For a leaner footprint

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Marleen Krysl is 24 and comes from Beilstein in the Heilbronn district. Since autumn 2021, she’s been studying for a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. After completing her studies, she would like to concentrate on the renewable energy sector – she’s interested in the development of turbines for hydroelectric power plants. From 2017 to 2021, Marleen Krysl studied International Mechanical Engineering at Hof University of Applied Sciences. The focus of a practical thesis and her bachelor’s thesis was on the CO2 footprint of GEALAN’s window profile production.

An interview with Marleen Krysl

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How did this sustainability topic fit into your mechanical engineering studies?

Admittedly, it mightn’t seem particularly obvious at first. Sustainability and the environment interest me in general, which is why I took a course in greenhouse gas offsetting during my semester abroad in Finland. With the prior knowledge I acquired from that, I laid the foundation for my work, so to speak.

Can you illustrate how greenhouse gases can be offset?

It is based on a DIN standard for determining and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. Direct greenhouse gases produced by combustion, and indirect greenhouse gases – caused for instance by employees travelling to their workplace – are recorded. This approach takes account of the greenhouse potential of emitted substances, which are standardised and set in relation to CO2: for example, one kilogram of methane is equivalent to 30 kilograms of CO2.

How did you come into contact with GEALAN?

Professor Jens Beck from the Hof University of Applied Sciences assigned the topic to me and set up the connection. I had three direct contacts who explained the production process to me and discussed where greenhouse gases are created at GEALAN. Together with experts from the company’s departments, I examined passenger transport, infrastructure and logistics, the production chain of window profiles and tools, and recycling.

How did GEALAN respond to your project?

With great interest. All my contacts were really helpful. This issue is also becoming more and more relevant. GEALAN welcomed this opportunity to get an overview of its greenhouse gas emissions. I undertook an analysis and classification of the current state of affairs in my practical work, while my bachelor’s thesis showed potential savings that could be made.

Please give us an insight into the results of your study!

The DIN standard differentiates between imported energy, transport, goods used and usage of manufactured products. Imported energy accounted for ten percent of CO2 emissions at GEALAN – electricity and heating. Transport accounted for about five percent of the greenhouse gases emitted – due to raw material deliveries, employee travel to work, delivery of products, business trips, and so on. A total of 85 percent of emissions were caused by the procured goods, i.e. raw materials, mainly PVC. It was surprising that this raw material percentage was so high.

What recommendations did your bachelor’s thesis make to GEALAN, and were they implemented?

A lot has actually been done. GEALAN has completely switched over to green electricity and is saving over 90 percent of its emissions in this area. The remaining 10 percent comes from the construction of wind turbines, for instance. My theses provided the impetus for the development of a sustainability strategy. GEALAN has tripled the recycled content of its material mix. A newly acquired colour-sorting line optimises the quality of the recycled material produced in-house, which means more of it can be used. Employees are encouraged to come to work in a more environmentally friendly fashion, and energy awareness is being raised in the workplace; after all, even a computer screen in sleep mode makes a small contribution. Of course, it’s difficult to tackle raw materials because their suppliers haven’t yet carried out any CO2 analyses. But GEALAN is in talks with alternative manufacturers and trying to exert a positive influence on established suppliers.

Can the savings potential that you’ve worked out for GEALAN be quantified in concrete terms?

I’ve made an extrapolation, but it isn’t entirely realistic because it’s based on a theoretically possible ideal: if every measure I’ve recommended was implemented perfectly, 60 percent of the greenhouse gases that GEALAN produces itself could be avoided, excluding goods procured. Another interesting aspect: GEALAN products contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases: innovative windows are able to insulate buildings better, which naturally means that much less heating or cooling is required.

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©2022 GEALAN Fenster-Systeme GmbH
©2022 GEALAN Fenster-Systeme GmbH