When, in 1965, Eugene and Brandon Murtagh launched their engineering and contracting firm with the manufacture of agricultural trailers behind the family pub in Kingscourt, Ireland, they made two things a priority – quality and innovation.
Today, this family-led business, known as Kingspan, manufactures everything from commercial infrastructure products, insulation and duct work to insulated metal panels, wastewater treatment systems and translucent roof and wall assemblies ––many of the “building blocks” required for commercial infrastructure. And they have grown to 166 manufacturing facilities in 70 countries with 2020 revenue of nearly £5 billion.
Since joining the company in 1993, Eugene’s son Gene Murtagh has not only continued to expand the Kingspan Group brand through a diversified portfolio of product lines while serving as CEO of one of Ireland’s top companies since 2005, he’s made leaving the world better than he found it, a hallmark initiative of the company.
Not the first of the Murtagh family to do so, Kingspan’s innovative manufacturing solutions ensured they were ahead of their time throughout the 1980s and 90s when climate change and pollution first emerged as a global issue.
Ahead of the curve, in 1993, Kingspan’s insulation became the first to be produced chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) free, two years ahead of schedule, and in 2003, the insulation became hydroclorofluorocarbon (also known as greenhouse gas) free, a year ahead of the European Union’s required deadline.
Setting an ambitious goal for 2030, Kingspan is aiming for a net zero emissions through their Planet Passionate initiative, focusing on four key elements: circularity, energy, carbon and water.
When launching the project in December 2019, Kingspan CEO Gene Murtagh said, “Climate change is the single most important issue facing the world today and our most urgent priority. At Kingspan, we are committed to driving a more sustainable approach to our business in response to these issues. Energy conservation has always been at the core of our products and how we run our business. Through Planet Passionate we will reduce carbon and energy in both our manufacturing processes and products and continue our relentless pursuit of low-carbon buildings that deliver more performance and value, with clear targets to strive for by 2030.”
Working on the goals of tomorrow through the innovation of today is Brent Trenga, the Director of Sustainability for Kingspan Insulated Panels North America.
Driving change, he calls what’s happening now ‘a transformational shift’ in the industry.
Among those in the Kingspan Group making a significant contribution to meet the goals is the DeLand, Florida, Kingspan Insulated Panels – North America facility.
Acquired from Metecno, Inc. in 2008, as part of a North American expansion that included facilities in Ohio, Connecticut and California, the DeLand, Florida, location became the North American headquarters for Kingspan Insulated Panels.
Adapting and implementing the goals of Planet Passionate throughout the last year and a half, Trenga is proud to announce a significant reduction in waste heading to the landfill from the DeLand facility.
“One of our targets for Planet Passionate is zero-waste to landfill. Looking at it from last year, we’ve cut our waste to the landfill by over 50 percent just in 2021,” said Trenga.
The project was successfully piloted at the DeLand facility and is now being rolled out to the facilities in Toronto, Ontario; Modesto, California; Columbus, Ohio; and Langley, British Columbia, as well.
“We have nine waste streams that come out of our facility and allow each one of those to be recycled, we think we’ll achieve much higher than 50 percent this year and are very much on track to becoming a zero-waste-to-landfill company globally,” he said. “We are working with some local suppliers, working with our existing waste haulers and utilizing better supply chain engagement.”
Even scrap materials like steel and foam are being repurposed or upcycled for other uses.
Planet Passionate consists of 12 ambitious targets focusing on four key areas: energy, carbon, circularity and water. Commitments by 2030 include:
powering 60% of all Kingspan operations directly from renewable energy, with a minimum of 20% of this energy generated on manufacturing sites
achieving net zero carbon manufacturing and a 50% reduction in product C0 2 intensity from primary supply partners
upcycling of 1 billion PET bottles annually into insulation products plus, zero company waste-to-landfill across all sites
harvesting 100 million liters (26 million gallons) of Kingspan’s water usage from rainwater
“The foam itself we found a local supplier in Florida that’s taking the foam and grinding it up and using it in countertops and exterior tile,” said Trenga. “Some great strides have been made.”
Becoming a zero-waste facility is just one benchmark of the Planet Passionate promise, and he knows it’s more than just a mindset, it’s a culture shift that will lead other major companies to make the investments needed to become green businesses as well.
Learning and sharing best practices come from research and Kingspan’s IKON Innovation Center, located in Dublin, Ireland, demonstrates how circularity works – the recycle and reuse of raw materials in products. IKON also researches and executes the manufacturing of energy efficient building materials and the impact generating renewable energy can have toward creating healthy, green, high-performance, sustainable buildings.
“I think the targets that we’ve set through Planet Passionate, are showing that companies of great scale, can pivot and drive this kind of change across the industry,” shared Trenga. “We’ve strategically said this is something we need to do and we know we can implement it at every single one of our locations. I think that in itself shows that construction and manufacturing can be both profitable and dynamic in the way it changes and adapts.”
And in turn, this will make us all Project Passionate