Industrial Buildings Get Greener

Posted by Josette Dunn on 3rd March 2010

Over the last decade environmental issues have received more and more publicity, and many businesses have found that ‘going green’ is not only good for the environment, but good for the bottom line as well.

One aspect of ‘going green’ that many businesses find confusing or challenging is how to make their industrial buildings more environmentally sound. The Food and Beverage industry in particular presents unique challenges in this area.

One relatively user-friendly way of determining a building’s level of environmental sustainability is the Green Star Building Council of Australia (GBCA)’s Green Star environmental rating system.

The GBCA is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to drive the transition of the Australian property industry towards:
• sustainability by promoting green building programs, technologies, design practices and operations; and
• integration of green building initiatives into mainstream design, construction and operation of buildings.

In order to achieve these objectives, the GBCA launched the Green Star environmental rating system for buildings in 2003. Green Star rating tools help the property industry to reduce the environmental impact of buildings, improve occupant health and productivity and achieve real cost savings, while showcasing innovation in sustainable building practices.

A pilot rating tool for industrial buildings was launched in October 2008. The feedback obtained on the pilot will be used to enhance this tool and produce a technical. This rating tool and technical manual will be convenient for food and beverage companies seeking guidelines for environmental performance, and accreditation of their industrial facilities.

The rating tool applies to: new and refurbished buildings; manufacturing facilities and warehouses.

GBCA initially developed tools for office buildings as they are similar in nature. However, food and beverage manufacturers face very different energy demands and fit-out requirements to both office buildings and one another.

To overcome this broad range of differences, the rating tool is designed to apply to the base building and services only – with tenancy fit-out excluded.

Green Star ratings are divided into 8 categories with different weightings:

  • Energy (24%) covers greenhouse gas emissions, energy demand, metering and lighting
  • Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) (17%) covers ventilation, daylight, thermal comfort, noise levels, lighting levels and breakout space
  • Materials (16%) covers recycling and building reuse, the use of concrete, steel and PVC, sustainable timber and shell and core integrated fit-out
  • Water (11%) includes amenities use, metering, landscape irrigation, heat rejection water and consumption of fire system water
  • Transport (9%) looks at car parking provisions, cycle facilities and a site location relative to major cargo transport services and public transport
  • Management (9%) looks at how the design and project is managed with commissioning clauses, providing a building users’ guide, environmental and waste management
  • Emissions (9%) examined refrigeration, watercourse, sewer, light, Legionella and noise pollution
  • Land use and ecology (5%) includes reuse of a site, reclaimed contaminated sites, ecological value and top soil.

The Food and Beverage Industry is well educated on energy issues involving steam and hot water, refrigeration, compressed air, motors, lighting, air conditioning and heat recovery. In addition, drought and prolonged water restrictions in Australia mean businesses must use innovative strategies to conserve water.

Fit-out for the food and beverage industry is generally complex and involves many technical challenges, totally changing the designed Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). IAQ is challenging for many, as it suggests strategies that may be foreign to food and beverage operators. These strategies include daylight and glare control for staff viewing comfort, external views, thermal comfort and individual thermal comfort control.

Temperatures of various work areas are often determined by product requirements and unfortunately, the only form of individual thermal comfort control is cold weather clothing.

Materials used in most projects are determined by hygiene, temperature control and maintenance. This makes the use of alternative materials such as bamboo and sustainable timbers very difficult other than to serve the purpose of providing an aesthetic feature in the office reception.

One of the issues that the rating system considers is waste, where a food manufacturer may buy/lease a new industrial building, and change things to suit their needs, for example:

  • The concrete floor is demolished to install drainage and the floor re-laid to achieve falls to drains
  • The concrete floor is demolished to construct the insulated freezer floor
  • Internal walls and columns are removed as they are not located in convenient locations
  • Escape doors and fire hose reels are relocated as they are not in suitable locations

In terms of Green Star, if the building is new, these changes constitute a waste. If the building is old or pre-used, the building is seen as recycled and the changes are seen as positives, rather than demolishing the whole building for a new use. The alternative, with the least compromises, will be a purpose built facility and this option is not always possible financially or within the preferred location.

The Green Star rating tool is a positive step, however in many cases the fit-out is likely to have a much higher impact than the base building. As building codes and councils are requiring a higher degree of environmental control in the design of facilities, many benefits can be gained by thinking a little harder about possibilities and breaking from ‘tradition’.

Andrew Newby of Wiley & Co says it is important to get advice from an expert who is up-to-date and experienced in food processing facilities and The Green Star System. Experts at Wiley invest time and resources into translating the green star rating, and develop a solid strategy for environmental performance before committing their clients to any change.

According to Mr Newby “any effort now will be justified in substantial costs savings over the lifecycle of the facility”.

For more information on The Green Star System visit, and to enquire about making your current or future industrial buildings more environmentally sound, contact