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Hamilton Economic Development

Not your average steel warehouse

The CareGo facility on Eastport Drive features a huge solar panel on the side of the building among its many green features. From left, is Robert Edwards, Martin Boni, Marty Donovan, and Demetrius Tsafaridis.Where many companies still think adding “green” technology to their buildings is nothing more than an expensive public relations effort, one local company is showing how that technology can be turned into profit.

Along the way, Hamilton-based CareGo Innovation Solutions is also catching the attention of European companies and governments anxious to reduce their carbon footprint on the world.

“We want to prove the point for other companies about the results of this technology,” CareGo president Demetrius Tsafaridis said. “The savings have been tremendous. For very little extra capital, we’ve been able to generate real savings we can pass on to our customers.”

CareGo’s technology showpiece is its Plant 19 operation on the bayfront. From the outside, it looks pretty much like any other steel warehouse in the world — a large empty space where coils of steel sit until a steelmaker is ready to coat it for an end customer or that customer is ready to bash it into auto parts.

Inside, however, the story is different. Where traditional warehouse design calls for a truck bay in the centre with storage area on both sides, Plant 19’s truck bay is at the end of the plant, allowing most of the area to be sealed off. In addition, the outer doors of the bay are kept closed, a combination that has already paid handsome savings on energy bills.

“The old way really wasted a lot of energy,” explained Bob Edwards, general manager of CareGo’s Green Age Design unit. “We’re showing companies can have a real effect on their energy costs.”

Another problem for steel warehouses is the effect of condensation on the coils — that’s especially critical when the metal is intended for exposed auto parts. The traditional way of handling that has been to maintain a temperature within the warehouse. It works, but it involves heating a lot of empty air.

CareGo clears that hurdle with a system of sensors in the transfer car that notes the coil’s temperature and then moves it to a special area where a system of radiant tubes slowly raises its temperature to a point where condensation won’t form.

Other systems capture rain water on the building’s roof and use it to flush the toilets inside, an outside storage ponds holds any excess until it can be filtered and sent directly back into the bay rather than through the city’s sewage treatment system, a solar panel along one wall provides enough heat that Union Gas tested its meters three times to be sure they were recording the plant’s use properly.

The warehouse operation has been automated to the point where a single employee is needed to monitor the system as it gathers information from customers and then instructs its cranes which coils to pick out and to remember what was moved where to fill that order. That work can all be done at night when electricity rates are cheaper.

“That lets us become part of the value chain, not just a warehouse,” said Martin Boni, director of technology and solutions for CareGo’s Carelynx Corporation unit.

Even the floor of the warehouse was built with an eye to environmental impact. It’s made of interlocking bricks rather than poured concrete. That means if the plant ever has to be moved, more than 90 per cent of the material can go with the company.

“It’s really like a big Meccano set,” Tsafaridis said. “If we ever have to move shop, we can just pick it up and go.”

Other environmental features of Plant 19 include a double-skinned roof, extra insulation and high-speed truck doors to control the temperature inside the building, a heat recovery ventilator to expel warm, stale air from inside, and draw and warm incoming fresh air. About 45 per cent of the material that went into constructing the building was recycled.

Adding all that green technology to the plant when it was built in 2003 increased the construction cost by about 10 per cent, but that was recovered in 14 months through operational savings. It was the first industrial building in Canada certified to the gold standard by the Canada Green Building Council.

That success has prompted a change in the company’s corporate culture — spurred by a decision to pay a portion of the savings out to the company’s 105 employees as a bonus. The chance for that “something extra” in the pay envelope now has workers shouting at smokers to close the door behind them when they step out for a puff.

This article is for personal use only courtesy of TheSpec.com – a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.

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