LEED Food Bank Cuts Costs, Feeds More

And now, the first new-construction food bank in the country to receive LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council: Northern Illinois Food Bank’s West Suburban Center.

The 147,000-square-foot food bank building, in Geneva, Ill., opened last fall and now provides meals to more than 60,000 people each week across 13 Illinois counties through a network of 600 partner programs. A variety of green build features helped the project to capture LEED Gold status, including a white roof, air-cooled heat pumps, motion-controlled lighting, high-performance glass, and recycled materials and products throughout.

northern illinois food bank, leed gold

image via Ryan Companies

Bike racks and preferred parking for carpooling and energy-efficient vehicles have been included to encourage alternative transportation on the part of staff members, and, in an effort to save both cash and carbon, the food bank chose refurbished office furnishings for the building, saving $15,000 over the cost of new furnishings, or the equivalent of 90,000 meals (not to mention hundreds of pounds of old furniture from local landfills). But perhaps the the building’s most significant energy-saving feature is its heat-recovery system, which takes the energy generated by a large cooler system (used to refrigerate food) and utilizes it in heating the warehouse.

The building was completed by a team including Ryan Companies (builder); Jeffrey Flemming, AIA, LEED-AP, NCARB (architect); Larson Engineering (civil, structural and mechanical engineer); and Owner Services Group, Inc. Northern Illinois Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, a non-profit organization.

According to food bank President and CEO Pete Schaefer, the new, energy-efficient building will save the organization 25 to 30 percent over the utility bills of a conventionally constructed building of similar size and function, and, as a result of those savings, will allow the organization able to provide 300,000 additional meals for the hungry this year.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.