Issue Date: July 30, 2012
BASF Builds For The Future
BASF, the world’s largest chemical company (see page 15), recently opened a new North American headquarters building in Florham Park, N.J. The $130 million structure is intended as a showcase for energy-efficient and environmentally benign design, in large part because of the many BASF construction products used to build it.
In fact, the company expects to get platinum certification, the highest rating achievable, for both the exterior and interior of the 325,000-sq-ft building. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program awards certification levels under its rating system.
If discussions now under way result in new guidelines for the LEED program, building designers may be penalized for incorporating many chemicals that are used in the current generation of energy-efficient buildings (C&EN, July 23, page 26)
At the official opening, Hans Engel, chairman and chief executive officer of BASF’s North American arm, told an audience of about 150 government officials, vendors, and employees that the building “stands as a tangible example of how BASF creates chemistry for a sustainable future.”
For instance, the building is designed to use 40% less water indoors than other comparable buildings because of more efficient plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals. Water captured on the roof is directed to an underground cistern and then reused for the toilets.
The firm also purchased energy-efficient heating, cooling, and lighting equipment. Sensors turn lights off in unoccupied rooms. Recycling trays are placed near printers. Outside, the landscape incorporates noninvasive plants that don’t require constant watering.
Parking spaces reserved for hybrid and electric vehicles are close to the building. The parking lot has four credit-card-activated charging stations for electric vehicles, although no one on-site yet owns such a vehicle. Those who cycle to work can park their bicycles in racks that are even closer to the front door.
Overall, BASF says, 20% of the materials purchased for the new building include recycled content, 10% of materials came from local vendors, and 75% of the waste generated during construction was sent to recycling centers.
Engel also noted the important role BASF-made chemicals and materials play in the building’s pending platinum status. Examples include an energy-saving roof of BASF’s Elastospray polyurethane foam topped with the firm’s Elastocoat elastomeric coating system.
Builders used the company’s concrete admixtures in the building’s construction. For instance, the outer envelope of the building is made with BASF’s Green Sense Concrete system, which blends in recycled material such as fly ash and blast furnace slag with the help of BASF’s polycarboxylate-based Glenium concrete additives.
Designers chose to pave exterior walkways and terraces with FilterPave, a porous pavement system manufactured by the Presto Products division of Reynolds Consumer Products. Made of recycled glass and held together with BASF’s Elastopave water-permeable polyurethane binder, the system allows water to pass through, minimizing storm-water runoff.
To prevent heat buildup from the sun, the building’s multilayered insulated glass is tinted with ultraviolet-absorbing films that are enabled by BASF’s Uvinul hindered amines.
The floors are covered with BASF materials. Commercial carpet made by J&J Industries and Mohawk Industries contains fiber extruded from BASF’s Ultramid nylon 6 polymer. Interior walls get their color from Benjamin Moore interior paints that contain no volatile organic compounds and are made with BASF’s acrylic polymers.
The building’s furnishings contain BASF materials as well. For example, Emeco, a Pennsylvania-based chair maker, supplied the building’s Starbucks Coffee shop with chairs created with 111 recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles apiece. BASF supplied its Petra postconsumer recycled PET resin to Emeco.
Ironically, some of the BASF chemicals that are helping the building achieve LEED platinum status under current standards could hinder that achievement in new rules under consideration. The standards, now in draft form, include a provision to give builders credits for avoiding “chemicals of concern,” such as polyurethanes, polyvinyl chloride, and titanium dioxide. The proposed standards also include other chemical-limiting provisions.
“From what I could tell, some of those rules are not based on sound science,” BASF’s Engel told C&EN. Chemical industry groups including the American Chemistry Council, the American Coatings Association, the Flexible Vinyl Alliance, and the Adhesive & Sealant Council are lined up to challenge the latest LEED standard, which is slated to go into effect in 2013.
In the interview, Engel was not inclined to get tangled in the LEED controversy. And he pointed out that BASF continues to wholeheartedly endorse the current LEED program. It has already earned LEED certification for five other company-owned buildings, including two in Turkey.
Other chemical makers have embraced the current iteration of LEED as well. DuPont hopes to get LEED gold certification, the second-highest designation, for a new 220,000-sq-ft office building in Wilmington, Del. Bayer recently received platinum designation for a new office building near New Delhi, India.
For Engel, BASF’s investment in New Jersey goes beyond the millions of dollars spent on the project. “It supports our claim that we create chemistry that matters and shows what we stand for,” he said.
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