New Denver bakery designed for sustainability

by Laurie Gorton
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DENVER — A primary objective for the new bakery created by Mile Hi Foods was qualification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. The new plant is well on its way to achieving. The project team planned to make the facility among the first bakeries in the United States to earn this status.

Mile Hi, a family owned and operated food service distributor, has run a bakery since 1984. When the Denver-based company ran out of bakery capacity, it created a new plant that could output 5,400 dozen hamburger buns an hour. The business expects to produce more than 28 million dozen buns annually.

Managers decided to convert an existing building and gained nearly all the benefits that a greenfield site would have provided, said Paul Chan, bakery director.

Rather than chemically seal the production hall’s concrete floor, Mile Hi opted to polish it instead. It retained the original floor of the building, except for adding drains and footings for the heavier equipment.

“The concrete was polished smooth with a diamond-tipped head and is easy to clean with simple washing solutions,” explained Bryan Sanchez, bakery director.

Energy and water savings figured into other renovation strategies. Mile Hi removed the river rock that anchored the roof and used it for landscaping. The new roof, an R30-rated white membrane, reflects light and heat, keeping the bakery cooler and cutting the “urban heat island” effect of older styles. Low-water-flush fixtures enable water conservation. And the plant’s tray washer not only uses cold water only, but it also recycles half its wash water to further conserve resources.

“We don’t have a boiler in this bakery,” said Tony Taddonio, chief executive officer of Mile Hi Foods, “because heat recovery is part of our management approach.” Excess heat from the ammonia compressors is channeled into the freezer floor to maintain temperature balances. And heat generated by the catalytic oxidizer, reburning oven exhaust at 1,200-degrees-F, supplies the plant’s heating and hot water needs. The oxidizer eliminates 95% of VOCs in the exhaust stream, which more than meets the regulations of Denver’s air quality district.

The existing 21 domed skylights were replaced with prismatic structures.

“These bring in significantly more natural light than standard domes,” Mr. Sanchez said. Lighting technologies in the plant combine low-mercury systems and LED lights for the conference room, freezer and fitness areas. Multilevel lighting and occupancy sensors automatically control with step dimming features. In all, lighting accounts for more than 17% in all energy savings.

Equipment choices also earned LEED points for improving energy use. Mile Hi managers estimated that the production line consumes 80% of the energy used in the building, but it also provides roughly half of the energy savings earned by the new bakery. For example, energy-efficient variable-frequency drives power the mixers and conveyors.

Sustainability is a company-wide commitment. In 2013, Mile Hi Foods was named Sustainability Company of the Year by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce for its workplace culture that supports sustainability efforts. During the same year, Mile Hi received the Green Fleet Award from the Colorado Motor Carriers Association.
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