3 Ways to Make Buildings Work Smarter, Not Harder: Learnings from adidas Group's EDF Climate Corps fellow

By Paulina K. Orkisz,  2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at the adidas Group, MBA Candidate at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business

It came to me in a moment of utter exhaustion -- I was helping family to clean up a storm ravaged fallen tree one weekend. While carrying what had to have been my 30th armful of branches, I decided there had to be a better way. That's when I heard a voice in my head saying, "Work smarter, not harder."

And isn't that precisely what we want our buildings to do too? Recently having begun my summer stint as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at the Sports Licensed Division of the adidas Group, I was inspired. Using information learned at the EDF Climate Corps training in combination with that from many walk-throughs of the adidas facility, I have found three ways managers and buildings here can work smarter and give the occupants an opportunity to do their jobs better:

Make lighting work double duty

The adidas facility is a 620,000-square-foot giant, of which roughly 85% contains manufacturing, warehouse and shipping areas. Press and embroidery machines abound, boxes are stacked 7 levels high, and forklifts whiz by in every direction. The combination of machinery, hundreds of lights that keep the work zones bright and safe, and 90° outside temperatures certainly make a person feel the heat.

Of course, we cannot get rid of the machines -- they are the lifeblood of this company's work. And pumping more air conditioning into the facility would only increase energy use. But lighting could be the ticket.. The benefits of installing energy efficient lighting are many, reduced costs being primary. More efficient lighting also means less waste heat, and less heat means lower cooling energy costs and a more comfortable working environment – two for the price of one.

Appreciate a knowledgeable and savvy maintenance staff

The adidas facilities staff and I climbed onto the roof to count RTUs (roof-top HVAC units) and went through an inventory of each lamp type used in the building. With their help, I was able to get most of the information I needed for an initial facility audit without even stepping outside the building's doors -- or onto the internet (of course having my EDF Toolkit certainly helps).

This staff knows the ins and outs of the operation. When proposing energy efficient solutions, it is important to make sure they are on board. What's more, they can often be the ones to implement the proposed projects, cutting down on incremental labor costs. And the time cut down on constant maintenance could free them up for other important building projects.

Create a roadmap

When a building consists of many different and specialized areas, each must be managed for its intended use. My next steps include creating a short-term and long-term plan for adidas to get the biggest bang for its energy efficiency buck. I am currently looking into enhanced automation systems, which can help improve the efficiency and comfort of the facility. They give the staff a "control room," a central location from which to manage all aspects of building management.

There is much to explore as us fellows start to wade through an influx of information. My approach will continue to consist of finding ways to make energy management easier and more effective. The way I see it, adidas helps its customers train hard and stay cool. And by working smarter, not harder, its buildings can do the same.

EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.