A grant from The Bayer USA Foundation supported high school students for a summer of paid laboratory research in Pittsburgh and Houston through the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Project SEED. This effective program, that has served almost 10,000 economically disadvantaged students since 1968, is historically offered by mentors in academic settings. Bayer’s current grant to ACS aims to assess the potential for placing students in industrial settings and began with a pilot project to place high school chemistry teachers in corporate labs to sharpen their research skills and address challenges unique to high school students. In Pittsburgh, Bayer MaterialScience chemist Matthew Vila (pictured on left) guided a research experience for local teacher, Kirk Wicker.
At the end of the first summer of the two-year grant, “A Celebration of Project SEED” presented at Duquesne University with support from The Bayer USA Foundation prompted a visit to the Pittsburgh headquarters of Bayer MaterialScience LLC. Entering Building 14 one first notices the LEED Gold certification plaque. Our host, Dr. Irene McGee, Vice President for Health, Safety, Environment, Quality, was justifiably proud of the $17 million interior renovation of two of the main buildings. I was struck by the natural light that fills the greener workplace. The showcase for Bayer materials such as versatile Makrolon® polycarbonate sheets improves energy efficiency and encourages employee collaboration. The incorporation of rigid foam insulation, insulated metal panels and recycled content all contribute to the buildings’
The expanded number of conference rooms – one for every 30 employees – carry names such as LEED, Responsible Care, STEM, and Sustainability, all priorities Bayer shares with the American Chemical Society and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®. Along with good coffee and hanging out in the kitchens, the open office design promotes opportunities for collaboration across diverse functions. The impressive results of the remodeling contributed to Bayer Corporation being recognized as the number one large company in the Green Workplace Challenge, a friendly competition put on by Sustainable Pittsburgh to promote energy and water savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Bayer MaterialScience’s commitment to sustainability goes far beyond the buildings in which its employees work. Sustainability impacts the products we produce, the markets we serve and our day-to-day business operations” explains McGee.
For example, Bayer’s materials make a vehicle lighter, which in turn reduces fuel consumption, saves money and lowers emissions—all without sacrificing safety or style. There’s another benefit as well: Bayer’s materials use less energy in the manufacturing process compared with materials traditionally used in the automotive sector, such as glass and metal.
In buildings, Bayer’s solid and multi-wall architectural polycarbonate sheet can be used for glazing, sky lights and façade cladding. The polycarbonate sheets enable daylighting which reduces energy usage and aids in visual comfort. Also, insulating materials for roofs, walls or floors based on Bayer polyurethanes provide highly effective insulation against heat and cold, which reduces energy requirements. It’s also worth noting that the energy required to produce polyurethane foam can yield a 50 to 1 or better return on embedded energy over the life of a building.
In addition to polycarbonates and polyurethanes, Bayer also offers more sustainable coatings technologies. The company’s two-component waterborne polyurethane coatings can have film characteristics similar to those of solvent borne coatings, but reduce volatile air emissions by as much as 99 percent. In fact, Bayer received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for developing waterborne industrial coating materials that use water instead of solvents.
In terms of how its materials are produced, Bayer considers eco-friendly manufacturing processes as vital resource conservation to help protect the climate. One example is chlorine production, which accounts for two-thirds of the company’s consumption of electricity. To reduce this requirement, the company and its partners developed oxygen depolarized cathode (ODC) technology. Since 2011, the company has demonstrated the effective production of chlorine from common salt utilizing the ODC process requiring 30 percent less energy than the conventional technology.
Bayer is months away from opening a new plant in Dormagen, Germany that will produce toluene diisocyanate (TDI). TDI is a precursor for the manufacture of flexible polyurethane foams used to make everyday products such as mattresses and car seats. The new plant will use the gas phase phosgenation process that was successfully tested at the company’s Shanghai plant in 2011. The use of this process reduces solvent consumption by around 80 percent and cuts energy consumption by up to 60 percent.
Bayer began its Dream Production research initiative in 2010 with the aim of incorporating CO2 directly into polyurethane foam. A pilot plant in Germany has been using CO2 from a power plant to manufacture a key component of polyurethane, saving some of the petrochemical raw materials normally used. Tests published by Bayer in 2012 prove that the quality of this product matches and in some cases exceeds polyurethane manufactured in the conventional way. The company plans to market its CO2-based products beginning in 2015.
According to McGee, innovation and sustainability have been and will continue to be the driving forces behind the company’s business. “For the last 150 years, Bayer has constantly innovated and adapted to the changing needs of our customers. Sustainability is a key component of our future developments and success, embodying Bayer’s mission of ‘Science for a Better Life.’”
Building photography by Ed Massery Architectural Photography
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