J.W. Winco’s CFO Explains Why He Bought a Vegetated Roof


J.W. Winco's recently completed installation of a green roof system.

Sustainability advocates know vegetated roofs can recycle rainwater and save energy on cooling, but they also cost more than conventional roofs. So where’s the return on investment (ROI)?

J.W. Winco, Inc., a major supplier of standard industrial machine components in New Berlin, Wisconsin, recently completed installation of a green roof system on its manufacturing facility. “There’s no ROI on a conventional roof,” says Mark Winkler, CFO, J.W. Winco. “Roof replacement is a requirement no matter what, and even a normal reroof is a costly endeavor.

“Our existing conventional roof system was installed in 1993 and needed to be replaced, so we researched the possibility of installing a fully vegetated green roof system. The addition of the green roof is part of the company’s effort to be a leader in environmental stewardship by reducing our carbon footprint and managing rain water efficiently, while at the same time cutting energy costs.”

The company’s remodeling project was approved under the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) Regional Green Roof Initiative, which provides incentive funding to increase green roof coverage within its service area. Green roofs hold rainwater where it falls, thereby diminishing the risk of sewer overflows and improving the overall water quality in the region.

Conventional roofs, on a summer day, can be as much as 90° hotter than green roofs – the vegetation on green roofs reduces heat retention, thereby lowering energy usage. Additional benefits include improving air quality, increasing urban green space and wildlife habitat, extending roof life by protecting the roof from harmful ultraviolet rays and temperature extremes, and providing educational opportunities.

Incorporating technologically advanced products, the J.W. Winco green roof system is on the cutting edge of storm management and retention. The roof, designed by the Milwaukee-based company Hanging Gardens, both slows down storm water during events of heavy rainfall and stores significant amounts for reuse. Storm water is stored in a retention zone beneath the roof and used for self-irrigation of the roof via a capillary system. Thus the roof is maintained by rainwater rather than municipal tap water.

The green roof project took approximately three weeks to complete. “In today’s systems, the soil media is lightweight, the plants are light, the grids are lightweight plastic. You can get a nice roof in a low depth of media.”

MMSD funding covered 29% of the cost of the green roof, which brought the expense close to that of a conventional reroof. The difference is made up by what Winkler calls non-tangibles:

  • Attention to the company, in particular, lead generation from potential client companies that value green suppliers.
  • Capture of runoff from 15,800 square feet of roof – 18,000 gallons of storm surge runoff.
  • Aesthetics: The sedum plantings change throughout the year, flowering with green leaves that turn to burgundy when the plants are dormant. Staff and visitors can appreciate the appearance. “We’ll add a seating employees can use on breaks,” Folz says.
  • Building on a company history of sustainability from packaging and coolants to paper and now, the green roof.

“We try to make a good work environment, including wages and benefits. We retain great people, and if they’re taken care of at home, they are more productive at work,” Winkler says. “Our employees are proud that we take care of the environment, and have a good reputation in the community. We always come through with flying colors, and making investments like these lets them be proud of their company.”

The J.W. Winco vegetated roof project will be viewed annually by an estimated 3,000 people, as well as 300,000 online viewers via a webcam broadcast that will be coming to the company’s green initiatives web page. It will also be visible on a closed circuit camera system broadcasting live on a large monitor in the building’s main lobby.

The green roof system project is the latest effort to make the company’s buildings and property more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. In 2011, J.W. Winco retrofitted its entire warehouse with LED lighting. Skylights were installed and windows added to reduce the electricity needed for lighting, with of the additional benefit of enhancing the working environment with more natural light. In areas of the warehouse used less frequently, motion-sensor lighting was installed to conserve energy.

In recent years, the company expanded its recycling effort. Along with recycling plastic bottles and aluminum cans, metal shavings produced in J.W. Winco’s manufacturing process are recycled. Whenever possible, cardboard boxes received in shipping are repurposed, and the company has switched to environmentally friendly water-based coolants to cool its machinery. In 2007, J.W. Winco’s building expansion incorporated windows and wood from an older building, along with recycled floors and carpets.

Next is a parking area in need of repaving. “We’re looking at adding swales to retain water and strips of porous pavement for permeation, to help the sewage district and local municipalities mitigate flooding and stormwater issues,” says Sean Foltz, associate director, Clean Water Program, American Rivers.

“I have kids and obviously would like to see our company move forward in a way that protects their future,” Winkler says.

J.W. Winco offers an extensive selection of inch- and metric-size adjustable levers, cabinet U-handles, plastic and steel hinges and locking mechanisms; revolving and retractable handles; hand wheels, hand cranks, tube connection and conveyor components; inch and metric construction tubing; shock absorption mounts; leveling mounts; hand knobs; spring, ball and indexing plungers; jig, fixture and fastening components; retaining magnet assemblies; toggle clamps; metric casters and wheels; universal joints; oil sight glasses; and metric tools for the industrial and commercial equipment industries.

For a gallery of photos of J.W. Winco’s green roof installation.

For J.W. Winco’s catalog, with 3D CAD and online buying.

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