Manufacturing facilities, once the backbone of American industrialism and now considered obsolete, can through purposeful reuse metamorphosize for modern industry. Through repositioning, these expansive spaces offer solid framework, ceiling heights and architectural elements uncommon to modern construction. A well-executed reinvention enables a second life dramatically different from first use. Unitex, one of the nation’s top 10 commercial laundry service providers, embraced adaptive reuse for its 12th location and first facility in the Massachusetts’ market. Consisting of both processing and delivery operations to service the state’s vibrant life science and healthcare industries, Unitex leased Crown Holdings, formerly a 188,000 square foot global beverage and food can manufacturer, rooted in the Boston market for 25-plus years.
Seeking a large employee talent pool for 200-plus jobs, it sought a space for an initial 90,000 square foot automated laundry and uniform service facility that enabled both future expansion and geographic accessibility to clients throughout the state.
Founded in 1922, Unitex continues to bring new life via an adaptive reuse. For more than 90 years, the family-run business has been leading the way in the medical uniform and linen rental industry. In all facets of the term, Unitex is an American success story. Starting with Max Potack’s first job working for A & S Coat and Apron Supply, within eight years, he purchased the business and expanded into long-term care facilities and hospitals, which ultimately led to a sole focus on life science and healthcare industries.
Today, led by fourth generation family members Rob and David Potack, Unitex is one of the largest family-owned healthcare service providers in the country, operating under the mission to be involved in every inch of the business. The firm, which operates 365 days a year, has attained the TRSA’s Hygienically Clean Healthcare certification for its best management practices in operations, training and sterilization.
Never one to rest on its laurels, Unitex is continually reinvesting in new facilities, refining and modernizing its protocols to serve a growing client base. That is the premise behind its state-of-the art facilities in the growing ambulatory market. The facilities are so advanced and so environmentally friendly that industry professionals from around the world visit to study its best practices.
This blend of heritage and innovation was not lost on Dacon Corporation, the design builder that repurposed the facility. “Unitex’s long-term heritage, green commitment, focus on employee education and value of community resonates with the contributions family-owned businesses make to the American economy,” says Dacon Corporation CEO Kevin Quinn.
“Our new facilities help us to provide high quality products and services to our current and prospective clients in a local setting for both the outpatient and inpatient healthcare space.” — Robert Potack, CEO, Unitex
As the nation’s largest family-owned linen and uniform service provider to the healthcare industry, Unitex has 12 locations in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, with a 13th plant scheduled for completion later this year.
“In reviewing a variety of options for new plant development in New England, Lawrence became an obvious choice, once we had an opportunity to meet with the mayor and his leadership team,” says Robert Potack, Unitex CEO. “Our new facilities help us to provide high quality products and services to current and prospective clients in a local setting for both the outpatient and inpatient healthcare space. This additional capacity significantly expands our reach in Massachusetts and throughout New England.”
Best green practices
Within a seemingly deindustrialized society, innovation-driven life science and healthcare firms are paradoxically reliant on the traditional laundry servicing to enable their businesses. Yet these traditional services are anything but, embracing innovation through environmentally efficient practices.
Unitex exemplifies this bridge between heritage and innovation. Based upon a green business model, Unitex’s investments in technology, operations, environmental quality and conservation training focus on conserving Big 3 resources–gas, water and electricity.
Its initiatives include:
- Heat reclamation yielding gas savings equivalent to usage by 1,204 households and electricity savings amounting to 218 homes per year.
- Water softening reduces detergents and excess waste creating an annual water savings equivalent to usage by 5,000 homes.
- Detergents are composed of 100% organic chemicals. In place of chlorine bleach, an oxygen-based, biodegradable cleansing agent is used to protect waterways and reduce linen damage. Fabrics experience a longer product life and less discarded solid waste.
- LED lighting in the facility, high-speed automation and infrared monitored dryer temperature controls contribute to electricity savings.
- Iron machines each have their own gas burner, making them 20% more efficient.
- Trucks are monitored for air quality control, energy expenditure and are programmed to shut off after three minutes of idling.
- Plastic recycling totals 1.5mm pounds each year.
Transformation through adaptive reuse offers not only functional spaces, but demonstrable trends for the construction trade. An urban influx of demand for space—whether for commercial or residential use—offers both financial and aesthetic gains for modern industry.
Lauren Nowicki is Director of Marketing and Communications for Dacon Corporation, a fully integrated design build construction management firm in Natick, Massachusetts.