When you think of refrigerated and frozen foods, LEED certification is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, as refrigerated and frozen foods items are processed and packaged in energy-intensive manufacturing plants, there is a great connection.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Washington, D.C., is said to be the world’s most widely used green building rating system. LEED provides a framework for identifying and implementing building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. 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, not to mention industrial water systems that require a great amount of water and energy.

The newest version of the rating system, LEED v4, which launched October 2013, is a sophisticated way of looking at buildings’ systems. It finds synergies that not only reduce impact on a scale unmatched by any previous versions of the rating system, but also does so in manner that makes things more efficient for the teams implementing these projects. 

Energy efficiency. LEED v4 approaches energy from a holistic perspective, addressing energy use reduction, energy-efficient design strategies and renewable energy sources. As manufacturing facilities have large process loads and use their space differently than traditional buildings, LEED v4 has an alternate approach that addresses the fundamental functioning of a manufacturing building. This method rewards owners and operators of major industrial facilities that have a tremendous impact on our global economies and environment without diluting the rigor of the rating system.

Water efficiency. The water efficiency section in LEED v4 is comprised of three major components—indoor water (used by fixtures, appliances and processes, such as cooling), irrigation water and water metering. LEED’s water strategies encourage project teams to take advantage of every opportunity to significantly reduce total water use.

All buildings in. The mission of LEED remains the beneficial transformation of design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings. To that end, a critical part of LEED v4 has been making sure that it is flexible enough to be applicable on a wide scale, not limited by location or building type. From schools to warehouses, commercial offices to hospitals, each space type has unique needs and challenges when using LEED. LEED v4 addresses 21 different market sector adaptations—each reviewed by market leaders either owning, designing or operating those space types—to identify and address the unique needs of warehouses and distribution centers (new and existing), retail (existing), data centers (new and existing) and more.

Manufacturing facilities have unique needs, but green manufacturing is nothing new. In fact, there are more than 1,000 manufacturing and industrial projects that have already achieved LEED certification. Companies like Mars, Unilever and Kraft, to name a few, all use LEED. This work is in large part thanks to a groundbreaking group of Fortune 100 to 500 companies who came together to form the LEED User Group: Industrial Facilities in 2012. Its goals are to establish a collaborative community to identify, share and publicize the best-known methods related to the design, operations and maintenance of green manufacturing facilities.

What’s good for the environment is also good for business, not only in the United States, but also around the world. ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston’s Delhi, La., plant, the first LEED frozen food manufacturing facility in the world, reduced energy use by 44% and cut domestic water usage by 60%. And, a study conducted by Nielsen, “The Sustainability Imperative: New Insights on Consumer Expectations,” found 73% of Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable brands.
Without question, sustainability is a priority for companies and consumers everywhere.