The O2 Arena in London and Boeing’s Everett factory in Washington are among the largest buildings in the world – one houses tens of thousands of spectators at a time, and the other is constantly building some of the largest commercial planes in the air today.

But with great size comes great responsibility.  So just what are the companies behind these two mega-buildings doing to save energy and reduce their impact on the environment?

Putting things in perspective

In terms of footprint (not volume), The O2 covers more than 104,000 square metres of ground.  That’s enough space for the football pitch at Old Trafford to fit in 14 times, with space left over.

But compared to Boeing’s Everett production facility, even The O2 starts to look small.  With a footprint of 398,000 square metres,  you could almost squeeze four O2 Centres inside the Everett facility. And that means you could fit a staggering 55 football pitches into this single aviation factory.

While 55 football pitches is almost impossible to visualise, the sheer scale of the Everett facility shouldn’t be too surprising.  According to Boeing’s own site, the factory employs more than 30,000 people, and it even has its own fire department.

Cutting down at the O2

With millions of visitors attending every year, every effort made by The O2 Arena to reduce their effect on the environment can add up to make a significant impact.  It’s not just about reducing their business electricity usage or water consumption – they’re also doing what they can to change the habits of their customers, too.

According to The O2, nearly 80% of their visitors arrive via ‘alternative transportation’.  In part, that’s due to the site’s active encouragement on their website and social media.  But they’ve also taken a more progressive approach, thanks to their partnership with Nissan (report).

In 2010, Nissan installed five charging stations for electric vehicles in the arena’s car park, as well as setting up a Nissan Innovation Station, where O2 visitors can learn more about electric vehicles, as well as having the chance to test-drive a Nissan LEAF.

In The O2 itself, staff are recycling glass, plastic, metal, and even kitchen grease.  They’ve installed an on-site wormery to compost their food waste, and they’ve started to replace their team’s cleaning chemicals with eco-friendly alternatives.

And perhaps most importantly, they’re constantly monitoring their energy consumption so they can hit cost-saving targets – an approach that can work for businesses of all sizes.

Energy savings at Everett

Boeing’s Everett factory is the third-largest building in the world by footprint.  And that means they need to take their environmental impact seriously.

‘It’s understanding the big picture and the incremental steps you need to take reach your goal.  It takes persistence,’ explains Vince Villa, a conservation representative (pdf) at the Everett site.

‘It also helps to work alongside teammates who share the same goal.’

Since 2012, when the site made a commitment to energy efficiency, they’ve introduced a number of conservation projects – such as high-efficiency chillers and boilers, and monitoring systems for their compressed-air operations – which they expect will save 3.5 million kilowatts of electricity each year.

In environmental terms, that’s the equivalent of taking more than 2,400 tonnes of CO2 out of the air each year.

In particular, the Everett team has seen massive improvements by simply changing their lighting.  Beneath the site, in the underground tunnels that supply their manufacturing buildings, the lights are left on constantly.

Previously, this led to bulbs frequently burning out.  But after making the switch to LED lighting in the tunnels underneath five of their buildings, they’ve simultaneously improved employee safety, reduced maintenance, and saved 280,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year.

‘It’s rewarding to know that with the site’s tremendous size, something as simple as changing the lights can have a huge impact,’ Villa comments.

Do you think larger premises need to do more to cut down on their energy and waste?  Or does every business have the same responsibility, no matter how big or small?  Let us know on LinkedIn or Google+.

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