When Bridgestone, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, decided to build a new technical center in Akron, Ohio, with the objective of improving worker experience and contributing to environmental stewardship, the rubber met the road in green design. Working with SoL Harris/Day Architecture, Bridgestone stretched itself to submit for LEED Gold certification. Debuting revolutionary GreenFumeHood technology from Erlab and with $890,000 worth of energy savings engineered into the design, the Bridgestone Technical Center is a showpiece its owners hope will attract young talent in the same way it’s already turning heads in the green world.
A host of structural elements contribute to the center’s energy efficiency. A reflective, white roof and stainless steel exterior panels mitigate heat gain from the sun, which in Akron usually requires cooling systems to run 10 months out of the year. Where daylight was preferred to illuminate the interior, specially tinted triple-pane windows provide similar heat control, and reflective light shelves within the facility maximize the light’s luminosity by bouncing it off the ceilings.
With a carbon footprint that is 82 percent smaller than Bridgestone’s old facility, the new center employs a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system, an automated, highly efficient alternative to traditional HVAC methods. In each room, a sensor responds to changes in temperature, so if a packed conference room is getting stuffy while a corner office looses heat, the excess heat from the conference room can be delivered to the office and refrigerated air refreshes the conference room. “It’s about as efficient as a geothermal system, but with less moving parts and less repair,” says Matthew Sutter, partner and CEO at SoL Harris/Day. The system is preferred for retrofits as well because foundations have already been laid, and geothermal may no longer be an option. The solution is especially well-suited for tight spaces where its quarter- and half-inch piping mitigates the space issues caused by traditional HVAC ducts.
The saying “less is more” couldn’t be more appropriate for the GreenFumeHood, whose ductless design makes it versatile for lab technicians and architects alike. As long as an electrical outlet is within reach, the hoods can function anywhere and be repositioned to respond to laboratory conditions. For Sutter, less space from floor to ceiling was needed to conceal typical configurations of the metal ventilation system, allowing him to eliminate a foot of building materials and their cost across the laboratories.
GreenFumeHood filters are made of Malaysian coconuts, so while most filters are class-specific with respect to the chemicals they can remove from the air, those in the GreenFumeHood can purify the air of any chemical that might be used in the Bridgestone labs. Forecasted to last up to two years before replacement, the filters were tested on more than 300 chemicals in the trial hoods and have outlived that projection by a year, which is a positive counterweight to the filter’s $3,000 replacement cost. The coconut composition also provides excellent odor absorption, a welcome relief to employees and the neighboring community who, in the past, dealt with the unpleasant smell some of the chemistry labs emitted.
The technical center’s fume hoods cost the same as a traditional ducted system and have a collective savings of $70,000 per year in energy costs. Traditional ducted hood systems exhaust filtered air and introduce fresh air from the outdoors, the latter of which usually undergoes some form of conditioning to bring it to room temperature. This process of pushing, pulling, heating, and cooling is greatly reduced by the GreenFumeHood’s self-contained air-recycling system, cutting Bridgestone’s HVAC energy consumption in half.