Walking and talking green

It is not so long ago that ISO9001 was the sign of a market leading, reputable manufacturer. Certainly, when dealing business to business, it was not uncommon to get the question: “Is your company ISO approved?” Nowadays, a quality assurance system, such as ISO, is a pre-requisite and perhaps a minimum requirement for doing business.

The buzz over the past few years has shifted to green credentials such as how eco-friendly products and services are, how energy efficient products are, and how eco-friendly is the production and business process of getting those products to customers. I guess in this respect there are two key areas to environmental responsibility; the green credentials of the products themselves and the activities, process and operations of the manufacturing company.

Green investment

Low energy and eco friendly products for building services are now commonplace and companies are investing significantly in R&D to bring more energy efficient solutions to the market. This is followed by extensive marketing to position the company as the green supplier. This is of course a responsible approach to encourage carbon reduction and energy saving, but we should also be interested in the manufacturer’s processes and be able to evaluate the tone of green of their operations.

The ISO14001 Environmental Management standard is a great starting point for any manufacturer wanting to implement an environmental management system for continuous improvement. But some would argue this is a minimum demonstration of environmental conformance and perhaps a passive approach to environmental responsibility. But perhaps leading manufacturers need to be more active in driving improvement in their operations too.

Using Tyco as an example, we have adopted ISO14001 like many other manufacturers, and we continue to invest in providing increasingly efficient systems. For example, all Raychem floor heating solutions are available with a floor insulation option for improved energy efficiency. Furthermore, all of our systems are compatible with energy efficient controls, approved by Eubac (European Building Automation and Controls Association). Also within the commercial heat tracing business, smart control and monitoring devices are actively promoted to improve energy efficiency in new and existing installations.

Research and testing

Such energy efficient solutions are extensively researched, tested and evaluated in the lab, but also in field trials. To exemplify, in 2009 and 2010, Tyco Thermal Controls carried out a significant field trial to evaluate the real energy savings attributable to its smart pipe frost protection solutions compared with standard on/off type budget controls. The installation, at the Schneefernerhuis Environmental Research Station, in the mountains of Bavaria, Germany, was chosen for the research due to the harsh conditions experienced and the ability to vigorously test the products under real life, rather than lab, conditions (a summary report is available, upon request, from Tyco Thermal Controls).

The results reinforced our climate chamber simulations and yielded some key performance metrics, including the fact that the Raychem RayStat-ECO-10 ambient sensing thermostat with Proportional Ambient Sensing Control (PASC) used 50% less energy than a standard ambient thermostat. In addition, in less harsh temperatures, the PASC controlled system can deliver even higher energy savings compared with a standard ambient controller and simply reducing the set point temperature of the controller can have a significant impact on energy consumption (a setpoint change from 5°C to 1°C gave a saving of 10% for ambient sensing control and 30% for line sensing controls).

As a result of the testing, conducted between October 2009 and May 2010, the factory installed set point temperature of the premium RayStat-ECO-10 and RayStat-CONTROL-10 control units has been re-calibrated within the software to a lower value to yield significant savings between 10-30%.

Clearly there is a significant cost to continuous refinement such as this, but leading manufacturers need to lead this product development in order to drive eco-design solutions. However, this is only one part of an environmentally responsible manufacturer’s duty. What about the active improvement from an operational perspective?

Active improvements

The EU climate change strategy focuses on the 20/20/20 rule which states that we must achieve a 20% reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions against 1990 levels, a 20% reduction in energy consumption and that 20% of EU consumption of energy should be resourced from renewable sources.

Tyco has used this notion to produce its own aggressive environmental targets. Known as the 25/25/25, Tyco has a clear five year goal for a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG), a 25% reduction in water usage and a 25% reduction in waste production – all by 2015 against the 2009 baseline.

This is pretty aggressive, particularly as the baseline levels for GHG, water consumption, and waste production has been quantified. But goals are one thing; activities to achieve the goals are another. So what activities have been, and are being, implemented to achieve these goals?

On a Tyco global scale, critical activities include carbon reduction of the extensive vehicle fleet by replacing existing vehicles with more efficient replacements whilst also employing Hybrid technologies where possible and appropriate. Tyco businesses are also actively seeking product solutions to be manufactured from recycled or recyclable materials. And not forgetting the implementation of green technology in our own facilities.

Looking specifically at the European Headquarters and European Distribution Centre in Leuven, Belgium, 100% of the electricity consumed at the site is supplied from green sources and in other areas we have actively embraced green technology in order to reduce the operational environmental footprint.

This has included the installation of solar heating for all hot water within the plant and offices and rainwater capture for all sanitary water needs and fire suppression services. We have also introduced wash hand basin sensor control to reduce water consumption and an advanced HVAC system for zone control capability and increased energy efficiency. In addition we have installed smart (presence) lighting control throughout with energy efficient lighting solutions.

One final measure which we have taken is to equip the building with the necessary infrastructure for connection to photovoltaic panels for electricity production.

Taking responsibility

It’s no surprise that the above activities do not come for free, far from it. But as a market leading manufacturer, it is imperative that we engage in these activities and then promote them within the industry. Hopefully, this will stimulate others to follow suit and the net outcome will be a raising of the bar for environmental responsibility and a shift towards not only green product solutions but also a deeper tone of green in our daily business activities and operations.

So environmental responsibility is not just about talking the talk, it is also walking the walk! I think it is fair to say that many manufacturers talk the talk by providing energy efficient, eco products, but fewer walk the walk by engaging in carbon reduction activities with defined goals.

Specifying engineers can influence the adoption of these activities across the industry by defining such policies as a requirement of suppliers within their system specifications. This would drive manufacturers to improve their operations and contribute to the bigger picture of environmental responsibility and carbon reduction.