This week on the Bright Ideas series presented by Acuity Brands®, Catherine is joined by Adam Handler, the Director of Corporate Sustainability and Communications. Adam leads Acuity’s Earthlight Program, which strives to capture more of the company’s story regarding their sustainability and environmental impact.
Acuity Brands has three main areas of focus to contribute to an improved future and a reduced carbon footprint:
- The company’s own energy footprint or consumption.
- The company’s use of raw materials.
- Delivering energy savings for customers.
HOW IS ACUITY REDUCING ITS OWN ENERGY USAGE?
Acuity Brands first took a look at their own consumption so that they could identify and then tackle the biggest opportunities to conserve energy. One of the ways they began this process was by connecting all of their buildings worldwide to their Atrius™ product, BuildingOS®.
This software communicates with each of the 30 buildings’ natural gas and electricity providers, which means there were approximately 60 or 70 different conversations about energy usage happening over time.
BuildingOS™, in combination with an energy audit conducted by Indiana University and the Department of Energy, revealed some highly practical tips that Acuity Brands was able to implement– some small, and some more significant capital investments.
Within their Crawfordsville, Indiana facility, one of these improvements included reducing air compressor usage from five tanks down to three: providing the same output, but using 40% less air. Another step was to install full shut-down switches at each workstation in various facilities, so whenever a worker took a break or went home for the day, a single switch would turn off everything – their lights, their air compressors, and any other machinery they were using.
Another example took place in the 700,000 square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Conyers, Georgia. Previously, they had a company policy of reusing lights that were returned and considered unsalable for one reason or another. The policy was very cost-effective and reduced a lot of waste. However, it resulted in uneven light with lots of different fixtures (some of which were fluorescent, and therefore not energy-efficient) to maintain.
Now, all 1,200 lights in that facility have been replaced with brand-new Lithonia Lighting® LED fixtures with location-aware Atrius technology. The project is projected to save 94,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per month, which means it will pay for itself in 15 months.
IMPROVING SUSTAINABILITY IN THEIR USE OF RAW MATERIALS
Acuity Brands focused on adjusting steel and aluminum, because those are weightiest in contribution to their fixtures. The other raw materials considered were the cardboard to pack and the diesel fuel to transport the products.
Acuity Brands incentivizes their product engineering team to reduce weight in their fixtures – provided, of course, the fixtures are still safe and reach all their required performance metrics. The company even uses a carbon calculator so the engineers can see how much their product will save, not only in energy consumption but also in the carbon footprint of the unit’s delivery, by reducing even a single gram of steel or aluminum.
Based on the projected sales of just three products in a single year, Acuity Brands expects to remove nearly 20 million pounds of CO2 from their own carbon footprint and almost a billion pounds of CO2 from their customers’ footprint.
And that doesn’t even include the company’s cardboard reduction, which is arguably even better. Excess cardboard in packaging means shipping more air than necessary to customers who have to spend more time unpacking products and then throwing away more waste materials. Instead, Acuity Brands put 50 product families through a cardboard optimization process. They’ve taken 71% of the cardboard out of those packages, which will likely take 300 trucks off the road in the next year – to say nothing of the reduced clean-up time for installers after unpacking.
INCREASING ENERGY SAVINGS FOR THEIR CUSTOMERS
LED lighting is well-known as energy-efficient, and lighting is the foundational market for Acuity Brands. Approximately 82% of their revenue comes from energy-efficient products and services. This includes not just fixtures, but also lighting controls and building systems like Distech Controls™.
Whenever lighting gets less energy-intensive, it also reduces HVAC strain due to heating and cooling costs, and so Acuity Brands building management systems can help tenants or building owners be more energy-efficient.
So far, all of the products sold in the last fiscal year will produce potential energy savings of 13.3 billion kilowatt-hours within twelve months. That’s roughly the amount of energy that 2.4 coal-fired power plants produce in a year; or the amount of carbon that 2 million passenger cars emit over the course of a year.
In truth, the amount of energy that their customers can save is 85 times larger than the carbon footprint of Acuity Brands. So the biggest contribution that the company can make to the planet is through the use of their products.
Even so, Acuity Brands strives also to practice what they preach internally: to put into play all these techniques and best-practices in their own offices, facilities, and distribution warehouses. Now Earthlight is here to share more of that story, which can be found at acuitybrands.com/sustainability.
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