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Prefab Goes Carbon Neutral

Posted by Macie Melendez on March 14, 2012
Prefab Goes Carbon Neutral
This is a sketch of Miletus Group's Shotgun Homes project, which offers current and near-term housing solution for post-Katrina New Orleans.

Miletus Group, an architecture firm that specializes in sustainable building practices in onsite, prefab, and modular offsite homes, recently made a big announcement: they've achieved carbon neutrality in all of their production facilities and offices. A first in the field, the achievement has also led the company to reach even higher, striving for net zero emissions by 2030 in accordance with the American Institute of Architects’ AIA 2030 Commitment program. (The AIA Commitment program’s objective is to commit all architects to reaching carbon-based energy free designs by 2030.)

Group Effort

Miletus began converting its production facilities back in 2009 to become as energy efficient as possible. The undertaking proved a challenge, since the plant was originally built in the 1970s. To achieve the ambitious goal, Miletus Group, under the direction of president James B. Guthrie, AIA, undertook internal energy-monitoring measures and implemented office policies that called for heightened awareness of individual energy consumption companywide.

The key to individual involvement, Guthrie points out, was educating staff on the purpose behind the goal. “This led to greater participation by everyone,” Guthrie explains, “which led to the realization that small savings add up. Now everyone checks every night to make sure the coffee maker and copier are shut off.” Energy consumption analysis of tools and equipment, in addition to climate control monitoring in offices and production facilities––which includes a 40,000-square-foot off-site factory––was an integral component in achieving the goal, according to Guthrie, who also points out that the factory’s roof was recently coated in a white “green” solution.

Corrective measures were taken wherever and whenever possible. For example, inefficient, energy-consuming pneumatic tools in the plant were immediately repaired or replaced. Highly energy efficient lighting was installed throughout the company. Winter heating in the facility was also closely scrutinized, whereby older heaters were replaced with new, more energy-efficient units. Moreover, energy conservation in terms of climate control during company off hours was practiced as a matter of course.

While the production facility saw the bulk of the energy savings, the company’s offices also played a vital role in achieving complete carbon neutrality. To facilitate the thermal performance of office buildings, remodels, which included additional insulation and the installation of rain-screen façades, were performed. Once energy consumption was reduced as much as possible, while maintaining just enough to operate, the company reevaluated its energy profile. 

Environmental Partnerships

It was when the energy savings were calculated that Guthrie and his team realized they were within reach of achieving carbon neutrality. Once the goal was set, the company sought to partner with a voluntary carbon offset program and found The Tensas River Basin Project through The Nature Conservatory. “We looked for a serious program that was passionate about global conservation, and one with a connection close to home,” said Guthrie, who says that the natural, freshwater drainage from the company’s headquarters and production facility in North-Central Indiana ends up in the Tensas River basin on the Lower Mississippi River before eventually running off into the Gulf of Mexico.

Revenue from voluntary carbon offset contributions, such as those from Miletus Group, supports land purchases in the basin, the planting of trees in order to restore the region’s natural habitat, which has been destroyed by human encroachment, and the monitoring of the carbon benefits.  “We are pleased that our contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s first carbon offset project is helping toward the effort to clean our planet’s air and waters,” said Guthrie.

Spreading Carbon Neutral Information

Miletus Group offers the same level of energy consumption and savings analysis that earned the company its carbon neutral status to its clients during the design and post-construction stages.

The analysis service offered by Miletus Group provides recommendations for reducing carbon-based energy consumption through building design and operations, and then addresses methods of reducing the remaining carbon footprint to zero.

For more information visit www.miletusgroup.com.

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