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Castcon Stone, Inc.

Saxonburg, Pa.

May 01, 2005 |

Castcon Stone is one of those great family-run businesses that embody the American Dream. The Saxonburg, Pa., company's 40 employees quietly produce 6,600 cubic yards of custom precast stone products a year. Laura Huch Kerckhoff and Sandra Ussia, the two sisters who own Castcon, believe in family, equality, and respect; for example, even managers must periodically get their hands dirty working in the plant.

In the fall of 2001, however, the owners became concerned that Castcon's rapid growth was compromising production efficiency. The plant was cramped, and the gas-propelled forklifts used in the plant were throwing dust and pollutants into the air, endangering employees' health.

Asked to address these issues, Stephen Quick, of the Pittsburgh office of New York-based Perkins Eastman, organized an all-day charrette with 20 participants—managers, workers, and Building Team members. Out of this came a plan for a new facility that physically linked Castcon's business operations to manufacturing via a concrete corridor. Further, the designers eschewed kitschy ornamentation, instead employing a simple "natural industrial vocabulary" consisting of siding, window openings, garage doors, mechanical vents, flues, and conveyors.

At the owners' insistence, numerous green features were integrated into the 47,000-sf facility: energy-efficient lighting, spectrally selective glass, an HVAC system with heat-recovery wheels, and occupancy sensors for light and heat controls. Office furniture that is free of urea formaldehyde was specified. Runoff from the roof drains into a 2,500-gallon holding tank; it is pumped out by a solar pump and used for watering the landscaping, which consists largely of native plants. The parking lot has a bio-retention area. Caissons that support the 54-foot-high batch plant were made from concrete containing a high percentage of fly ash.

Special attention was paid to improving air quality for production workers. Gas ceiling-mounted heaters, with 99% efficiency, were installed. Garage doors and three 56-inch exhaust fans provide fresh air and cooling. The sandblasting operation was isolated to contain the dust.

The biggest improvement came from installing a system of overhead cranes to move materials and product, eliminating the pollution caused by the forklifts.

At one point, the owners shifted money from the construction budget into new equipment, and the Building Team, working on a design/build basis, had to scramble. They reused slag excavated from the construction site instead of buying more costly materials, and they replaced numerous small heating units with larger, more energy-efficient units.

In the two years since the building's completion, production is up from 220 pounds of concrete per worker hour, to 350–400.

Best of all, sales are up. The owners attribute this to a flood of visits from clients who want to see the building's sustainable features. Who says "going green" doesn't pay?

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