Sunoptics skylights provide daylight to more than 65% of the plant’s interior and a payback of just six months.
The Department of Energy’s (Washington) Save Energy Now LEADER program involves 32 companies that have committed to a 25% reduction in their industrial energy intensity for each unit of product over a 10-yr. span. One of the participating companies is Volvo Trucks North America, headquartered in Greensboro, NC. Volvo’s plan was to reduce its New River Valley plant (Dublin, VA) energy use for each truck manufactured by 29.6%—surpassing the 10-yr. goal within the first year.
Volvo’s energy-reduction success began with a comprehensive plan to implement multiple energy-reduction strategies, including installing heat-reflective white roofing and making extensive use of natural interior daylight (NID) with rooftop skylights. “Very early on, the skylights were one of the first items to kickstart the whole energy program,” said Mike Kijak, facilities and energy manager.
The facility operates nonstop under a hybrid NID/LED lighting system, using daylight harvesting with sensors that measure and maintain interior light levels. “As the sun comes up and hits the skylights, the LED lights begin to shut off,” said Kijak. “You conserve more energy as the sun comes more directly overhead.”
Using skylights to provide natural interior daylight dramatically increased the available light in the assembly plant, reducing the need for electric lighting, according to Daniel Kimball, VP sales, Southern Group, CentiMark Roofing, West Chicago, IL. Prior to the skylight installation, electric lighting provided approximately 30 lumens of interior light.
“The skylights alone provide between 50 and 70 lumens,” said Kimball, adding that the light is dispersed evenly throughout the facility. “Even with a skylight 36-ft. high, the light doesn’t fluctuate more than 1 foot candle between them.”
The installation of natural interior daylighting had a noticeable effect on employee morale and productivity, Kijak said. “We call it the ‘wow’ factor,” he said. “With the skylights, people just have an uplifted feeling; they want to do better.”
As skylights were installed, employees began requesting them in their work areas, Johnny Kincer, facility engineer for Volvo Trucks North America, said. “The biggest impact was in the warehouses where we put together kits for individual trucks,” he said. “After we installed skylights on the roof, the number of errors dropped.”
CentiMark was brought in initially to replace the facility’s built-up asphalt roof with a modern, heat-reflective, white thermoplastic polyolefin single-ply roofing membrane, installed over polyisocyanurate insulation. Their expertise in roofing and daylighting was instrumental in the successful execution of the plan over the plant’s 1.6 million sq. ft. of roof space.
With CentiMark already replacing the sprawling plant’s 38 acres of roofing, adding rooftop skylights to the roofing project was an easy choice. “CentiMark helped us out quite a bit; it was kind of divine intervention,” said Kincer.
“CentiMark saw our older skylights and asked if we were interested in having more. They brought samples in and installed a couple of Sunoptics (Sacramento, CA) skylights to try. We picked the ones we liked and it grew from there. It has lit the place up significantly,” said Kijak.
The challenge was to avoid disrupting Volvo’s ongoing production, because CentiMark needed to install the skylights directly above the assembly floor. “We were cognizant of what’s going on underneath, and that we’re not causing any issues, be it noise, dust falling in, debris, or anything that would cause a safety issue or loss of manufacturing,” explained Kimball.
CentiMark workers also protected the roof surface from damage during installation, ensured the skylight penetrations were flashed and sealed properly, and provided the extra assurance of roof labor and materials warranties.
CentiMark installed barrel-vaulted skylights over much of the manufacturing and warehouse space, along with smaller prismatic skylights and tubular daylight devices. Skylights of varying size were chosen, depending on what each section of the facility required. Some sizes were more suited to particular areas, depending on how the structural roof members were framed.
The installation brought daylight to more than 65% of the plant’s interior. “There is a variety of daylighting going on,” said Kimball. “We’ve done a series of things over the last six years: large radiant skylights, prismatic skylights, light tubes, and others.”
“We liked the barrel vaulted skylights, both large and small, so we used a lot of those,” said Kijak. “They really let a lot of light in.”
Because of the preexisting rooftop systems, CentiMark had to leverage the available roof space to eliminate interior shadows while optimizing for the most amount of light. “They’ve got racks 36-ft. high, and we were able to illuminate the entire aisle for them,” said Kimball.
Volvo even created a large, interior garden underneath the first installed skylight, providing a pleasant natural element in an industrial setting.
Other green efforts at the Volvo facility include a building-automation system to control temperature, lighting, and infrared heaters. Additionally, rooftop solar photovoltaic panels, solar thermal water heaters, and eight rooftop windmills were installed by CentiMark. “The windmills generate a ton of electricity—enough to charge the forklifts,” said Kimball.
Volvo, which annually budgets for capital expenditures by quarter over a three-year plan, has included daylighting in their budget plans for more than six years, according to Mike Kijak. “And we’re still not totally finished; we have more to do,” he said.
Volvo’s initial investment of $850,000 led to cost savings of more than $2 million in the first year—with a payback period of just six months.
Following Volvo’s success at New River Valley, similar measures are being implemented at Volvo’s plants in Maryland and Pennsylvania. “What we’ve done here has spread to our other plants,” said Kijak. “They saw what we were doing here and followed our lead.”
Customers who visit the plant to test drive trucks and view Volvo’s production facilities have also noticed the improvements, according to Kijak. “We get a lot of questions and discussion about our energy program. People want to know about the skylights,” he said. “Fifty percent of the time with upper management is spent talking about the trucks, the other 50% are questions about the plant and our energy program.”