Panasonic's green building initiatives

by Michael Fallarino

As building structures become "smarter," electronics will play an increasingly large role in controlling and maintaining the indoor environment. There is already plenty of smart technology worthy of implementing into buildings now that will seem commonplace in the building science of the very near future.

The Panasonic company, known worldwide as an electronics manufacturing giant of upscale products at a fiercely competitive price point has, of late, begun focusing its industry-leading initiatives on health care products and building products such as ventilation fans. In addition to their well-known selection of men's and women's grooming equipment, Panasonic has secured its place in the U.S. market as builders of massage and exercise equipment, blood pressure monitors, and massage loungers that feature an assortment of traditional massage techniques including arm massages (wow, do I ever need one of those!).

In the building products field they are probably best noted for their well developed line of ventilation equipment. This line includes ceiling inserts and wall fans, inline fans for continuous ventilation systems, and energy recovery ventilators for integrating fresh air ventilation into tight structures.

I've spent a significant amount of time in these columns covering how biological pollutants can be generated from sources inside a structure or a structure's exterior wall cavity, and noted that VOCs can influence indoor air quality. Actively ventilating a structure with either continuous or intermittent ventilation methods can help to insure a more healthful indoor air quality.

Panasonic's extensive Whisper Green series of ventilation units is designed to be easily integrated into a structure to meet the needs of that structure and its occupants. To help promote their ventilation products as well as their home electronics systems, Panasonic has even formed a "Contractor's Club" which affords builders insider discounts and information about their products.

I recently caught up with David Thompson, director of Panasonic's Corporate Environmental Department, to peer behind the scenes and find out more about the green initiatives of the electronics giant.

Thompson noted Panasonic's efforts to green their operations with a three-component "Eco-ideas" program. The first component is an absolute commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the manufacturing level by 300,000 tons by 2010. For Panasonic, this represents a reduction of about 7% of their 2005 baseline, which is their current business plan cycle.

The program's second component is a commitment to build products that are more efficient, use less hazardous materials, and are easier to recycle. In this regard, they have eliminated the use of lead from their plasma display glass, and have converted to the use of lead free solder wherever possible.

The third component of the program is an employee-centric initiative to help their employees to become more ecologically aware and involved in both their own homes and their communities. In this regard, the company has developed some specific monthly initiatives for their employees.

Panasonic_500.tifThese aren't Panasonic's first such initiatives. Last year, they allied with Sharp and Toshiba to form an organization called the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company (MRM). The group's intention is to provide a large scale and long tern solution for the collection and recycling of consumer electronics, without bias or segregation by brand. The organization has partnered with electronics collection recyclers to recapture and reuse material -- including the glass from CRTs - and curtail the shipment of collected electronics to overseas destinations.

Thompson also mentioned Panasonic's R&D on a fuel cell for the home that would help convert natural gas to electricity. He noted that the transmittal of electric energy from its production source to its final destination is an inefficient process, with an efficiency rating typically in the mid-thirty percent range. Panasonic's fuel cell technology would double the efficiency of transmitted fuels and could be used for cooking and heating in the home. A prototype is slated to be demoed at the next CES.

To learn more MRM's electronic product recycling efforts, visit www.mrmrecycling.com. To learn more about Panasonic's building materials, click here

Mike Fallarino is a contractor in the Albany, New York, area. He can be contacted at herbalist@berk.com.

Panasonic's fuel cell technology would double the efficiency of transmitted fuels and could be used for cooking and heating in the home. A prototype is slated to be demoed at the 2009 CES.

 
 
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