April 26, 2010

LEED-certified DCs save money as well as energy

By DC Velocity Staff

Retailer Crate & Barrel and the hunger-relief organization The Greater Boston Food Bank have found that operating a "green" distribution center has financial benefits in addition to environmental ones.

In a packed opening keynote session at the Material Handling Industry of America's NA2010 Show, John Ling, vice president of supply chain management for Crate & Barrel, and Carol Tienken, chief operating officer of The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), spoke on the "Business Case for Sustainable Distribution Centers." The two speakers detailed the savings they have realized from their recently opened distribution centers, which are both certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

You might expect that an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly industrial site would be more expensive to construct than a more traditional DC. But Crate and Barrel's LEED Gold-certified distribution center in Tracy, Calif., was the cheapest of the retailer's four major DCs to build, said Ling. "Very few of the things we did at the Tracy DC cost more money than a traditional approach," he said.

The two companies achieved significant savings thanks to reduced utility costs and rebates for energy-conservation efforts. Just a few examples of the green measures they took include:

  • GBFB's DC has a high-efficiency refrigeration system that uses outside air during the winter months to help cool the freezers where it stores frozen food. This has helped the 120,000-square-foot facility reduce electricity costs by 30 percent.
  • Some 45 percent of the material used to construct Crate & Barrel's 1.2-million-square-foot facility came from recycled products.
  • Crate & Barrel's DC currently recycles 100 percent of its operational waste.
  • Both companies use skylights and translucent light panels to increase natural light in the buildings. They also have installed motion-controlled lighting and HVAC systems.

Both executives are strong proponents of the value of sustainable buildings. If Crate & Barrel were to open another DC, it would take the same approach, says Ling. In fact, the company will retrofit other DCs using what it has learned from the Tracy facility.

More coverage from NA 2010