Imagine an electronics plant that is surrounded by tree frogs and egrets, recycles its own electricity and turns the air conditioning off for four months a year.
The plant is Delta Electronics Inc’s (台達電子) Southern Taiwan Science Park building, and it was the nation’s first to gain gold certification in the factory-office category from the US Green Building Council.
The plant received the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating in 2006.
“The building may not look impressive at first, but walk through it and you’ll notice many hidden qualities that are innovative and conserve energy,” Delta senior director of corporate communications Jesse Chou (周志宏) said last week in Tainan.
But even on the outside the factory is unusual. The exterior looks more like a resort, resembling a multi-layered cake with a flashy metal canopy at the front entrance that looks like a work of origami.
The design serves several purposes, Chou said.
“The multi-layered construction deflects sunshine that would directly enter the factory so that we can save on air-conditioning costs. Also, on each layer we can plant several trees to provide even more shade,” he said.
The metal canopy is made of an aluminum alloy; apart from its aesthetic appeal, it fends off strong winds in the winter, he said.
At either side of the factory, ponds thrive with indigenous flora and fauna. Look and listen carefully and one notices tree frogs and other creatures singing on the lotus leaves.
“Every year, more than 10,000 birds and 1.2 million insects make the eco-ponds their permanent or temporary homes,” Chou said.
In addition to a carefully designed exterior, the concrete used in the building is “green,” Chou said, as 30 percent of it is produced from scrap from steel plants.
“This is beneficial in multiple ways: Not only is it cheaper, it is lighter and 2.4 times stronger. It utilizes what would otherwise be waste and the concrete industry actually emits a lot of carbon dioxide, so using metal scraps in the concrete reduces our plant’s carbon footprint,” he said.
Moving into the building, the first thing that greets employees and visitors in the lobby is a spiral staircase.
“We intentionally put the staircase up front and hid the elevators in a corner so that more people would take the stairs,” Chou said.
The 10m high lobby also features ventilation windows at the top.
“Since hot air naturally rises, we can again save on air conditioning costs,” Chou said.
In fact, the entire building uses the principles of physics to help keep off the air-conditioning between November and March each year, he said.
The benefits of the ventilation system can best be observed in the factory’s basement parking lot, which regularly has between 200 and 300 cars inside but has an air-regulation system that has never once been turned on, Chou said.
“With ‘sky wells’ [vents that open part of the basement to exposure of ground level air and sunlight] along either side of the parking lot, air in the parking lot is smoothly exchanged with cool and clean air outside; the sky wells also mean the parking lot is partially lit by natural light,” Chou said.
Although an air regulation system was installed and would automatically switch on if the carbon monoxide level in the basement exceeded 10 parts per million, for the three years that the plant has been open, the system has remained idle, he said.