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Catching up with the elusive "environmental target"

Fixing all of the environmental problems within the manufacturing process of all their office equipment was, indeed, a very difficult task. Reaching LEED certification in a manufacturing plant environment had to date never been accomplished, nor had a building as large as the Steelcase plants reached that distinction. However, Steelcase was again determined to set the environmental standard and show that they are not only the leading company in the industry, but also the leading environmental protector in the industry. As a new plant was set to begin construction, Steelcase began working on improvements in the five LEED areas, and made notable improvements in each, hoping to get the distinction of LEED certification for this building and all its future buildings.

Steelcase made enormous steps in energy efficiency. Steelcase created a central computer, dubbed "The Beast" by most its employees, that automatically "controls air compressors, chillers, and other processes and cycles them so they only come on in areas that are currently in use."(^7) Another such system for the lights was also created. In lieu of air conditioners, seven dust collectors were created to pull hot air and dust from the facility, cooling it in the summer. The collectors hold the heat and return it to the facility during the cold winter months.

Water management was also a key concern for Steelcase. Instead of using the city water for landscaping and many of its other activities, Steelcase created three retention ponds to be used as necessary, saving 715,000 gallons of water annually. These retention ponds not only save on city water but they also filter grit and oil from the parking lot runoff to ensure that the water going into storm sewers is filtered. Steelcase also installed low-flow toilets and sensor activated sinks, saving over a million gallons of water per year.

Building a building with environmentally friendly materials was also a challenge for Steelcase. However, 95% of steel used in the construction is post-consumer recycled material and 24% of all building materials were post-consumer recycled materials (See figure 1 (below)).(^8) No cooling, packaged air units, fire protection systems or air handlers contain CFC's, which is one of the largest hazards to our environment today. Also, 45% of construction waste was recycled. (^9) Steelcase took a major potential roadblock in their quest toward environmental excellence and slammed straight through it, making the construction of their building a very minimal harm on the environment.

Figure 1

Source: Wood & Wood Products

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