Interest in efficient and low-emission automobiles is nothing new. However, at the Northwest Regional Facility of American Honda Corp. in Gresham, OR, employees are seeing first-hand the company’s environmental commitment manifest itself in more than just vehicles and combustion products. “Honda considers its environmental commitment to be one of its most important activities. Honda makes every effort to contribute to human health and the preservation of the global environment in each phase of its corporate activities, its products, its manufacturing, and its business practices. Our products have been on the leading edge of environmentally friendly practices for a long time … it was a natural progression for Honda to take proactive measures in developing green operational facilities and office spaces,” says Anthony Piazza, assistant vice president, HR and Administration, American Honda Corp., Torrance, CA.
The Northwest Regional Facility is a multi-use building, containing 18,825 square feet of office space; a 25,103-square-foot training center; and a parts warehouse that is 168,960 square feet in size. It’s rare for industrial facilities to be built with the environment in mind, a fact that the U.S. Green Building Council also recognized when it awarded the facility its Gold LEED rating in September 2002. “We decided to design the building to go for the Gold. Honda’s commitment, once we decided to go for the Gold, was ‘no turning back,’” explains Robert C. Thompson, principal, Group Mackenzie, Portland, OR. A team approach drove the process, as did sustainability, functionality, and life-cycle costing.
The building team closely examined the site and early on determined a plan to manage storm water runoff. “Here in the Pacific Northwest, especially at this site and in the Portland area, we get a lot of rain. We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase a rainwater harvesting system. So we designed the building’s roof to capture rainwater and run it through a filtration system, and actually store that rainwater in a 100,000-gallon, below-grade tank,” Thompson states. The captured rainwater is then used in the building’s graywater systems for flushing toilets and irrigating landscape plants. Additionally, when the annual mandatory flushing of the fire suppression system occurs, rerouted plumbing enables the tank to be replenished during the area’s dry season.
To minimize the amount of water needed for landscaping, drought-resistant plants were incorporated into the plan. A drip irrigation system ensures that new plantings receive adequate water to begin a healthy growth cycle and is designed to be turned off once the plants are established. “The concept was to design an irrigation system that would use at least 20-percent less water than a normal broadcast or spray-type of irrigation,” says Thompson.
The building’s design also takes advantage of strong winds from the east. Thompson explains: “One of the things we wanted to explore was natural ventilation and passive cooling. By putting rotary fans on the roof, we could take advantage of the wind that is blowing out there 80 to 90 percent of the time.” The wind blows the turbines, drawing warm air out of the office through large, gravity ventilators on the roof. Office occupants can make adjustments for personal comfort because external vents and raised access flooring draw air from outside, filter it, and adjust it to the proper temperature. The warehouse facility maintains 60 to 72 degrees F. temperatures year-round, due, in part, to heavy insulation. “This building was designed to use less than 40 percent of the normal energy for a building of this type, based on Oregon Energy Code. It’s actually functioning higher than that. It’s using 46-percent less energy. The payback on this building makes up for any additional costs,” says Thompson.
A combination of well-designed artificial light and smart strategies that take advantage of daylight keep light levels up and costs down. The warehouse’s 120 skylights render its artificial lighting unnecessary during sunny days, and interior light shelves allow daylight to penetrate deeper into the office area.
The facility is filled with products made from recycled content – from the carpet to the rubberized flooring made of old car tires. “We were able to use many recycled and recyclable materials for the interior finishes – including wallpaper that’s made out of Japanese phone books,” Thompson says. Conference tables made from pressed sunflower seeds, chairs of recycled car bumpers, recycled steel, concrete with fly ash content – nearly everywhere you turn, the building’s construction, its finishes, and furnishings had a past life.
Smart design means sustainable design at American Honda’s Northwest Regional Facility. “Since the completion of the Gresham Project, Honda has implemented green finishes at remodels and new construction across the country. A half-million-square-foot warehouse facility in Chino, CA, recently opened for business, and incorporated many green finishes, furniture, and light fixtures,” Piazza says. American Honda Corp. has successfully navigated through the challenges of green design and is on the right path to furthering its environmental commitment long into the future.