Green Operations

Closing the 'Barn Door': The Benefit of a Green Garage

January 2012, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by John Dolce - Also by this author

There are many benefits that can be derived from going "green." However, the overarching goal is to reduce the fleet’s carbon dioxide output (aka carbon "footprint"), helping to clean up the air and the environment.

Reducing a fleet’s carbon footprint is a win-win for everyone — the company, its drivers, and the public. For instance, carbon dioxide credits can be kept or even sold for tax credits to other organizations.

While many fleets have invested heavily in energy-efficient vehicles to "green" their rosters, they’ve yet to make another investment in reducing the carbon footprint of their garages.

Many architectural and engineering firms perform energy audits to show clients how to reduce carbon emissions by reducing their electrical draw, which, in turn, will reduce utility generation, which reduces fossil and gasoline usage.

Changes to reduce a carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency can be as simple as trading out incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones to illuminate the workplace with the same candlepower at the floor. Or changes can be as complex as replacing electricity needs with solar or wind technology by rehabbing present facilities with cost-saving technologies, taking the best of the worst and reducing the present carbon output directly and/or indirectly. It is a complex process, but not an overwhelming one.

Playing Catch Up

 However, the best way to play catch up to modern, environmentally friendly technology and fleet progress is to scrap and replace the garage in total.

While this may sound like an extreme and expensive solution, it is not without precedence.

When the automobile was introduced more than a century ago, the horses that pulled wagons were no longer needed. The horses lived in barns, so these existing structures were used to store, maintain, and repair the now horseless carriages. As automobiles became more advanced, more were added to the fleet and the barn was modified to meet the needs of the new technology. The increase in the size of the vehicles forced them to be stored outside, so that maintenance, service, and repair could take place inside the barn.

Lights and equipment — such as jacks, lifts, drill presses, welding torches, and gantry cranes — parts and supply areas; tire service; pits; wash areas; and battery rooms were added. These additions eventually transformed the barn into a garage without physically altering the original structure — and everyone made do. In this case, the symptom was treated but the root cause was not addressed.

As the barn-based fleet increased in size, more technicians, mechanics, laborers, and semi-skilled people were added. As the staff grew, the space remained essentially static. For instance, two people had to share a bay that could only accommodate half of the vehicle with the other half outside the building. If it rained or there were other weather issues, the workers got wet and ended up taking triple the time to perform the task at hand. If it was cold, the door was — by necessity — left open and the heat escaped the building while a heater kept running, which was an expensive way to melt the snow.

There were few complaints during these "good old days." Most of the staff did what they were instructed to do inside or outside. They wanted a job, and management prided themselves on "getting it done" no matter what the cost.

However, in today’s green era, cost and resources do matter. So how does a fleet manager determine how much space he or she really needs and the real cost of doing business?

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