As a major producer of hot-mix asphalt (HMA) and ready-mix concrete in the southeastern region of the United States, S.T. Wooten Corp. recently demonstrated how "going green" can be much more than simply responding to the world's environmental concerns.
Three years ago, S.T. Wooten Corporation began planning for a new HMA facility on wooded acreage in Fort Myers, FL. Although the corporation had 13 HMA plants throughout North Carolina, they decided to expand into the southwest Florida area. Almost immediately the company encountered a number of unique challenges, many of which involved the environment.
Managers at S.T. Wooten decided it would be wise to use the latest state-of-the-art production technology: the Double Barrel Green System from Astec.
This unique system can process virgin aggregate and reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP), mixing it with liquid asphalt cement in such a way to produce warm-mix asphalt (WMA).
The new Fort Myers plant quickly earned a reputation of being the greenest plant in the region. Not only did the company overcome a significant environmental challenge, but its resulting operation proved that ideas such as "green" and "sustainable" can have a positive impact on the corporate bottom line, as well as on the surrounding environment.
That's not to say the effort was easy. According to management of the company's Fort Myers Division, "A lot of planning went into this facility, particularly from the environmental point of view. We have probably gone much farther with our attempt to be environmentally friendly than most businesses. We don't think you will find another facility like this one anywhere."
A careful, effective planning process
When S.T. Wooten began the project in 2006, one of the first steps was to conduct a study of what wildlife might be impacted by the new plant. Such a study is called a Protected Species Analysis (PSA) and it must be done before any development can begin.
In this case, the PSA revealed a state-listed threatened species on the new property. Division Manager John Fischetti recalled that when he and Robert Peterson, area operations manager, would walk the property, burrows were evident at one end of the property - burrows that had been left by what they suspected were gopher tortoises. They hired a biologist to come in and do the PSA, and he confirmed that there were definitely signs of activity by gopher tortoises on the plant site.
In response to their findings, S.T. Wooten dedicated a portion of the new property as a wildlife preserve for these gopher tortoises.
But there were more "green" steps to take: The company also created a separate wetland preserve for bald cypress trees. And then they conducted a native wetland planting to serve as the perimeter of the facility. A substantial part of the 14.5-acre property has been set aside specifically for preserves and natural areas.
Some of the company's other efforts went well beyond the norm. They hired an environmental services company to hand-cut and remove all invasive, exotic species of vegetation, thereby helping to promote native plant growth.
A water-filtration berm was constructed to provide additional water cleaning through natural sand filtration. Everything else was covered in sod and then watered with an irrigation system that features reduced water usage.
These "green" efforts included several industry firsts. Located at the end of a tree-lined drive, the plant went well beyond the Green Building Standards of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards. It also truly embodied the "green" promise for the local community. Even the storage silos are an industry first: Each silo was wrapped in a custom-designed green graphic that blends with the natural surroundings.
Beauty is more than skin deep