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Bata Plastics buildings become LEED certified

Bata Plastics Inc. has been notified that its new and renovated buildings on a former Steelcase Inc. manufacturing site at 1001 40th St. SE in Grand Rapids have achieved LEED Silver Certification, using the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for New Construction version 2.2 rating system.

“There haven’t been that many manufacturing plants certified, especially under LEED for new construction. (Bata Plastics) is among an elite class in manufacturing plants in the state,” said Keith Winn, president of Catalyst Partners, which served as the LEED administrator on the Bata project.

Pictured, from left, are Bata Plastics Inc. CFO Barb Hammond, president Lee Hammond and vice president of operations Matt Hammond. Bata has achieved LEED Silver Certification.

About two years ago, Bata Plastics, a 14-year-old company that recycles industrial and consumer scrap plastic, acquired the former Steelcase carton warehouse in a 34-acre industrial site that is now being redeveloped on Grand Rapids’ southeast side. Bata also acquired 10 adjacent acres for future expansion.

Lee Hammond, CEO of Bata Plastics, said his company soon decided to build a 2,194-square-foot addition on the 120,584-square-foot warehouse/production facility, to provide office space. Originally, only the new office building was planned to be built to LEED specifications for conservation of energy and sustainable building practices. Bata also planned to renovate the warehouse to meet its production requirements.

“Then we decided as long as we were going to do the offices LEED certified, let’s just do it all and do it right, and be done with it,” said Hammond.

Matt Hammond, vice president of operations at Bata Plastics, noted that the company is, after all, a recycling company and “devoted to sustainability.”

“We really felt that it had to be LEED certified,” said Hammond — but he added that the company is anticipating “great cost savings” in reduced energy use.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System is a third-party certification program of the U.S. Green Building Council, and the nationally accepted benchmark for design, construction and operation of “high performance” green buildings.

Greg Metz of Lott3Metz Architecture LLC, the architect on the project, said the new addition for office space was “a piece of cake” in terms of being designed to LEED specifications, but renovation of the existing warehouse was a major challenge.

Factories and warehouses are “big, big buildings. From an energy standpoint, it’s really hard to deal with it” in terms of meeting LEED requirements, said Metz.

“The equipment that Bata Plastics uses produces a lot of heat — so there’s their heat source” for the warehouse/production space, he said. The heat in the building from the machinery that processes scrap plastic for reuse “was one of the first things that Lee Hammond pointed out to us.”

The process equipment heat is what keeps employees warm in the winter, which saves energy. Metz said the renovation design for the building called for employee workstations to be near the heat source, while the areas where plastic is stored between processes is not near the machinery.
“Most of the warehouse is storage: You don’t need to heat an area where there’s just stored plastic,” said Metz.

The energy-saving lighting system installed in the renovated building also saves a significant amount of money, because it is controlled by motion sensors that reduce the lighting in given areas when no one is there.

Winn predicted that the investment in high-efficiency lighting systems should be recovered within a year, noting that the systems also qualify for a federal energy policy tax deduction.

Winn said the Bata Plastics project began right after new higher energy standards became mandatory in the LEED process, adding to the challenges in design of both the office area and the production facility. Bata had to make a “serious commitment” to reach the LEED Silver certification, he said.

Some of the other factors that added points toward the LEED certification included reuse of an existing building on a brownfield site; “native, adaptive, drought resistant landscaping”; irrigation with rain sensor technology; and plumbing fixtures that use less water.

Lee Hammond declined to reveal how much is invested in the new processing plant and office building.

Last year, according to Matt Hammond, the company processed about 40 million pounds of plastics. It is one of the largest recycling businesses in Michigan.

Lee Hammond said the company had been employing about 80, but some had been laid off due to the economic downturn.

As for the recession, “We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Hammond. “We’re still running three shifts.”

Business, he said, “is starting to pick up. Each month gets a little better.”