussion would reflect advanced green elements. “The Endress family has always been a big proponent of the environment,” says Hubbell, adding that the campus has been developed with that in mind. “With our recent LEED initiatives, our environmental efforts just came naturally; there was no ‘program’ in place. It has always been assumed that we will approach all projects from an environmental perspective.”
Making it work
The company’s partner in its recent projects was Genesis Property Development, based in nearby Shelbyville, IN. Bill Poland, VP of Construction for Genesis, says the Endress+Hauser projects were different from others he’s worked on because of the company’s “passion for their facilities. We were here every day,” he says, “and we interacted with them regularly, which I’ve never dealt with before. Usually, once the design is done, the owner goes about their business and doesn’t want to know what goes into the project on a daily basis. These folks did, and it was fantastic.”
The result, says Poland, is that the new facilities “do exactly what they need them to and, from a sustainability standpoint, nothing was wasted.” He adds that with the elevated level of on-site building activity and with regular company operations continuing unabated, their interest and involvement was especially appreciated. The pursuit of LEED certification for manufacturing operations is difficult enough, he says, but the large geothermal project at Endress+Hauser proved a particular challenge.
The main external feature of the geothermal project—a narrow channel more than a quarter mile long (1370 ft.), 90 ft. wide and 14 ft. deep—is situated along the property’s western boundary, at a distance from on-site vehicle and foot traffic, and largely out of view. Had they gone with a more traditional oval-shaped pond, a much wider swath of land would have been needed, which would have disrupted the flow of on-site traffic. And while outdoor ponds are not part of every geothermal project, it was chosen for this one as a two-part solution to also address an existing water runoff problem. Hubbell says that with more paved surfaces being added to the site, they knew the flooding issue would have to be resolved, so they chose a solution that would do that and become a resource for reducing energy costs. “It was a case of making lemonade out of lemons,” says Poland.
Following a construction-plan analysis of the site’s water issue, the company purchased enough adjoining land to accommodate both the new manufacturing operations and the planned retention pond. Poland explains that the pond design allows for a desired “normal” level of water to be maintained year-round. “But it can accept a tremendous amount of water,” he says, which is allowed by the pond’s length, depth and vertical walls. The current design allows the pond level to rise by as much as 12 ft. in heavy rain, “which can happen quickly,” says Poland. “The water is then released slowly through a weir system, which controls flooding downstream.”
An additional four feet of depth over and above what was needed to improve drainage helps maintain water at the desired level longer. This feature also allows for possible later expansion of the geothermal system for building HVAC purposes or for use in industrial processes.
The completed geothermal system is now the only heating and cooling system in place for the two new manufacturing buildings. “It never shuts off,” says Demaree. “When the pond is frozen, we extract heat from it. When it’s in its warmest condition, we put heat into it.” He adds that it has already passed the heating-and-cooling comfort test many times over, starting on the day the Flowtec building was inaugurated. “It was 90 degrees outside, and we had what will probably be the most number of people we’ll ever have in it, and it was totally comfortable.” The system is also saving money, beating the heating and cooling costs in the buildings that were replaced by more than 40%.
Other LEED issues
Substantial as the geothermal project was, it added only six points to the company’s LEED tally for its two new manufacturing buildings. And while many fundamental LEED requirements were included in the buildings’ designs (see sidebar), it was important that the design team also include one or two larger ones. The new Customer Center, for example, which awaits its LEED certification, features a high-tech boiler/chiller system for its heating and cooling. Though located too far from the pond to be on the geothermal system, this building’s HVAC system “does the same things mechanically the pond does,” says Poland, and it built LEED points. The company also opted for white roofs on all new buildings—an unusual feature for structures in central Indiana, but necessary for LEED.
Other significant LEED add-ons included energy-efficient lighting and building automation systems and construction procedures that called for controlled debris removal. “We were required to divert at least 75% of the site’s construction material away from landfills,” says Poland. His crews were able to top that, diverting about 87% from the three-building project. Detailed docuamentation was also required, both for disposed/recycled material and material used in construction, which had to include certain levels of recycled content, and be sourced locally. “This meant that everything we used—steel, drywall, concrete—had to be produced within 500 miles of this area,” says Poland. “We could not bring in material from outside that radius.”
While there was never an argument against pursuing LEED certifications for the new Greenwood buildings, it was decided early on to seek only the LEED level that proved most practical from a business perspective, which was “Certified.” The Greenwood team reasoned that the added cost needed to obtain the higher point requirements of Silver, Gold and Platinum levels would not produce significantly greater environmental paybacks. “We were not going to ‘buy into’ levels,” says Demaree. “It didn’t make sense to us. But where there was good ROI in terms of energy savings, we would go for that. We wanted to take a very practical approach.”
Their decision means that a high-point/high-cost upgrade like a solar photovoltaic system was not considered for the Greenwood project. But the sun was not left out of their plans. “All the new buildings have light-harvesting components,” says Poland. “These include skylight systems and a tremendous amount of sidewall lighting. These features add to their energy-efficiency as well, because on sunny days, the buildings are all well-lighted.” The company’s LEED investment added an estimated 10% to the total construction cost, along with a little extra time. “But the benefits were so substantial,” says Poland, “they were worth it. With this company, getting it right was more important than the cost. There was a premium placed on having things done the way they needed to be done.”
“When we did these projects, it was based on a five-year plan, taking us up to 2017 or 2018, at least on the Automation side,” says Moore. With the new buildings in place, he says, “We’re now aggressive in projects to build more products on site. We also built the Automation building in such a way that we could build a mirror image of it and expand on the south side of the property.”
Hubbell believes expansion is likely. “We’ve had fast growth in the marketplace over the past few years and believe we must continue investing in our infrastructure,” he says, noting that the company has spent more than $150 million on such projects at its U.S. operations in the past five years.
Endress+Hauser is also working to improve production efficiencies at Greenwood. Efforts include increased parts-sharing across the company’s supply chain, making better use of remote-monitoring to implement higher levels of predictive maintenance, and building up recently enacted 5S and TPM programs. They also plan to more closely monitor energy consumption using their new building automation systems. “We are just now starting to work with this,” says Demaree, “but it should play a much bigger role in our future ability to conserve energy. We’ll use this data to support other projects and further reduce energy throughout our facilities.”
They’re also looking beyond elements over which they have direct control in order to push Greenwood’s sustainability boundaries. “We’ve been working with the city to get an interchange off of the local interstate,” says Hubbell. “This would save eight traffic lights for the trucks that come here, not to mention help our employees on their commutes.” Hubbell adds, though, that since business for Endress+Hauser through Greenwood has lately been “so fluid and our growth so dynamic,” it’s hard to say exactly what paths they might choose over the next several months or years. “But I do know,” he says, “that we’ll meet whatever challenge comes at us.”
* LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental design. It is a world-recognized green-building certification program created by the U.S. Green Building Council (usgbc.org).