The final installment in this three-part series on 'green' foodservice design and operations focuses on how selecting the correct kitchen equipment and servery materials can create ongoing savings in energy and other natural resources.
To pick up where we left off, foodservice operators seeking to reduce energy costs and demand should begin by identifying the "big guzzlers." We usually start with ventilation, since HVAC systems tend to consume some 25% of a typical foodservice's energy outlays. Wasted energy (often from these systems) costs the industry as a whole over $2 billion every year.
Among the ways operators can evaluate their ventilation systems is by determining how well their controls can maintain precise temperatures, where hoods are located and whether they are wall-mounted or stand-alone "island" canopies.
In our experience, effective ventilation controls reduce fan speeds during idle periods. This can improve a hood's energy efficiency by up to 50%—$1,500 to $3,000 per hood per year at typical electricity rates. Operators should also note that island canopy hoods must move two to three times more exhaust to be as effective as comparable wall-mounted models, leading to higher energy use.
Water use is another "green" area that is significantly affected by equipment selections. For example, dish machines fitted with low-flow prerinse valves and/or rinse-water collectors will signifcantly reduce daily water and energy consumption. Low water-use dish machines generally consume 40% less water and 10% less energy than conventional models. Also, the choice of a gas-fired booster heater means a dish machine uses 50% less energy than a unit equipped with an electric booster heater.
Perhaps the most reliable way for operators to determine which models of kitchen equipment are the most energy efficient is to look for those with the EPA's Energy Star ratings. Energy Star-rated steamers, for example, typically generate anywhere from $450 (electric models) to $820 (gas) in annual savings, when compared to non-Energy Star steaming equipment. They also reduce water usage by up to 90%.
Energy Star-rated hot holding cabinets will cut heat loss and ensure better temperature consistency compared to non-rated models, with yearly savings of some 4,100 kwh or about $280 at current energy rates. Energy Star-rated gas-fired fryers can provide as much as $400 a year in energy cost reductions compared to those units that have not earned the rating.
Ice machines are huge consumers of water and power. Choosing Energy Star-rated machines can cut water usage by over 3.5 gallons and energy consumption by 1.8 kWh with each 100-lbs. of ice made. At current prices, such reductions will provide cost savings of about $850 per year (not counting water-cost savings).
Equally important is the selection of refrigeration systems, as these typically account for at least 5% of a foodservice's total energy expenditures. Features to look for, in addition to Energy Star certification, include environmentally friendly refrigerants and heat recovery systems.
The component configuration of a refrigeration system will also help to determine how much energy it consumes. For example, a system in which there is one compressor for each reach-in or walk-in box is generally considered to be the least energy-efficient setup. More appropriate to green operations are multiplex systems that employ one compressor-to serve two or more components.
For the largest foodservices, parallel systems that allow multistage single compressors to cool an array of refrigerated components will usually be the most energy and cost-effective solution.
Operators should familiarize themselves with the spectrum of recycled and re-purposed materials now available for foodservice design projects. These include rubber, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood products, "reclaimed" hard woods, bamboo and glass.
(FSC certification is awarded to wood products made from raw materials harvested in an environmentally sustainable way. Reclaimed wood is recovered from out-of-service existing buildings such as barns, factories and warehouses. And although bamboo is usually originalharvest, rather than reclaimed or recycled, it is exceptionally fastgrowing and thus self-renewing.)
Another new way recycled materials are being incorporated into serveries is with the use of reclaimed glass and paper in the manufacture of countertops.
As I hope this three-part series has suggested, there is a rapidly growing number of ways in which noncommercial foodservices can initiate, fund and generally benefit from green design, construction and operations. Research and consider them as you plan your next new or renovated facility and you consult with architects, designers and building managers. When it comes to "going green," the sooner we all start, the better off our programs, our industry and the planet will be.
Kathleen Seelye, FFCSI, is President of Ricca-Newmark Design. You can reach her at email@example.com.