While obtaining LEED certification may be a stretch for some bakers, moving closer to its principles is within the realm of possibilities.
LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is a green building certification system strategically designed to improve sustainability factors, such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions, indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources, among others. According to the USGBC, LEED provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
While this article recognizes two commercial bakers who have either received or are awaiting LEED certification — a commendable achievement — the point is less about becoming LEED certified than it is about pursuing sustainable design. Some bakers might find the effort to become LEED certified prohibitive, but sustainable design provides opportunities for increased operational efficiencies by reducing power, water use and waste, notes Jim Robinson, AIA, LEED AP architect, The Austin Co., Irvine, Calif.
The obstacles bakeries may face while pursuing LEED certification often are a result of the origins of LEED and the businesses LEED certification was designed to reward.
“Generally speaking, LEED certification models were based on office buildings and other facilities with similar staffing and energy consumption. LEED can be an ill-fitting suit for many production facilities, such as commercial bakeries,” Robinson explains.
But challenges in acquiring certification shouldn't mean bakeries can excuse themselves from adopting green habits in general.
“Speaking more broadly than LEED, sustainable design can certainly be relevant for food manufacturers,” Robinson adds. “Plain and simple: Use less energy and less water and save on operating costs.”
FullBloom Baking Co., Newark, Calif., recently received platinum LEED certification for its new facility. One of the challenges it faced involved finding LEED-educated companies on the supply side of the equation, while still learning to grasp LEED principles themselves, says Karen Trilevsky, FullBloom's founder.
“When we began the process, even though it was just a few years ago in 2006, most of the building contractors and suppliers were not thinking in LEED terms. It is much more part of the building vocabulary today,” she explains. “We were learning along with our contractors.”
But a feeling of kinship with the principles of the system, as well as the benefits and rewards that accompany LEED certification, pushed FullBloom to overcome any hindrances it encountered along the way.
“It shows that we walk the talk,” Trilevksy says. “It's the way we bake, the ingredients that we use, the way we treat our employees and the way we designed our building. It's all a part of the package.”
Tasty Baking, Philadelphia, whose facility is currently LEED registered and awaiting certification, agrees that LEED is more than just a hot building trend.
“We felt it was the right thing to do as a company committed to environmental sustainability,” says Autumn Bayles, senior vice president, strategic operations. “We also expect our customers and consumers will appreciate our efforts to undertake this.” The company expects to receive gold or silver certification.
In its journey toward LEED certification, FullBloom decided that a divide and conquer strategy would be most effective. “We separated our LEED certification into two pieces,” Trilevsky explains. “The office spaces were new construction, so they were designed at the platinum level.” The bakery realized that not every piece of its facility had to be built from scratch in order to follow sustainable design practices. “The bakery renovation was a ‘remodel,’” she says — good news for bakeries interested in implementing LEED principles without going whole hog.
FullBloom's plan paid off handsomely, garnering the bakery an impressive LEED score. “We achieved the maximum number of points possible without replacing perfectly serviceable existing features,” Trilevsky notes.
Where the bakery did make major changes was with equipment. Even if a piece of equipment is still in working order, it may be operating so inefficiently that it is actually costing more in energy than the price of new, more efficient unit.
“We considered energy efficiency with the purchase of all new equipment, HVAC and lighting,” Trilevsky says.” Since these features were implemented in the beginning of the process, the company is unable to compare its efficiency savings against any previous data, but there is certainly no loss involved.
Tasty Baking also addressed its HVAC system, using a plethora of methods to maximize efficiency and reduce energy costs.
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“Firstly, the white roof is reflective and helps keep the building from getting hot in the summer,” Bayles says. “The HVAC system utilizes a building management umbrella system to control units so they are only running when needed, and the overall facility has a positive pressure design to keep rooms from drawing undesired hot or cold air into adjacent areas.”
Lighting is another area in which bakeries can implement LEED principles without getting involved in the entire certification process. Greg Carr, AIA, LEED AP architect for The Austin Co., says he has noticed an increase in companies addressing energy-efficient lighting.
“Clearly, throughout the industry, most bakers have gone through and changed their lighting to save energy,” he says. Robinson agrees, noting that businesses are looking beyond CFLs and LEDs when it comes to revamping their lighting systems.
“Clients are attempting to turn lights out and use skylights,” he explains. He cautions against getting too enthusiastic when adding the ceiling windows, however. “There's a calculation to determine the number of skylights to install. If you put too many skylights in, your heating bill goes up.”
LEED certification is an impressive goal and achievement, and bakeries that earn it deserve a great deal of praise. But bakeries can create a sustainable work environment without embarking on the entire LEED certification process. Adopting LEED principles alone can result in more efficient production, reduced energy use and more sustainable business practices, the benefits of which should be worth the effort.
By implementing the following sustainable practices, bakers can maximize energy use and reduce waste:
Source: The Austin Co. Irvine, Calif.
The following practices and programs helped FullBloom Baking Co., Newark, Calif., achieve LEED certification: