Sustainable construction strives to improve the long-term affordability, durability, and energy efficiency of a food production facility. The primary goal of sustainable construction is to use durable components and energy-efficient systems for the lowest possible cost of construction. Thus, a food plant designed for sustainable construction minimizes the use of raw materials, energy, water, and land over the entire life cycle of the building. This approach, which is beneficial to both owner and society, emphasizes the long-term affordability, quality, and efficiency of the facility.
A food facility is subject to unique conditions over its lifespan. Most other facilities do not endure the physical, chemical, and biological abuse that is common in food plants. A sustainable food plant design must account for considerations that affect food safety, sanitation, durability, energy use, and maintenance.
Sustainable construction does not necessarily require larger capital expenditures than conventional construction. Construction costs can be reduced by utilizing the costliest materials only where necessary. Floor toppings, stainless steel floor drains, and stainless steel wall panels are some of the more expensive components in a food plant. While these may be utilized in just about every production space, a calculated plan will create spaces in which other components can be used without sacrificing food safety and durability.
Though many issues must be addressed to create a sustainable design, a few of the more common issues specific to food plant design and construction include the following:
Food plant floors are under constant strain from the physical abuse of heavy traffic, thermal shock from temperature variations between cleanup and operation, and chemical attack from harsh cleaning chemicals. Determining the correct flooring material for each application is the key to finding a long-lasting floor.
Freezer floor slabs are subject to heaving from the ground freezing below the slab. Proper floor insulation and energy-efficient heating methods are paramount to protect the floor from heaving.
Condensation problems often stem from improper vapor barriers in insulated panel construction, vapor pressure issues, or infiltration/exfiltration between different types of rooms. These pitfalls can be avoided with proper design and construction techniques.
Walls are subject to physical abuse from traffic and chemical abuse from cleaning. The proper application of the materials coupled with protection methods leads to long-term sustainability.
Floor drains are a source of potential contamination and must withstand the sanitation process. Drains that are easy to clean and durable reduce risk, sanitation costs, as well as maintenance costs.
Food plant lighting fixtures must be easy to clean and maintain. Application of food-grade fixtures, coupled with recent advances in lighting design, can reduce energy and maintenance costs.
Food processing facility piping and conduit materials must be sanitary on the interior and exterior. The proper application of materials that are sanitary, can withstand the abuse of chemical cleaning, and hold up to temperature variations are key factors to food safety and long-term viability.
When air comes into contact with food products in a facility, it can cause both quality and contamination issues. Proper air treatment, filtering, and balance are critical to maintaining an environment for the safe production of food.
Food processing plants usually require different types of energy sources to operate, and sometimes choices can be made between sources. Determining the most efficient source for each process can help reduce energy usage and cost.