Manufacturing and industrial facilities operate on a vastly different scale compared to a home, an office building, or even a university campus. Instead, we should compare a factory site or an industrial facility campus to a small city. Intel’s Ocotillo Campus is 682 acres; it’s more than six times the size of Vatican City in Rome or Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The Ocotillo campus is four times the size of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and like a small city it contains multiple buildings: three fabrication plants, three office buildings with cafes, two central utility plants, one sort manufacturing building and one emergency generator building.  

All of these buildings are connected by a complex network of utility infrastructure and thousands of Intel employees moving between office buildings and plants as they perform their daily activities. Because the buildings and the people and the processes are interconnected, we need to think of any single building as a critical component of an entire organism that makes up the campus. 

In the past when manufacturers would consider LEED for their buildings, they would try to separate the commercial office buildings for certification. But consider how people are moving around the campus:

  • One employee may spend a few hours sitting at a desk in the office building, but then he or she probably spends several hours in one of the multiple factory buildings, or monitoring systems in one of the utility buildings. 

LEED is centered around the human experience of a building, which means that if you try to calculate how many humans are impacted by a LEED certified office building on an industrial campus, you’re going to end up doing some funny math to get to the right number of full time employees since very few people spend all of their time in the commercial office space.

It makes much more sense to consider the reality of how people move between buildings and to consider each employee a part of the whole campus. LEED campus guidance was originally created for higher education and office parks, but its application for manufacturing and industrial facilities is the right way to represent the complexity of the buildings and the infrastructure of a site.

Owners and operators of industrial facilities think on an even larger scale—they consider one campus as a part of a local, national or international portfolio of industrial facilities and parts of their supply chain. Aligning LEED with the smallest unit for an owner (an entire campus, not just a single building) pushes the LEED project team to think critically and comprehensively about the policies and best practices that should be implemented at scale. For example, a decision about purchasing green power for a campus or buying a fleet of fuel efficient cars and having designated priority parking spots are two credit options in LEED that can be applied at scale for an industrial facility and that can become standardized across a portfolio of campus projects around the world.

All of this comes down to the power and the potential of the choices we make to affect change on a huge scale. USGBC set out to change the building industry, and LEED is the tool that allows us to holistically measure our success in green building.

When we consider an entire campus project for LEED, we can gain enormous benefits in predictability, streamlining processes, cost savings, standardization, successful implementation and continuous improvement. For me, nowhere is the impact bigger or more meaningful than at the level of the manufacturers who produce the products we use every day, around the world.

The decisions manufacturers make about their buildings and campuses directly impact the market because the decisions made affect global demand on raw materials, building components, energy use, transportation and location. When a leader makes a decision in the industrial sector, that ripple is felt across industries and global economies. If more manufacturers want to make a powerful and meaningful change in their industry and in their communities, LEED is a great vehicle for that opportunity. It’s the tool that helps to elevate the conversation about your building performance, market transformation and the way we can positively impact our society.

 Best of all, this is not a huge leap for this sector because manufactures already think at a global level. What is real for leaders like Colgate Palmolive, United Technologies, Procter & Gamble, Intel and Kohler can be real for the entire industry, and that will make a very big difference to all of us. 

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