CH2M Hill: How being green benefits the bottom line

CH2M has seen many changes and trends in the semiconductor industry since the company was involved designing many of the industry’s first wafer fabs back in the 1980s. As the industry matured and became more competitive, every new capital investment was more carefully scrutinized to make sure every investment yielded a good return.

For many years, investments in sustainable design weren’t regarded as attractive ROI generators. The technologies were there to save energy, water, and reduce waste. But the desire to avoid the cost of achieving such admirable improvements was stronger than the gratification gained by “doing the right thing.”

But times have changed. Rising regulatory rigor and improving sustainable design technologies have increasingly made doing the right thing also the economical thing.

The popularity of green building certification spawned by the USGBS’s LEED program has proliferated into an international family of green building rating systems.

CH2M has found growing acceptance of sustainable design among our semiconductor clients. For one client, the company designed a new fab achieving signif- icant reductions in energy (20%), water (35%), and emissions (50%). Another client OK’d a project called the semiconductor industry’s most environmentally friendly fab, including reductions of 15% in greenhouse gas emissions and 70% in water consumption. This trend is being supported by the advent of “smart building,” “Internet of Things,” and “Machine to Machine” technologies being applied to next generation wafer fabs. These technologies are driving new levels of achievement in such arenas as Fab Resource Management (Net Zero water/waste/energy, renewables integration, co-generation heat recovery); Building Systems (passive solar, natural ventilation critical systems redundancy, disaster planning); Information Management (building management system, building information model, energy simulation model, zone sensor controls, performance monitoring, predictive maintenance); and Optimized Human Experience via online dashboards.

Seeing this trend gain momentum, the industry approached the USGBC and formed the LEED User Group: Industrial Facilities (LUGIF), a small team of green building lead- ers including Assa Abloy, CH2M, Colgate Palmolive, GAF, Intel, Johnson Controls, Kohler Co., Procter & Gamble, Turner Construction, United Technologies and AECOM.

This group was instrumental in shaping LEED’s latest Version 4, which better address- es the green certification standards for industrial buildings including semiconductor fabs.

CH2M has helped advance this next generation fab movement with its design of the world’s first LEED Gold semiconductor fab, first LEED Gold semiconductor Process Utility Building, and first LEED Gold data center. These projects save long-term operating costs while burnishing the brand of these companies that choose to take a greener path.

Green certification programs aren’t a fit for every building. But owners who don’t think they’re a fit for green design need to know there are now more creative approaches for actively linking green design to attractive long-term economic benefits.

Today’s approach for green design is to reflect before you reject: there are refined and reliable tools to assess a fab retrofit or greenfield project for its green design suit- ability. If owners don’t think the ROI is good enough, they can always take a pass. But if they take the time to take a look, they may be surprised at how good the green design ROI has become.


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