Kerry Bowden

Shared by:  Kerry Bowden, Senior Associate
Los Angeles Office 

I was surprised to find that Earth Day started as part of a speech by Senator Gaylord Nelson to a conservation group in Seattle (of course) way back in 1969!

Wow – I had no idea.

So I decided to take a look at some things that we could do in our home and office that would be easy to execute – and with a little prodding, might become permanent changes that really could have a big impact on the environment.

Water is scarce in Southern California. Practically every summer we have water shortages. But that is a hard concept for many people to understand when you can turn the faucet on and get as much water as you want, any time you want it. Even in a water shortage. And recently I noticed that one of my roommates was taking 20 minute showers.

So today – for Earth Day – I asked all my roommates to try to limit their showers to just three minutes. Not just for today but from now on. Actually – three minutes of running water – they can stay in the shower as long as they want.

I know it can be done because I used to live in St Thomas where water is REALLY scarce, and all permanent residents of the island will tell you, any shower longer than two minutes is a luxury. Trust me – you get used to it. You adapt.

Everyone should now be aware of the fact that most tap water is as good if not better than any bottled water – and we as a country throw away a mountain of plastic each day of the year.  So I have asked my roommates to not purchase and bring any bottled water into the house. Yes, you can do it too. Go to the store and get a stainless steel water bottle.

Actually, I asked them to not buy anything in plastic containers if possible – especially products such as yogurt – which is actually a sugar laden concoction disguised as a “healthy” product. Same goes for soft drinks or energy drinks. Doesn’t it make more sense to take a long walk in the evening after dinner – or lunch – instead of that Red Bull or Caramel Macchiato??

This one might be a stretch – but we might start making our own laundry detergent at home. If not, we will all buy environmentally friendlier products at Whole Foods. No more Tide with “Afternoon in an English Garden” scent.

Even though we run a fairly “Green” office at work (we became essentially  “paperless”  a couple of years ago) we still have a wall full of plastic-based catalogs that not only spew tons of pollutants into the atmosphere when they are made, and then accumulate in our landfills, but use valuable resources for delivery – including man-hours. We will phase out the catalogs starting today, and ask our reps to not bring in any printed materials.

 I ride a motorcycle, and I know that not using a car saves a lot of money, but today I started thinking about the “Earth Day” aspects of riding a motorcycle, and I was surprised.

 I have not owned a car since I have lived in the Los Angeles area (which most people will tell you is impossible) and aside from when I am out with my girlfriend – I ride my motorcycle exclusively – or use the Metro.

 By my calculations I have saved nearly 2600 gallons of gasoline in the past four and a half years (think – an extra $7000 in the bank).

But it’s not just the money I am saving; think about the overall impact on the environment:

Motorcycles have much smaller batteries to dispose of, as well as only two tires to manufacture and throw away. And no antifreeze to find its way into our ocean (OK – some bikes do use liquid coolant – but not mine).

The bikes I ride have about 95% less plastic than the average car – and take a much smaller assembly line and facility to manufacture.

Just imagine the savings if a million more people switched to motorcycles or bicycles over the next decade! If you don’t think it is feasible, just go to an average small town in South America – say, Tarapoto, Peru – where probably 80% of the population ride motorcycles. Including grandmothers. Or drive by a large office building in Munich – or practically anywhere in Europe – and look at the thousands of bicycles parked outside.

Yeah, sure – I might get flattened by a guy in a Hummer someday – but that carton of yogurt or soda is just as deadly in the long run – and riding a motorcycle is much more exhilarating than a strawberry-banana yogurt.


By Kerry Bowden, Senior Associate
Los Angeles Office

Let’s take a look at the definition of value engineering as defined by Wikipedia:

Value engineering (VE) is a systematic method to improve the “value” of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost.  Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost. It is a primary tenet of value engineering that basic functions be preserved and not be reduced as a consequence of pursuing value improvements.

Hmmm…. to me this doesn’t sound like value engineering in actual practice today. More often than not the VE exercise is a reaction to budgetary constraints and too often the up-front cost dominates with too little consideration placed on the long term operating savings.

As foodservice design consultants, we can begin VE – up-front – by examining function and selecting energy efficient equipment to increase the ROI for our clients through lowering energy consumption.

California leads the country in energy conservation, so it is no surprise that here in California we are always expected to provide the best solutions for energy efficiency in our designs – and we see a trend that this is becoming the norm in projects, not only around the rest of the country, but around the globe as well.

Our standard approach when designing new facilities, or in projects with existing facilities, is to steer towards possible savings in energy/water usage.  Primary areas of focus include ventilation, ware washing, refrigeration systems equipment specification, and even lighting. These big-ticket items can become big energy savers … or wasters if not thoughtfully specified or operated.

A good source of reference is the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) located in the San Francisco Bay Area, a research and educational resource sponsored by the local utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). California energy users fund FSTC; everyone pays a small surtax on energy use on each monthly bill to fund the California Energy Commission which in turn encourages and supports energy savings in many critical areas, including foodservice. This program sets standards, enacts equipment rebate programs, and most importantly, acts to stimulate the green economy and encourage energy efficiency and growth in California.

Together with the Energy Commission, the PG&E FSTC has developed educational resources and useful tools for restaurant designers and consultants. Lists of tested, energy efficient equipment by category are available on the FSTC website: Also available on the website are sample energy calculators to allow straightforward comparison of various equipment items. FSTC hosts specialized seminars on topics such as kitchen ventilation systems, restaurant energy audits, restaurant lighting and more. Individualized consultation is also available, including review of design plans and specifications, which has been a marvelous added benefit to our clients.

Using EPA rated Energy Star appliances for reach-in refrigerators as well as heated holding cabinets is now the law in California.  The current Energy Star levels for commercial reach-in refrigerators and freezers will be the National standard this year. Many states, particularly in the South Eastern US do not currently have any such Energy Star requirements, nor do they have the opportunity to benefit from the equipment rebate programs.

Of course, another area of focus in design is on correct sizing of equipment for the application, which is extremely important in energy use. When unnecessary preheat times, idling energy usage, and increased ventilation requirements are considered, oversized equipment can be a huge energy drain. Thus it is essential for designers and operators to size the productive capacity to match the production demands.

In any foodservice design there are many other very simple low cost opportunities for savings such as waste reducing systems, replacing pre-rinse faucets with low flow units, suggesting LED or CFL lighting, etc. 

While foodservice equipment is only one part of VE, it is a high-ticket area.  By showing our clients how their up-front investment in the right energy efficient equipment, yields faster ROI, it’s clear that the long term savings far outweigh the up-front costs. From front to back of house, whenever we can, we are offering this added value to our clients