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Industrial facilities, which include manufacturing buildings, warehouses, distribution centers and industrial campuses, operate on a much larger scale than homes, office buildings or universities and are vastly more complex. Often operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, industrial facilities are responsible for 30 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption and use an estimated 15,900 million gallons of water per day, roughly 4 percent of total domestic daily water use.

And the cost of this consumption is high—not only in environmental impact, but also on a company’s bottom line. For large-scale manufacturers, energy costs alone can total in the millions per year. Yet, despite the high consumption of resources, a huge opportunity remains for savings and efficiencies through the pursuit of green building practices.

In 2012, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) saw the opportunity to develop LEED specifically to meet the multifaceted needs of industrial facilities and invited corporate sustainability and building professionals within the construction, design, architecture and engineering sectors across the manufacturing industry to join the LEED industrial facilities user group. The goal was to prove the flexibility of the rating system and ensure that LEED is accessible to all industrial facilities that wish to participate in the verification and certification process. Through a peer-led collaborative, user group members receive market-driven feedback, share best practices and ensure that LEED continues to meet the unique design, operations and maintenance requirements for such a unique sector like manufacturing.

The hard work has paid off. Today, there are more than 1,755 LEED-certified industrial facilities worldwide, comprising more than 496 million total square feet, according to the LEED in Motion: Industrial Facilities report. And that number is expected to increase significantly: There are currently more than 2,710 registered industrial facilities totaling nearly 737 million square feet.

Through the pursuit of LEED certification, owners and operators are engaging practical strategies and consistent metrics to help manufacturers see the interwoven variables of their buildings, while becoming more resource-efficient and high performing.

According to a USGBC 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, LEED-certified buildings in the United States are estimated to result in $1.2 billion in energy savings (the equivalent of 23.5 billion kilowatt hours), $149.5 million in water savings, $715.2 million in maintenance savings and $54.2 million in waste savings.

Sustainable manufacturing facilities ensure manufacturers are good stewards for their communities and promote a healthy environment for residents and workers. An economic driver worldwide, manufacturing facilities can be the cornerstone business for entire towns, cities and metro areas, providing not only direct employment, but also creating a ripple effect of commerce throughout the region.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the sector supports 12.33 million U.S. manufacturing workers and an additional 18.5 million U.S. jobs, which is about one in six private sector jobs. In the United States alone, the manufacturing industry contributed $2.1 trillion in gross domestic product in 2014, and for every $1 spent in manufacturing, an additional $1.40 is added to the economy.

Sustainable manufacturers understand the value of pursuing LEED certification to meet the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. By creating a sustainable manufacturing sector, industrial facilities are becoming more resource efficient, which means healthier business units that prioritize human health. This effort is not only good for the occupants, but also for the community as a whole.

Efficient buildings are simply a good business decision and, on the industrial scale, can save owners and operators millions of dollars. 

Rachel Gilbert is media and communications specialist for the U.S. Green Building Council. For more information, email rgilbert@usgbc.org.


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