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Making LEED the Key Element of Green Manufacturing

The dream of high-performing industrial facilities may soon come to life thanks to the efforts of the LEED Manufacturing User Group.

When you think of manufacturing, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it towering smokestacks billowing carbon over gritty train yards? Or perhaps it’s mazes of creaky conveyor belts lurching through miles of metal machines in hulking industrial plants.

While such images may represent common notions of “business as usual” in the sector, there’s a new generation of manufacturers that are now working together to create healthy, efficient, high-performing manufacturing facilities using LEED. In 2012, a number of these organizations formed the LEED Manufacturing User Group, dedicated to sharing resources, expertise and best practices among those committed to applying LEED in the spaces that are the origin of products we interact with every day.

As the world’s premier system for the design, construction and operations of green buildings, LEED’s viability in the manufacturing space is already proven. As of December 2013, there were 738 LEED-certified industrial manufacturing facilities worldwide, representing 195 million square feet, and another 1,335 facilities in the pipeline for certification, representing 343 million square feet. The user group—consisting of CH2M Hill, Colgate Palmolive Co., Intel Corp., Johnson Controls, Kohler, Procter & Gamble, Siemens Industry Inc., URS and UTC Building & Industrial Systems—is devoted to furthering this progress. Group members are working to leverage LEED to help design and build sustainable manufacturing facilities, enhance collaboration between the USGBC and the business community, and integrate LEED into their global sustainability strategies.

Since the group first started meeting in early 2012, it has achieved a number of notable accomplishments. Foremost among these is the development of LEED Alternative Compliance Paths (ACPs) to help address the unique energy needs and uses of manufacturing facilities, which differ from traditional LEED projects in scale, energy profile and district-level integration across large campuses.

In mid-2012, with help from the user group and the Energy & Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group, USGBC introduced a manufacturing-sector ACP for the Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance prerequisite under LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance v2009 (EB:O&M). This ACP specifically takes into account the fact that manufacturing facilities are not eligible for an ENERGY STAR rating (the baseline performance standard referenced in the prerequisite), they have a high amount of process loads contributing to the total project energy consumption, and comparable building data is not available or difficult to obtain. 

Building on this achievement, USGBC introduced a manufacturing-sector ACP for the Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance prerequisite under LEED for New Construction v2009 (LEED-NC) in the fall of 2013. This ACP offers the ability to initially create an energy model that includes all loads (regulated and unregulated) and then focuses separately on reducing the high amount of unregulated loads.

More information on these ACPs is available in the LEED Addenda Database on the USGBC website, Nos. 10220 (EB:O&M) and 10291 (LEED-NC).

The user group was also actively engaged with USGBC in the development of LEED v4, the newest version of the LEED rating system, both before and after its launch in November 2013. Prior to the launch, the group collectively reviewed and commented on LEED v4, providing valuable feedback from a manufacturing perspective and informing credit language. The group also reviewed compliance paths under the new LEED v4 market sector adaptations for warehouses and distribution centers to determine their applicability to the manufacturing sector. Following the launch, the group is working with USGBC on developing a matrix of these available compliance paths for all manufacturing projects to use.

Going forward, the group is working toward the creation of additional ACPs and technical guidance in the areas of process water, onsite renewable energy, and electric vehicle charging stations and electrical scooters. It also created a Campus Subgroup that is working to address the guidance in LEED as it relates to certifying multiple buildings within an industrial campus, including how to apply the Development Density and Community Connectivity credit.

Beyond these immediate and near-term efforts, the user group is looking into the future, aiming to make a long-lasting global impact on the manufacturing sector. Specifically, it is seeking to incentivize industries to standardize their performance metrics, establish baseline performance levels and holistically reduce the environmental impact of products used worldwide. It is also working to engage with manufacturing organizations to share progress and lessons learned, as well as to encourage further participation in the group’s important work.

Participation in the group is available to USGBC Platinum members at no additional cost, and to other organizations at an annual fee. For more information, download the Manufacturing User Group Charter Document from the USGBC website or contact


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