When you envision the desert landscapes of Arizona, the last thing you may picture among the cacti and tumbleweed are rockets. Yet, because these arid conditions provide rare occurrences of any weather other than sunshine, it’s the ideal location to design launch vehicles for critical missions — all from a state-of-the art facility with environmental efficiencies and green technologies meticulously planned around this unique desert landscape.
Situated on 45 acres of land in the heart of Chandler, Arizona’s business corridor, the more than 650,000 square foot modern facility — one of the largest custom build-to-suit facilities in the western United States — includes engineering, testing, manufacturing and office spaces where more than 2,400 employees define possible.
“The facility really is green from the perimeter in,” said Doug Harvey, Chandler facilities manager, Northrop Grumman. “It was a rewarding project to work on as we incorporated new technology to make our Chandler campus highly efficient and minimize its environmental footprint. Even the landscaping incorporates sustainability.”
Luscious greenery and trees are not the first things that come to mind when you think of a desert, but around the campus there are more than 2,000 plants serving an important purpose: to stop erosion and reduce water runoff. Given that rain doesn’t happen very often in the Phoenix metropolitan area, these plants were selected for their drought-tolerance. While their main source of water is still from rain, they consume much less of it than the average plant, supporting the campus’ water conservation objective.
“The landscaping is beautiful and water conservation is vital when you live in a desert,” said Harvey.
According to Harvey, water conservation was a huge focus of the build. To date, the facility has saved more than one million gallons of water. The facility includes automatic sinks — which use 30 to 40 percent less water than traditional sinks — and low flow, no tank toilets. Water used in the facility for production is captured, filtered and evaporated, reducing water discharge volume by 90 percent.
“We are reducing the facility’s impact and creating a healthy workspace,” said Judy Palacio, environment health and safety manager, Northrop Grumman. “It is great to work for an organization committed to taking care of its employees and the environment.
Optimizing electricity is another important objective for the site. “We moved into this building in the fall of 2019, and have doubled our headcount since then, yet we are using about 30 percent less power (kw) than our previous locations,” said Harvey.
Some of the energy-saving technologies include high efficiency chillers and boilers, humidification system, R30 Roofing System (which uses thicker insulation than typical roofs, meaning less heat transfer and improved temperature control), and all LED lighting with a lighting control system. This highly energy-efficient plant — which is designed well above the International Energy Conservation Codes — also includes a building automation system, an intelligent system of both hardware and software that connects the heating, venting and air conditioning system, lighting, security and other systems to communicate on a single platform.
The glass-covered building was designed to absorb as much natural sun light as possible. “With temperatures rising to over 120 degrees in the summer, you wouldn’t think of glass as the best way to deter heat,” said Harvey. “The glass is double pane and low emissivity, which traps the thermal energy, stopping the heat from radiating throughout the facility, while letting good sunlight in.”
Natural light is abundant throughout the campus, and the views of the surrounding outdoor spaces have benefits beyond sustainability. According to a recent study at Cornell University, the benefits of natural light in an office environment have been scientifically proven to increase productivity and satisfaction, while reducing issues such as headaches, eyestrain and blurred vision by 84 percent.
The efforts to make Northrop Grumman’s Chandler campus ‘green’ was a combined partnership with the Douglas Allred Company and Willmeng Construction during the design and build process. All three companies have been recognized in the state of Arizona – receiving three awards from the National Association for Industrial and Office Properties in the categories of Economic Development, Office Build to Suit and Industrial Build to Suit.
“Our employees are proud about where they work,” said Harvey. “Not only because of the beautiful campus and our critical mission of defending our nation’s homeland and solving some of the toughest problems in space, but also because they can see, every day, that Northrop Grumman is investing in an efficient and ‘green’ home.”