Angela Rivera

Typically, and more traditionally, the stories about green building have been about the people who live, work or learn in a LEED building and how their actions and the building itself impacts the environment. But, when I started working as a LEED consultant on major industrial facilities, we quickly learned that the story was not just about who is in the building, but also about what is happening inside the building and how energy and other resources were being used.

As a LEED consultant with over 10 years of project experience in mixed-use, military, education and health care facilities across all aspects of LEED from new construction to existing buildings, I was really excited when Procter & Gamble first asked if we could help them look into using LEED for their industrial facilities. They wanted to make a major commitment to sustainability, but we needed to be able to demonstrate that it was possible to meet the energy efficiency requirements for LEED.

Whether producing toothpaste or airplane parts or microchips, manufacturing requires process energy, or energy for machines and industrial processes that are separate from the traditional heating, cooling or lighting of a building. Process loads can be anywhere from 60-98% of the annual energy use for an industrial building and are not regulated by ASHRAE, but if you want to achieve LEED certification you must show reduced energy use. This can become a challenge.

Imagine you have a process in your facility that constitutes 80% of the energy load for your building. You want to meet the LEED energy performance prerequisite, but because your machinery isn’t regulated by ASHRAE 90.1 it must be entered as a process (or plug) load in both the baseline and the proposed case. This means that, without process load efficiencies, you only have the remaining 20% of the overall energy use of the building within which to make energy improvements to meet the prerequisite. So, if you’re using the LEED 2009 and the prerequisite is a 10% improvement, this means means you would need a 50% improvement on the base building performance. That might be challenging!

Also, for many industrial facilities, you can’t separate portions of the process from the overall building. For instance, you typically have very large spaces that are built to house your process, not people. Even though the space is “unoccupied,” you need to keep the lights on and the fans running and often need to heat or cool it as well.

And, what if you have a large industrial water heater, a product that is regulated by ASHRAE 90.1? Often a very small portion (less than 5%) of that water is used for your sinks, toilets and showers, but most of it is being used for a pressurized, hot water sanitization wash on your production line. Are you required to separate out which part of the water heater is a part of your building operation versus your manufacturing process? And, is it possible to take credit for efficiency measures on this other 95% of hot water energy consumption?  

In any of these scenarios, it means trying to get the proverbial square peg into a round hole.

The question becomes, “How can LEED reward owners and operators of major industrial facilities that have a huge impact on a global scale for our economies and our environment without diluting the rigor of the rating system?”

That was the question posed by companies like Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Intel, United Technologies, Turner Construction, AECOM and others who wanted to make a major commitment to reducing their environmental footprint and who depend upon the reputation of LEED as the global standard for green building. But, we needed a way that addressed the fundamental functioning of a manufacturing building.

Working with staff at USGBC, the LEED User Group: Industrial Facilities (LUGIF) developed options for Alternative Compliance Paths (ACPs) that were then presented to the LEED Technical Advisory Committees (TAGs) and the LEED Steering Committee (LSC). Several ACPs have been approved for manufacturing facilities thus far.

The first ACP the Group tackled was for LEED-NC EAp2/EAc1 Minimum and Optimized Energy Performance. The achievements of this ACP were two-fold:

  1. It defined alternate means of documenting energy efficiency gains for items not covered by ASHRAE 90.1.
  2. It provided the option to achieve 5% improvement on process load and 10% improvement for the whole building in order to achieve EAp2, but not achieve any points under EAc1.

The alternate approach for process equipment provides projects a roadmap for taking credit for process improvements and efforts not directly assessed under LEED. It also means that project teams can provide the information in a standardized, replicable manner, which makes the LEED review process with GBCI more predictable and streamlined.

Manufacturing is all about excellence in producing a consistent, standardized product. That is is exactly what Procter & Gamble had wanted—a way to do LEED for all of their factories around the world. They now have 12 LEED certified projects on three continents. Through the LEED User Group: Industrial Facilities, we have found a way to make LEED more applicable to manufacturing projects, making it possible for companies like Procter & Gamble to certify projects across their global and diverse portfolios.  

By continuously improving LEED, we have been able to apply and standardize the same level of excellence for facilities around the world, even in countries with less demanding building and energy codes.

Best of all, the companies that manufacture in these LEED certified facilities can tell their customers, stakeholders and employees that their commitment to reducing their environmental footprint is real, reliable, measurable and replicable.

Check out the other articles in our series on the "Five myths of using LEED for manufacturing" and hear from industry experts: 

USGBC Technical Resources

  • LEED-NC EAp2 Minimum Energy Performance ACP for newly constructed buildings or major renovations with more than 60% of unregulated loads. Found under LEED Interpretations ID#10291 and the Interpretations tab of LEED NC EAp2.
  • LEED-EB:O&M EAp2 Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance ACP for existing buildings where manufacturing or industrial processes comprise more than 60% of the total project energy consumption, AND where the project is not eligible for an ENERGY STAR rating. Found under LEED Interpretations ID#10220 and the Interpretations tab of LEED EB:O&M EAp2.
  • LEED BD&C EAc2 On-site Renewable Energy ACP encourages increasing levels of on-site renewable energy while recognizing that facilities with high process loads may not have the physical space available to install adequately-sized systems to support their ongoing energy use. Found under LEED Interpretation ID#10397 and the Interpretations tab of LEED-NC EAc2.