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Green blueprint for buildings

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The newly built Technical Center in Solihull, UK, proves that CO2 neutrality is not a dream of the future. With incredible commitment and great solutions, the employees there have already made great strides toward this important goal.
Frank Thoma,
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Frank Thoma has been corporate editor at ZF since 2011. With a degree in journalism, he has been planning, writing and editing articles for all of the company’s internal, external media.
Solihull, a city of 215,000 inhabitants, is located about half an hour's drive southeast of Birmingham. It is considered one of the centers of British automotive manufacturing. However, Solihull is not only home to the main Jaguar Land Rover plant, but since the end of last year also to a state-of-the-art ZF Technical Center.

There, in the Blythe Valley Business Park, two huge buildings have been erected on an area of more than 20,400 square meters (220,000 square feet): a Technical Center for developers and a somewhat smaller office complex. Currently, 750 employees from a wide range of disciplines from several divisions work in these buildings. They develop key technologies and solutions for active and passive safety systems, for electric and autonomous driving, for cyber security, electronics, braking and steering systems, and technologies for motor racing.

CO2 neutrality firmly in sight

CO2 neutrality firmly in sight

At least as exciting as the vehicle technology being developed here is the story behind the creation of this unique new building. The client and the architects agreed that the two buildings should not only offer modern, attractive workplaces, but also be as energy-efficient as possible. After all, CO2 neutrality by 2040 is part of ZF's corporate strategy. When the first plans for the new Tech Center were presented and interested ZF engineers studied them with ZF project manager Russ Hines and his colleague Christian Rohrbach from Corporate Real Estate Management, their reaction to some of the solutions proposed by the construction professionals was: We can do better!

Unique identification with environmental goals

Unique identification with environmental goals

Site manager at the time, Alastair McQueen, recalled with a smile, the situation in which building designers talked about the proposed heating, ventilation and lighting solutions being state of the art as a matter of course. "That's not state of the art by the time my children are your age," McQueen replied. Not only did his staff come up with ideas and suggestions to make the new building as green and energy efficient as possible - the commitment went much further. For example, NVH Technical Specialist, Simon Redfearn, discovered his passion for the ventilation system. In his ‘day job’ at ZF, he investigates vibration in vehicles. Redfearn found low cost monitoring devices that detect how many people are on a floor based on air quality. These monitors then control air flow. This not only reduces energy consumption and thus CO2 emissions, but also saves money.

Fireworks of good ideas

Fireworks of good ideas

Another result of research by the ZF engineering team: the heat pumps on the roof. Identified by ZF and supplied by a local company, these systems recover 95 percent of the heat from the ventilation air before it leaves the building. In general, heat pumps provide heating for the two buildings. Their output is sufficient to heat everywhere with, at times, the exception of the Tech Center. For example, the garage area and rooms here with roll-up doors up to nine meters high. When they are open the building can cool rapidly if the external temperature is low. In these cases a natural gas heating system provides backup. Sophisticated sensor solutions for the LED lighting system also ensure the greatest possible economy in both workplaces. It almost goes without saying that the electricity for the Solihull site today is from 100 percent renewable energy sources, following the ZF corporate roadmap. The will to keep the CO2 footprint small even reaches the canteen. Here, those responsible have even taken a close look at portion sizes in order to reduce food waste as much as possible.

Top result for energy efficiency and costs

Top result for energy efficiency and costs

Surprisingly, the additional improvements identified by ZF employees did not exceed the original budget or the construction schedule. The environmental balance sheet is no less impressive: In the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating, which ranges from A (top) to G (poor), the old location achieved an "F", while the new building achieves an "A" right off the bat! The Solihull team's goal is to reach as close as possible to an "A+" rating. To achieve this, a sustainability team has been formed at the site. Its aim is to drive cultural change among all colleagues, optimize existing measures, and identify energy guzzlers in machines and processes. In view of what has been achieved so far, these goals do not seem to be too much of a challenge for the motivated engineering crew.
ZF saves almost 2500MWh annually in the new building.

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