When construction begins on the $600 million Jafza International site in Orangeburg County, warehouse space and new jobs will be in plentiful supply. And so will green innovations as Jafza South Carolina enters the delicate dance of balancing economic development with preserving and enhancing quality of life.
Jafza's parent company also owns Gazeley, a leader in sustainable warehouse developments based in the United Kingdom. During the unveiling of Jafza's master plan for the project last fall, Steven Eames, vice president of operations for Jafza Americas, said Gazeley will bring "unmatched efficiencies" to the 1,324-acre Orangeburg project.
"This project will be sustainable, in terms of its impact on the surrounding communities. It will be green, and it will be a model for us going forward," Eames said.
Gazeley's green initiatives at other projects have included the use of solar panels and wind turbines for energy production, and innovative approaches to stormwater collection.
Speaking from London recently, Jonathan Fenton-Jones, Gazeley's global procurement and sustainability director, stressed that the group's role on the Orangeburg site hasn't been ironed out.
"In our view, wherever we work, the site was there a long time before we were, and it is going to be there a long time after we're gone," Fenton-Jones says.
On one recent project, the company installed kinetic plates at the facility's gates that generate electricity whenever trucks drive over them. So much power is generated that the client is able to power a fleet of on-site electric vehicles.
Another project includes a biomass plant that generates enough electricity to power not just the warehouse development, but also 31,000 adjacent dwellings.
"So we're fostering economic growth at the warehouse, while also achieving another end: Providing green-generated power to a community at rates less than they would pay for off the grid," he says.
Sustainability has been a core value of the company from its very beginning, but Fenton-Jones says no one with the company in the late 1980s would have guessed that they'd be a vanguard of a worldwide green movement.
"We just did what we did, and acted on our affinity for the natural environment," he says. "Broadly, they would be called bioremediation strategies: We employed reed beds to clean up disposed waste water from sites. Over the years we've probably planted a million trees."
As the green movement gains currency, major corporations across the globe have been essentially forced to adopt their own responsible practices by their customers.
"As a result, that makes it virtually impossible these days to build a warehouse and not do something in regard to its green profile," he says.
When it comes to employing green approaches to developments like Jafza's South Carolina project, the real opportunities are in building to suit a particular client, rather than speculative buildings — or those that would serve a variety of uses, says Fenton-Jones.
"With a spec building, you don't know who the client is, so you're concentrating on the foundation and the walls, and while there are opportunities there in terms of planning and materials, the real opportunities for green savings are the occupational phase, when you're talking about lighting, heating, air channeling, and taking advantage of the particulars of the climate and the like," he says.
Proponents of sustainable construction in South Carolina are excited about the green possibilities that the Jafza project will bring to the state.
"The impact of green business and logistics parks in South Carolina is that environmentally-conscious businesses will be able to consider moving to our state," says Bin Wilcenski, chief operating officer at the Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia.
Rene Patey, program manager at the Sustainability Institute, a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to create more sustainable homes and facilities, says there's nothing to compare to the potential at the Orangeburg site during the two-decade construction.
"It is a spectacular innovation in terms of engaging the movement to green," Patey says. "Once the option is out there ... more South Carolina companies engaged in trade are going to be requesting those services because it's good for their business and corporate image."