The Espoma Co., Millville, N.J., produces organic gardening fertilizer. The staff is proud of its facility, with warehouses and structures that sport a rooftop solar-energy installation covering nearly 43,000 square feet. The roof produces 700,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to power 60 homes for a full year. In addition, it saves 1.4 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. This equates to planting nearly 1.7 million trees, said Jeremy Brunner, company vice president.
These days, companies are aiming for a greener shade of green, i.e., “deep green.” Many are going beyond routine sustainable measures that reduce carbon footprint and energy consumption. They are going off the grid, which sometimes means more than the electrical grid. They’re recycling rainwater and other resources to better approach independence from outside sources of electricity, water and even fertilizer.
In a July 2020 New York Times article, “Going ‘Deep Green,’ Office Buildings Give Back to the Planet,” Jane Margolies cites examples of facilities taking such environmental steps: a winery in Healdsburg, Calif., that “generates more water and energy than it uses;” a San Antonio credit union’s new headquarters and office building that has rooftop solar and stores collected rainwater for plumbing and other uses; and Seattle’s indoor sports stadium, Climate Pledge Arena, which “aims to be the first carbon-neutral arena in the world, powered exclusively by renewable energy.”
A study by the Indian firm Industry Research projects the market for green building materials to grow 10% per year until 2024, driven by demand for low-emission buildings, increasing demand for insulation and favorable government policies for green buildings. The study notes a growing demand for smart lighting, solar products, building systems and HVAC systems and pointed out that more governments mandate using green building materials for construction.
Deep green encouragement
New construction projects will be seeing the installation of deep green technology as building owners receive incentives to aim for sustainability. It’s important for the electrical contractor to stay on top of new technology that is sustainable and helps facility owners approach self-sufficiency.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “Faith for Earth Initiative” features sustainability guidelines for congregations, which often include teachings on environmentalism. This is significant, as the U.N. points out, as there are some 37 million churches, 4 million mosques, 20,000 synagogues and hundreds of millions of temples around the world. Many of them were built when sustainability was not a concern.
According to the U.N.: “Places of worship can be standard bearers for green building by planting trees on their grounds. They can also embrace renewable energy, like solar power, install water-efficient faucets, and use recycled gray water for plants.”
Microgrids as backup and more
Backup power has taken on a whole new purpose. What was once an emergency generator used during power failures is becoming a microgrid for uninterrupted operations. The backup, in many cases, approaches being a primary source of power.
Campus-like facilities—colleges, local government annexes and hospitals—have their own power networks and are prime candidates for such a microgrid. For these facilities, a loss of power is devastating.
Take hospitals, which operate around the clock and where a loss of power puts human life is at risk.
“Large hospitals account for less than 1% of all commercial buildings and 2% of commercial floor space, but they consume 4.3% of the total delivered energy used,” according to a white paper, “Microgrids for Hospitals and Healthcare,” from green energy company Bloom Energy, San Jose, Calif. It further states that hospital energy use is not declining.
The new shade of green
Green and sustainable construction is growing in importance as firms seek to be more self-sufficient, reduce energy costs and position themselves as good stewards of the environment.
In the future, we’ll likely see more companies like Espoma, touting rooftop solar and more as showcases of environmental responsibility and any other accompanying benefits. Going “deep green” is a boon to companies’ own stakeholders and to the rest of the world.