Providing a Financial Boost and Water Conservation
The recession has hit every state hard. But the recession, and the damage it has done to the workforce, has seriously ravaged the state of Michigan.
numbers tell the story: Michigan’s unemployment rate soared to 12.6% in March,
according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. No other state has a higher
rate. The state’s auto industry, its economic engine for so long, is teetering.
RealtyTrac, an online collector of foreclosure data, says that Michigan had the
sixth-highest number of housing foreclosures in the country during the first
quarter of the month.
to make matters even worse, the state’s fiscal year 2009 budget deficit is
expected to rise to nearly $1.3 billion. That’s a big, depressing hike from one
year earlier, when the state’s deficit stood at $785 million, according to a
story by the Reuters news service.
good news, then, is a relief. And the April opening of a $16-million beer
distribution center in Bay County, MI, certainly qualifies. Not only does
Fabiano Brothers Inc.’s new distribution center employ about 280 workers, it
also shows skeptics that new business is being conducted in the struggling
|Photo: HDA Architects of Chesterfield, MO
In addition to its water reclamation system, The Fabiano Bros.’ 191,000–square foot distribution center boasts a number of other energy-saving features.
new distribution center provides some welcome news to proponents of water
conservation: The Fabiano Bros.’ 191,000–square foot distribution center, which
is located about four miles outside of the Central Michigan community of Bay
City, also features an innovative water reclamation system in its truck-washing
facility. By using the system, a SoBrite Filtermatic 3B, employees are able to
reuse the water they spend to wash the distribution center’s fleet of beer
trucks, minivans, and other vehicles.
estimated that Fabiano Brothers will now use 70% less water in its truck-washing
bays, thanks to its new water reclamation system.
translates into dollar savings, a necessity in today’s economy for any
your trucks is not a revenue-producing activity. But it’s something a company
like Fabiano Brothers has to do,” says Bryant Ruder, general manager at Eureka,
IL-based SoBrite, the manufacturer of the distribution center’s water
reclamation system. “The big question, then, is, ‘How do I make money doing
this?’ Well, they may not be able to make money washing the trucks, but by
saving 70% or more of their water, that does change the cash flow positively. It
makes washing the trucks much less of a financial burden.”
washing the trucks is not a revenue-producing activity, it is an important one.
Clean trucks boost a company’s image. Running a clean fleet is also one tool in
preventing unnecessary, and costly, repairs. It also helps keep trucks on the
road, where they are generating income for the company.
says that Fabiano Brothers by reusing the water from its washing bays is saving
money in two ways: Water can cost from $3 to $4 for every 1,000 gallons
purchased from a providing municipality. When Fabiano Bros. reuses the water in
its truck-washing bays, cutting water usage by as much as 70%, it adds up to big
savings very quickly, Ruder says.
the same time, the distribution center will save money on its sewer bill, he
adds. A sewer bill is higher for facilities that purchase greater quantities of
city water. By cutting its water use, the distribution center, then, will also
lower the amount of money it pays the city for processing and treating the water
that leaves its site, Ruder says.
you’re in business and you are washing your fleet vehicles as part of that
business, using a system like this continuously pays you back,” says Ruder.
“People often say that if something doesn’t pay you back in 18 to 24 months,
it’s not worth doing. That may be true in most applications. But if you are
washing a lot of vehicles, you should consider a water reclamation system as
part of your business’ foundation.”
Big Impact in a Struggling State
|Photo: HDA Architects of Chesterfield, MO
Construction began in September 2007 and was completed in early April 2009, employing about 280
workers and proving to skeptics that new business is being conducted in the struggling state.
on the Fabiano Brothers facility began in September 2007. With the completion of
the facility in early April, the beer and spirits distributor was able to
consolidate its corporate headquarters and beer distribution facility in one
location. The company, though, is still using a facility in nearby Saginaw, MI,
for its wine-distribution business.
while the distribution center itself is good news for a state desperate for any
new economic development, the Fabiano Brothers facility might be just the first
bit of new commercial construction at the site. Plans call for the facility to
serve as the anchor of a newly developed 71-acre business park in Monitor
Township, MI. Fabiano Bros. plans to sell lots in the new center, dubbed the
Market Place Corporate Center, to other businesses.
Sitton, director of architecture with HDA Architects of Chesterfield, MO served
as the project director on the Fabiano Brothers facility. The project, he says,
has already made a positive impact on Bay County.
is a huge project for the local county,” says Sitton. “They employ a lot of
people at Fabiano Brothers. To be in a situation like the state of Michigan is
in, it is so important to have a project like this come to fruition in rough
times. I know they used local construction workers as much as possible when
building the facility. I think it is real important for the community to have a
project like this in the region.”
addition to its water reclamation system, the distribution center boasts a
number of other energy-saving features, Sitton says.
warehouse lighting, for instance, comes from fluorescents, which are extremely
energy efficient, Sitton says. In addition, the lighting throughout the
facility’s office space is programmable. When employees walk into an area, its
lights automatically turn on, Sitton says. When they leave, the lights turn back
facility also has a reflective roof instead of a black one. The facility, then,
requires less cooling as the roof reflects heat away from its interiors, placing
less of a strain on its air-conditioning systems.
half of the warehouse space is devoted to large racks, Sitton says. Employees
can then stack products on these racks, meaning that the distribution center
itself did not need to be as large or include as much storage space. This was
one way to reduce the building’s footprint and impact on its surroundings,
whole building, including its water features, is very energy-efficient,” he
says. “Basically, we’ve done everything we could to create a LEED project other
than getting certified by the US Green Building Council. There is a lot of
sustainability built into this project’s design.”
distribution center’s in-ground water reclamation system is a central part of
the facility’s sustainable features. The Filtermatic 3B can collect and treat
roughly 40 gallons of water a minute.
is important, because employees will spend a lot of time, and use a lot of
water, washing trucks at the Fabiano site, says Brad Laackman, project director
with CSM Group, the Kalamazoo, MI–based construction management firm that is
overseeing the distribution center project.
a climate like the one we have in Michigan, with all the salt and the changing
seasons, trucks take a lot of abuse when they’re on the roads,” says Laackman.
“There is a lot of truck washing going on. The water reclamation system uses
that water again and again. It cuts down on water costs significantly. It
essentially ends up paying for itself after a few years. That’s very important
for anyone keeping an eye on their costs.”
system is versatile enough, so that it can wash the distribution center’s route
delivery trucks, merchandising vans, and, even, company cars, says Kelly
Spielmaker, vice president of TBW Consultants Inc., in Naples, FL, the company
that sold the SoBrite system to Fabiano Brothers.
addition to making economic sense for the company, the truck wash system is also
an example of a “green” feature, Spielmaker says. This is something that more
companies are embracing, he says.
using the water reclamation system, Fabiano Brothers is not consuming as much
water and not discharging as much into the area’s sanitary sewers, Spielmaker
system is not something that you see every day installed at a private company,”
explains Spielmaker. “It’s pretty unusual in my experience. It’s not only going
to save Fabiano Brothers significant money over the years in water and sewer
costs, it’s also good for the environment.”
water reclamation system provides recycled water that is used as employees wash
the facility’s trucks and other vehicles. Employees, though, still use city
water to rinse the vehicles. It is this water that the reclamation system
collects and recycles.
SoBrite Filtermatic 3B incorporates both underground and aboveground tanks to
filter water down to roughly six to 10 microns.
water that is used during the wash cycle collects in a three-sided underground
tank that holds a total of 1,000 gallons of water. Once that water is filtered,
it is sent via a sump pump up into the water-reclamation tanks that sit above
ground. These two tanks each hold 500 gallons of clean water. The system
continuously filters the water as vehicles are washed.
filtration system itself is unique. The SoBrite Filtermatic 3B relies on crushed
glass to clean the water. The system uses a positive and negative ion charge to
attract the heavier dirt particles and globules, which stick to the crushed
glass as the water flows over it.
Spielmaker, crushed glass is the ideal type of filter
is a type of filter medium that can be used over and over again,” says
Spielmaker. “It doesn’t have to replaced very often. If you look at the older
systems on the market, systems with older technology, they use a lot of carbon
or multi-media filters to absorb the waste stream. That’s fine, but those
filters have to be replaced every six months or once a year. That is much more
maintenance for a company to have to worry about. It’s more costly,
system self-cleans its crushed-glass filter by automatically backwashing the
dirt load off the filter bed every evening. This backwash is sent to a separate
aboveground holding tank. Once the sand, dirt, and hydrocarbons removed from the
glass fill that tank, employees do have to pump it out and dispose of
says that crushed glass is a natural choice for his company’s water reclamation
is a non-porous material, but is also very smooth on its outside, Ruder adds. As
the water reclamation system washes the dirt and oil in untreated water over the
filter bed, the glass, because it lies too tightly packed together, grabs the
dirt materials while letting now-clean water flow through.
when the filter bed is backwashed, because of its porous nature, it allows the
dirt and contaminants to flow easily out into a separate storage
makes glass a better choice than an alternate filter material such as silica
sand, Ruder says.
sand is a non-porous material,” says Ruder. “But it has a rough surface on its
outside. Go out and pick up a piece of gravel from the road, and you’ll see that
it’s very rough. The oils and dirt, then, that we are filtering out of it will
start sticking to it when we backwash.”
crushed glass used in the SoBrite system comes in a variety of colors, from
green, made up of crushed 7-Up bottles, to brown, made up of crushed beer
bottles. Before the filter bed is backwashed, the crushed glass is so dirty, you
can no longer tell what color it started out as, Ruder says.
once the backwashing process is complete, it’s easy to see again that the glass
is either green, brown or grey, depending on the type of bottle from which it
came, Ruder says.
Up a Struggling Economy
points to the Fabiano Brothers distribution center as the type of business that
can help the state of Michigan escape its economic doldrums. The center, thanks
in large part to its innovative water reclamation system and other green
features, incorporates new technology.
building smart and efficiently, Sitton says, companies already doing business in
the communities surrounding Bay City—known collectively as the Great Lakes Bay
Region—are providing a boost now to the state’s economy.
building activity, especially when the Fabiano distribution facility is factored
into the mix, is already impressive in this area.
Semiconductor, located in the bay region community of Hemlock, MI, has made
Michigan the world’s leading exporter of high purity polycrystalline silicon for
the semiconductor and solar industries. The company is now expanding its
existing facility in the Hemlock, a move that will boost its annual capacity to
19,000 metric tons by 2009. Hemlock Semiconductor has also announced plans to
build a monosilane production facility co-located inside their existing
operations. Monosilane is the essential raw material needed for the production
of thin film silicon photovoltaic modules.
Solar Ovonics, a thin-film manufacturer, is creating new jobs at its six new
plants in Greenville, MI. United Solar has made headlines by making the solar
panels that will soon be installed in the world’s largest rooftop solar power
system, a system that will be operating at a General Motors assembly line in
there’s Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts-based company that has decided to
invest more than $55 million into a new production plant in Midland, MI, the
heart of the Great Lakes Bay area.
Solar manufactures string ribbon wafers that are used in the production of solar
panels using a proprietary wafer technology.
think we’re all happy with the activity in this area right now,” says Sitton.
“The new Fabiano Brothers facility is a big positive to the region, too. It’s a
gorgeous facility. If you see it from the highway, it just looks stunning. The
economy in Michigan is not very good right now. This area is just about the only
place in the state of Michigan that seems to have a fairly strong economy.”
Author's Bio: Dan Rafter is a technical writer and frequent contributor.