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Go green to make green

Graphics | March 1, 2011 | By:

Do you think being eco-friendly will just end up costing your business money? Not so fast. Having just moved our U.S. operations to a new, larger facility in December, I thought it appropriate to break down improvements that are friendly to the environment and save our company money.

This move, the seventh expansion in our 18-year history, was the most challenging. We found through past experience that adding on to existing facilities will only take us so far. Thus, at the beginning of 2010, we developed a plan not only on facilities need, but on how to make it eco-friendly and in line with future product development and new market penetrations.


Two years ago, our IT director presented a plan that would, through the creation of a virtualized server system, increase our capacity and cut our electric consumption in half. This meant having fewer physical servers capable of running the same number of applications and processes. The result was a savings of several thousands of dollars per month.

During our last expansion three years ago, we installed new slim-line fluorescent light fixtures in our metal shop. We were skeptical that a fluorescent light would be as bright as metal halide, or capable of providing us with as white a light as needed. Once we were shown that the cost of the fixture was far less and the operational costs would give us a payback in 12 to 15 months for the changeover, we were sold. Our new facility is totally fitted with T5 and T8 florescent fixtures.

A metal halide fixture will put out 59 MLPW (mean lumens per watt) with a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 65. A typical four-foot, six-bulb T5 fixture will put out 82 MLPW at an 85 CRT. Further, a halide bulb offers 20,000 hours of life, while the T5 offers 36,000 hours.

We further enhanced our electrical savings efforts through the introduction of LED lighting. While offering more economy and brightness, it also eliminated the heat of older lighting technology. The use of more track lighting, allows us to redirect lighting as needed.


A facility with 30-foot ceiling clearance creates inefficiencies in heating and cooling. This was reduced by adding shop destratification paddle fans, which force warm air downward during winter months and move stagnant air during warmer months. Exhaust fans and fresh-air intakes were installed for summertime ventilation. The system was designed for one complete air change per hour, providing reasonable comfort throughout the year without air conditioning in the majority of the shop.

New rooftop units exceed the requirements of ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 compliance standard, with a non-ozone depleting refrigerant blend, compliant with the U.S. Clean Air Act. The equipment has economizers built in for fresh-air ventilating and free cooling below 50 degrees, thus saving on cooling costs in the areas that are air conditioned.

A major problem with any print operation is temperature and humidity control. Cooling to 72 degrees F while maintaining 50-percent humidity is a conundrum. By enclosing the department, we were able to meet our need. Further, all duct work is internally insulated with 1 1⁄2-inch material with an R value of 6.3 versus 2.2 offered by the ½-inch standard commonly used in the past.


We continue to seek low-solvent printer output. In some form and at some levels, we see solvents continuing to be present. Therefore, we decided to improved air filtration systems by adding carbon filters.

Further savings were made through the use of programmable seven-day thermostats automatically adjusted to specific temperature set points, which result in a 30-percent annual savings. Spark ignition unit heaters require no standing pilots and are rated at 80-percent efficiency versus 66 percent for a pilot unit.

Concern for overhead door openings will be addressed through the implementation of floor-to-ceiling clear plastic curtains, which will contain imbalanced air flow.


For years, we have put up with a lack of high-speed internet capabilities. Communities, working with providers, seek solutions as a necessity to bring in new business and retain their existing manufacturing operations. Combining our phone and internet needs into one package with one provider allowed us to reduce phone expenses, speed up file transfer time and improve customer needs in both reception and transmission of relative data—all at major savings and improved service.

Being able to design to needs may be the most efficient means of accomplishing costs of operational savings while remaining eco-friendly, but much of what we did could be retrofitted into existing structures. You can be green, and you will save the green.

Pat Hayes is founder and chairman of Fabric Images, Elgin, Ill., a member of the Fabric Graphics Association and a director on the board of the Industrial Fabrics Association International.

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