If you’ve never heard of Legrand before, join the club. The innovative and stylish electrical systems company has been flying under the green radar for a number of years now, but thanks to a little known Department of Energy conservation program called the Better Plants Program, Legrand appears to have launched itself into a sustainability leadership role in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
With only five facilities, Legrand is one of the smallest among the ten Better Plants partners. However, the company has managed to pack a lot of activity into its participation, including significant bottom line savings for itself along with employee engagement and an industry-wide outreach effort.
Better Buildings, Better Plants
Better Plants is a part of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings initiative, which is perhaps best known as a showcase for the stunning energy efficient makeover recently achieved by the Empire State Building.
As with the rest of the Better Buildings initiative, the idea behind Better Plants is to “mine” the nation’s enormous stock of old, inefficient buildings for energy conservation. In essence, Better Buildings collectively treats millions of old buildings as a major new source of domestic energy, almost like a new field of oil, coal or natural gas.
Companies that participate in Better Buildings have access to federal resources and energy efficiency experts, but retrofitting industrial facilities presents a set of unique challenges. This is where the Better Plants part of the program kicks in.
How Legrand transformed a century-old building
Legrand’s energy efficient makeover of its 100-year-old headquarters in Connecticut covers a lot of bases because it is a mixed-use building that houses manufacturing facilities as well as office and commercial space.
According to a Department of Energy profile, the project began in 2011. Among the measures related directly to the manufacturing process, one major project was the repair of leaks in the facility’s compressed air system. Another was the installation of improved insulation in the facility’s paint ovens.
Of particular interest is the fact that the improved insulation also apparently made the work environment more comfortable for employees, since part of the overall project consisted of an employee conservation and wellness engagement program called EcoChallenge.
Legrand also rearranged shift schedules to reduce run times for the paint ovens, and installed motion sensors, “smart” submeters and energy-efficient lighting.
When the project is fully completed in 2013, the company expects to shave $120,000 off its annual energy bill.
Paying energy efficiency forward
Rewarding individual participants with direct bottom-line benefits is only one aspect of programs like Better Buildings, Better Plants.
The real payoff comes when these companies pass along the lessons learned and help to promote best practices models, and this is where Legrand took the ball and ran with it.
Earlier this week, at the sustainability showcase VERGE SF, Legrand announced that it would begin sharing “key energy savings resources” that it developed during the course of its conservation project.
First out of the box is a brief downloadable handbook (available at www.legrand.us/sustainability) that breaks down energy management into a simple, four-step process.
Legrand also introduced an interactive spreadsheet called Energy Project Evaluation Tool designed to help companies establish a baseline for savings. As with the handbook, the spreadsheet is free.
Susan Rochford, Legrand’s VP for Energy Efficiency, Sustainability and Public Policy, spoke at VERGE SF and in a prepared statement she closely identified the development of these two shared resources with the mission of the Better Buildings initiative:
“At VERGE SF, I am sharing the story of our public commitment – as part of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge – where, in two short years, we achieved a 20.2 percent energy intensity reduction across our facilities.”
We’ll probably be hearing a lot more from Legrand in the future, as the company plans to keep adding and sharing more conservation tools as it continues transitioning into more sustainable modes of operation.
[Image: Courtesy of Legrand]
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