Uponor $18M manufacturing annex features several sustainable design solutions to maximize water and energy savings

Uponor’s core purpose is to partner closely with professionals to create better human environments. That means for more than 40 years, we have been seeking out innovative ways to design, manufacture and supply PEX plumbing, radiant heating/cooling, hydronic piping, pre-insulated pipe and fire sprinkler systems that offer the most consistent, reliable and high-performing solutions available to residential and commercial structures around the globe. 

In order to do this, Uponor operates office, manufacturing, R&D and distribution facilities. With respect to manufacturing, Uponor designed and constructed its new annex manufacturing facility in 2015 at its North American Headquarters campus in Apple Valley, Minn. Uponor needed the new 90,000-square-foot facility to meet the increasing demand for the company’s products. In addition, this new facility was designed and constructed in accordance with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria as established by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Design and construction in accordance with the LEED program was consistent with Uponor’s corporate commitment to sustainability.  

The story began in 2008, when Uponor purchased a six-acre property directly adjacent to its North American headquarters and manufacturing site in Apple Valley, Minn. This six-acre site included an existing industrial building of approximately 34,000 square feet, and an additional three acres of undeveloped land. While holding this property for future expansion, a portion of the undeveloped land was used for an employee community garden. By 2014, Uponor’s strategic planning clearly identified the need for significant expansion of its manufacturing operations and capacity, and so full-development planning began. 

Uponor needed to design and construct a facility that would support expanded world-class manufacturing operations for PEX piping and related operations in order to satisfy growing customer demand for Uponor’s market leading products. The company wanted to design a facility that would provide a superior environment for workers with respect to safety, work environment and amenities. 

Building such a complex facility does not come without its challenges. Uponor had to creatively utilize and conserve as much of the existing 34,000-square-foot building as possible, while expanding it to approximately 90,000 square feet to make maximum use of the site. During the planning phase, Uponor and the carefully-constructed team identified design and construction tactics that would not only provide maximum benefits for the objectives and return on investment (ROI), but satisfy LEED criteria toward the building’s certification as well. 

In order to meet the objectives and tackle challenges, Uponor assembled an experienced project team mentioned above, including team members from each of the following key disciplines: architectural and structural engineering; surveyors/site engineering; general contractor/builder; electrical design; mechanical design; and landscape design. 

The team was formed at the onset of the project planning in order to clearly develop and document Uponor’s objectives and to ensure close communication and coordination across the team throughout the entire project. Working closely as a team allowed Uponor to deliver the completed building ahead of schedule and under budget. The application for LEED certification is currently being submitted. The submission review and the certification award is expected during 2016.

Sustainable aspects of the project

Uponor cares deeply about reducing the company’s environmental impact, so it was clear when planning for the new 90,000-square-foot Manufacturing Annex facility that it had to be done with emphasis on sustainability. There are six LEED categories Uponor focused on when designing and constructing the new annex facility: sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, materials and resources, and innovation and design process.
The sustainable sites category requires strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water resources. The annex includes a stormwater design to capture and increase on-site infiltrating of stormwater back into the ground. Also, the building has a white roof to address the heat island effect or dark roofs, which means that sunlight significantly reflects off of the top of the building to reduce heat absorption and reduce cooling requirements. 

• It is estimated that the roof reduces the building’s energy usage by 14%. 

Maximizing our efforts for sustainable sites, the annex has alternative transportation features including bicycle storage racks, shower/changing rooms and a locker room so employees have all of the resources they need to comfortably ride their bike to and from work.

• Eight stalls in the parking lot are dedicated to carpool parking and vehicles that are considered energy efficient by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Environment (ACEEE). 

The annex includes strategies and tactics toward water-use reduction, water-efficient landscaping and innovative-wastewater technology. For example, the building uses innovative plumbing technology in the restrooms, including waterless urinals, dual-flush, low-flow toilets, low-flow shower heads, automatic sensor-operated faucets, and the use of captured rainwater for toilet flushing. 

• This reduces potable water usage by up to 100% when collected rainwater is available, equating to an estimated 34,000 gallons of saved city water per year. 

• The calculated water savings for the facility is 51% less drinking (potable) water used compared to similar buildings with conventional water fixtures and technologies. 

The landscape design at the facility also reduces the need to use potable-city water for irrigations by using climate-tolerant plants that can survive Minnesota seasons and natural rainfall quantities, so there is a reduced need to water the plants. 

• Utilizing roof-top rain water collected into large water storage tanks (12,000 gallons) within the building, collected rainwater can be used for irrigation without the need for potable-city water. 

• These combined efforts were designed to achieve more than a 62% reduction of typical building/property water consumption. 

Energy and atmosphere savings in the facility promote better building energy performance through innovative strategies including on-site renewable energy, enhanced commissioning and green power. Uponor elected to incorporate onsite renewable energy by installing a Photo Voltaic Power (PVP) solar array. The roof mounted solar array provides electrical power for specific lighting within the facility, as well as for charging certain battery powered equipment.  

  • The system includes 145 modules for a total array production of 39,875 watts. 
  • The system provides power to charge an electric inter-plant vehicle. 
  • Uponor uses green power to operate the Annex by contracting with our electric utility for more than 35% of the building’s base-power requirement from their wind power generation source. 
  • The company annually eliminates 83,500 pounds of fossil fuel-sourced carbon dioxide from entering the planet’s atmosphere. 

The intent of commissioning a building project is to ensure through observation and testing that the building and its systems were constructed and installed properly and operate as designed. A measurement and verification plan will be followed to monitor the ongoing performance of HVAC systems, lighting controls, rainwater collection system and major mechanical systems/equipment. During the construction phase, a third-party commissioning authority visited the site many times to observe and document ongoing mechanical system installations and ensure system compliance. Benefits of commissions include reduced contractor callbacks, better building documentation, improved occupant productivity and verification that the systems perform in accordance with all requirements. 

The facility reduced material waste during the construction process by incorporating recycled content, use of  regionally sourced materials, and by making the decision to substantially reuse a 34,000-square foot building as part of the new 90,000-square-foot project. 

  • 84% of that potential waste was reused. 
  • 13% of the materials used in the annex were derived from recycled content.
  • 28% of the materials were manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the project site.
  • Of the wood-based materials used, 97% were certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  

Uponor’s building promotes indoor environmental quality by using better indoor air quality systems and access to natural daylight. For example, the facility incorporates low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials and advanced lighting system controls, which greatly reduces off-gassing of odorous and allergy-reacting contaminants harmful to the comfort and health of the building’s occupants. 

The building’s lighting system includes dimmable controls and automatic shut-off censors, except in areas where well-lit spaces are a safety concern (e.g., corridors). One objective of Uponor’s sustainable lighting design is to minimize mercury-containing light fixtures throughout the facility. Inside and outside of the Annex, all lighting is of LED lighting design/technology, where there is no mercury content. 

• Using LED lamps help achieve an overall 32% reduction in energy usage. 

Lastly, Uponor elected to establish a “Sustainable Green Cleaning Policy Program” for the Annex. The company contracted with ABM Janitorial Services to implement their ABM GreenCare Level Three sustainable cleaning operations, which is specifically designed to minimize the environmental impact of facility cleaning and improve indoor air quality by using high-performance cleaning equipment and Green Certified cleaning products. 

The innovation and design process addressed sustainable building expertise as well as extensive design measures to ensure the facility was sustainable. Uponor is proud of the “green” features implemented into the annex and the reduced environmental impact its decisions will have on the local community. 

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