Sustainability, efficiency drive industrial, manufacturing building design
Sustainability and renewable energy systems are pushing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineers to design industrial and manufacturing buildings differently
Insights on manufacturing and industrial buildings
- Mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) and fire protection engineers are working with their clients to ensure industrial and manufacturing facilities are as energy efficient as possible.
- Renewable energy systems, including photovoltaics, are being used to achieve high-reaching energy efficiency goals.
- Jason Gass, PE, CFPS, Fire Protection Discipline Engineer, CDM Smith, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Alex Engelman, PE, LEED AP, CEM, Associate Principal, Syska Hennessy Group, New York, New York
- Matthew Merli, PE, Principle/Science & Technology Market Leader, Fitzmeyer & Tocci Associates Inc., Woburn, Massachusetts
What level of performance are you being asked to achieve, such as WELL Building Standards, U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, net zero energy, Passive House or other guidelines?
Jarron Gass: The varying certifications that seem to pop up is difficult to keep up with at times. We are still seeing LEEP certifications in the U.S. and requests for energy related certifications such as Certified Energy Manager (CEM) and Certified Energy Auditor (CEA). On the fire protection side of things, there aren’t great tie-ins to these various green or passive certifications.
Alex Engelman: We see LEED Gold, net zero water consumption, net zero energy consumption among others. Large-scale photovoltaics and aggressive water capture/reuse strategies are used for some clients; this is largely client driven.
Matthew Merli: On large industrial projects, to achieve things like LEED certification or other sustainability certifications, it’s critical to review the process. To achieve a certain percentage above ASHRAE Standard 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings baseline, when a building has such a large process (i.e., industrial) load, it’s critical that you look at ways to save energy there. If the process is, say, 90% of the building energy usage, leaving only 10% for building systems (HVAC, lighting, etc.) that doesn’t give you much to overall % to play with (only 10%) to demonstrate savings. These buildings typically have huge industrial/process loads that need to be reviewed.
What unusual systems or features are being requested to make such projects more energy efficient?
Matthew Merli: F&T works with many clients that have processes that generate a lot of waste heat. Using that waste heat is typically a solid payback for a client’s upfront cost of implementation and a creative way to incorporate sustainability that is intertwined with the process itself.
What types of sustainable features or concerns might you encounter for these buildings that you wouldn’t on other projects?
Alex Engelman: We are seeing more use of mass timber and creative structural solutions to reducing carbon in concrete and even carbon capture technology.
What types of renewable or alternative energy systems have you recently specified to provide power? This may include photovoltaics, wind turbines, etc.
Alex Engelman: Photovoltaics (PV) is very commonplace — early utility engagement is key to understand their interconnection requirements. Less common but often discussed are wind turbines, geothermal, thermal storage, etc.
Matthew Merli: Solar PV is implemented quite frequently on these types of buildings. Typically, they are large (i.e., have large roofs that can support large-capacity solar). The incentives are great and the cost has dropped to a point where paybacks are incredibly attractive. Additionally, generating local power for a building that needs a lot of power is attractive. And energy recovery from processes in certain manufacturing applications are very attractive. For example, we have a client that uses furnaces for manufacturing and we can recapture the waste heat from that process and use it to preheat ventilation air in our heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
How has the demand for energy recovery technology influenced the design for these kinds of projects?
Alex Engelman: For larger scale projects where a central plant is involved, we often study that heat balance to optimize the plant. Those conversation include many stake holders because almost always, the process is the main drive for the plant size and how it operates.
What value-add items are you adding these kinds of facilities to make the buildings perform at a higher and more efficient level?
Jarron Gass: Solar is becoming more accepted and viable. Many clients are requesting solar implementation or to put provisions in place to allow for solar to be added later. I expect solar will become an even more formidable solution in the future as the buyback duration for this type of energy decreases and the reliability and efficiency of these systems increases.
Alex Engelman: Energy modeling is key to helping the large project team gather around informed decisions.
How have energy recovery products evolved to better assist in designing these projects?
Matthew Merli: Yes, energy recovery is now pretty much universally implemented seemingly. Codes, standards may drive that, but overall, the return on investment is there, particularly for facilities like manufacturing, industrial. Much consideration needs to be considered for the type of energy recovery, as some of the exhaust streams cause recovery like enthalpy wheels to not be able to be used, but there is always an option for energy recovery.