- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
For over 20 years Prihoda S.R.O. has been providing engineered fabric ducting and air distribution solutions to commercial and industrial HVAC applications around the world. The company’s North American division, Prihoda North America (N.A.) and its network of representatives across the continent provide design, selection and sales support for clients in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.
“We manufacture air distribution devices derived from polyester as an alternative to the traditional metal ducting and diffusers,” explains Andrew Sorenson, president and CEO of Prihoda N.A. “Our air dispersion devices are generally exposed to the space where they are installed which means they serve as both air distribution devices and architectural components.” Prihoda HVAC air ducts and diffusers are available in virtually any color, can be stenciled with logos or text and are engineered with a variety of distribution options — including Prihoda’s unique microperforation system—to optimize air distribution efficiency and maximize occupant comfort in any type of space. Fabric ducting is also much more cost-effective, saving as much as 75 percent compared to metal ducting due to lower material costs and simpler, faster installation.
In 2013, Prihoda took the benefits of fabric air dispersion systems to a new level by partnering with Unifi’s recycling division, Repreve, to introduce Prihoda Recycled — a 100 percent post-consumer recycled and recyclable-content alternative. “We felt we had reached our limit as far as sustainability goes so we started investigating to see what we could do to become more sustainable,” says Sorenson. “That led to us looking at recycled content and after thorough research, we decided to team up with Repreve because our core values and approach aligned well with their brand.”
The Repreve process involves chopping and grinding plastic water bottles (PET) into chips which are then liquefied through melting. The molten former water bottles are thoroughly filtered and then extruded into yarn which is converted into fabric that Prihoda uses for its ducts and diffusers. “The characteristics and performance of the material are identical to virgin polyester,” says Sorenson, “but the footprint is drastically different as we are diverting waste from landfills and up-cycling it into a new, useful product with a long life cycle.”
With over 60 million plastic bottles discarded every day in the United States alone and only 30% of those being recycled, Prihoda sees a lot of room to make an impact. According to Sorenson, Prihoda’s aim is to help raise awareness of the low recycle rate in an effort to increase recycling to 100%. “We want it to be just like aluminum and steel — without the added weight and extra cost — which can be recycled multiple times and used in multiple industries.”
The US Green Building Council rating system LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was created to encourage end-users and design teams to specify more energy efficient, environmentally friendly construction products and practices, to reduce the footprint of commercial and residential buildings.
Prihoda Recycled fabric ducts and diffusers contribute to credits in LEED v4 Materials and Resources category (MR) in multiple ways:
- Factory-colored fabrics and specially engineered sealed, zippered connections eliminate the need for painting or sealing in the field so that neither the installer nor the end user is exposed to VOCs, toxic fumes or chemicals.
- Prihoda’s packaging is chosen to minimize the use of resources and is 100 percent recyclable, reducing construction waste in the landfill
- Third party verified 100 percent post-consumer content material
- EPD conformant to PCR for Air ducts, ISO14025 and ISO14044
- Third party critically reviewed LCA conducted by SCS Global Services
Obtaining the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and a third-party verified Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) — independent analyses of Prihoda products’ environmental impacts from cradle to grave — was not an easy or inexpensive task. However, the EPD and LCA now bolster Prihoda’s LEED eligibility even more than before and give a clear picture of the product life cycle. “We’re very dedicated to this,” Sorenson says. “One day I would like to see not only us, but every other fabric duct manufacturer making their products from recycled materials because there is no reason not to. It’s readily available and cost is not as much of an inhibiting factor as it used to be.”
Prihoda will be exhibiting at booth #3449 in its third consecutive Greenbuild International Conference and Expo sponsored by USGBC and hosted in Washington, D.C. this November. “It’s been a great event for us,” says Sorenson. “We’ve learned a lot about the demands on designers of sustainable buildings which has driven us to find ways, like 100 percent post-consumer recycled product and the EPD/LCA for LEED credits, to help designers meet those demands.”
A sustainable company
Prihoda’s commitment to the environment and desire for maximum sustainability begins with a top down approach starting with the sourcing of raw materials. The central component of textile diffusers is the material it is made from, so Prihoda took careful steps in implementing an engineered, transparent, traceable recycled fabric. “Sure, there may be cheaper recycled yarns available, but what makes Unifi and Repreve stand out is the level of documented transparency which begins with third party verification by SCS global services and is rounded out with the Fiberprint verification process.” Prior to a material being allowed to carry the Repreve brand name, Unifi analyzes the material looking for their unique Fiberprint signature to determine the percentage of Repreve — recycled content — in the fabric. This ensures that the end user can trust what they are getting.
The Prihoda production process itself conforms to ISO 14001, an environmentally-focused production program similar to the ISO 9001 quality assurance program also used in all Prihoda manufacturing facilities. This documents each roll of Repreve fabric taken in and stores it separately from any other material, continuing the level of transparency and documentation started by Unifi.
Review of the EPD and LCA has given Prihoda a much clearer understanding of where environmental impacts can be improved. After addressing raw materials and all of its manufacturing processes, the company realized that the distribution side of its operations is now the largest contributor to its environmental footprint. “We are now actively looking at viable options and partners with which we can reduce our overall impact on the environment even further by focusing on reducing and offsetting emissions during transport.” Sorenson details, “A company goal has been set for Carbon Neutrality in 2016, moving on to Carbon negative in 2017.”
With the company’s commitment and innovative approach to providing sustainable solutions, Prihoda North America will continue to lead the way in fabric duct and diffuser manufacturing by ensuring consumers receive products that are traceable, transparent and certifiably sustainable.
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