Looking Under the Hood for Green Chemistry Solutions
Our multi-part series on Green Chemistry continues with a look at how Janssen’s Belgian laboratories are “going green” to benefit people, the planet, and profitability. Be sure to check out the rest of our green chemistry series by clicking here for a brief introduction to the concept, and here for more on how Janssen is living the principles of green chemistry.
Can a few centimeters really make a noticeable difference in helping our planet?
Absolutely. Just ask the people at Janssen’s Beerse and Geel laboratories in Belgium. It is here where significant reductions in energy use and employee safety have been achieved simply by implementing fume hood ventilation devices with Variable Air Volume (VAV) controls, and closing the units’ half-meter windows.
“The energy consumption of these units has historically been quite high, because they were always switched on and “open” to use the full flow of air,” says Mario Don Porto Carero, Janssen’s Senior Principal Engineer of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Platform Solutions. “In just one year, one unit could use 12 million cubic meters of air, and cost more than $3,400 in energy consumption — and we have more than 500 fume hoods at our Beerse and Geel facilities.”
A few years ago, Mario and his team began leveraging new technology to minimize energy consumption, with great success.
“We recover energy, limit the required flow per unit, and use a new sash-controlled VAV feature, which allows only the airflow necessary to be able to work safely, so there’s no waste,” Mario says. “When the hood is almost closed, the flow is reduced by 80 percent. We’re seeing a 70 percent decrease in energy consumption, and a reduction of 268 tons of CO² emissions each year.”
Just as important, the VAV also decreases noise and drafts, providing an increase in comfort and safety for Janssen researchers. Closed windows also provide better protection from any chemical splashes, and improve the hoods’ performance. According to Mario, “This project scores on all three aspects of sustainability: people, planet, and profit.”
Of course, the project’s success depends on someone actually closing the fume hood window. The team has engaged in a four-step program to support that change in employee behavior, including formalizing and communicating new safety guidelines, promoting cost-saving benefits, making regular energy and safety checks, and incorporating fume hood compliance into each colleague’s personal goals and objectives. The average opening is now down to 16 centimeters, a reduction of 70 percent.
The Janssen teams in Belgium aren’t stopping at windows, though — they’re also pushing sustainability out through their doors, sending empty packaging materials back to the original suppliers.
“Our researchers were concerned about the amount of packaging material used for the products they ordered, although the actual content of the boxes was sometimes minimal,” says Annemie Wouters, Senior Engineer. “Through our ‘Closing the Loop’ project, we’re returning packaging to our suppliers to encourage them to use the least possible packaging material, and to reuse material. We’re striving to always order full boxes, and we’re looking at ways to combine orders from different departments’ laboratories to leverage our scale and further reduce packaging waste.”
According to Annemie, the team also continues to pursue changes in what they order, such as switching from glass to plastic bottles, which is already saving the campus nearly one and a half tons of waste incineration annually.
Although technology is a crucial aid, green chemistry and sustainability are really about the people. The Janssen team in Belgium continues to show they are up for this challenge.