ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., said its Lamb Westonsweet potato processing plant in Delhi, La., is the first frozen food manufacturing facility to earn a LEED Platinum certification from U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Officials said a platinum designation is the highest distinction available to green buildings.

ConAgra said the plant began operations in September 2010 and processes sweet potatoes from Louisiana and the surrounding states.

“We had an opportunity to build something from scratch and set out to build a great sustainable plant because it was right for the business and who we are as a company,” said Rick Martin, Lamb Weston's vice president for manufacturing. “We’ve been producing quality sweet potato products for the past 10 years, which allowed us to bring the best of what we’ve learned during this time to the design and construction of the Delhi plant.”

USGBC's LEED evaluation criteria consider sustainable sites (protecting the environment), water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and the innovation and design process.

Here are several features at Lamb Weston's LEED Platinum plant:

•The entire plant is climate controlled to increase worker productivity, safety and comfort, officials said. Climate control in such a hot, humid environment reduces condensation build up and water on the floors, reducing slip and fall and hazards. Materials, such as low VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpeting, cleaning products and paints, are used inside the plant to reduce occupant exposure to airborne pollutants.

•Energy-saving equipment is projected to save 40 percent of the annual energy consumed at a comparable plant. By identifying and recovering potential wasted energy within the building systems and processes, energy demand is greatly reduced.

•Biogas, produced by treating process waste water, is piped back to the plant boilers to produce steam. This process is expected to offset approximately 20 percent of the annual natural gas demand of the plant, and prevents methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere.

•More than 100 acres of the property will be maintained as open space, including protected wetland areas, ponds and restored native vegetation. Water is conserved outside the building by landscaping with native plant species that require no irrigation once established.

•Priority parking is given to low-emission, fuel efficient vehicles.

Project partners includedFisher & Sons Design/Build, Burlington, Wash., andPaladino and Company, a Seattle-based sustainability and green building consulting firm.

“We are proud to have worked alongside the team at ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston to bring this project from the drawing board to a reality,” said Jerome Fisher, Fisher Companies' CEO. “The Delhi plant was our first project incorporating LEED design and building strategies. We pride ourselves on excellence and look forward to applying the experience and knowledge gained on this project for future projects.”

“This LEED Platinum rating is really the icing on the cake for a well-designed sustainable project,” said Patrick Leonard, green building consultant, LEED AP, Paladino and Company. “LEED was used as a back check to validate the sustainable strategies implemented during design and construction. The Platinum rating is the positive outcome of our team’s focus on balancing the project’s impacts to the planet, employees and the community, and Lamb Weston’s bottom line.”