General Motors has been touting its commitment to the environment for a little while now, and yesterday said it intends to build its third LEED-Certified assembly plant, this one being in Brazil.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an independent third-party certification standard by the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Brazilian GM engine plant will have to qualify by showing its new construction is sufficiently sustainable.
To do so will mean employing best practices including:
• Solar energy to power the plant’s lighting on the manufacturing floors and administrative offices – an amount equal to the energy consumption of 285 Brazilian homes. It will avoid 10 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
• Solar energy to heat 15,000 liters of water per year – equal to the consumption of 750 people. The system will reduce natural gas costs and avoid 17.6 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
• Reverse osmosis, a membrane technology filtration system, to produce purified water for drinking and industrial purposes – enough to supply all the tap water used in the plant, saving 22 million liters of water per year.
• Sewage treatment with filtering gardens instead of chemicals, saving electricity and avoiding 3.6 tons of CO2 per year. The gardens are integrated into the landscape and use vegetation adapted to the site.
• Water conservation through use of rainwater to flush toilets and installing low-flow, sensor-based faucets.
• Waste reduction through use of local materials, certified wood and recycled content in the construction of the facility. The site will recycle and compost food waste.
• Biodiversity through the planting of 720 native trees on the property.
GM says the solar system will be a “first” in the Brazilian auto industry as will be the introduction of reverse osmosis water recycling and so will be the on-site wetlands utilized for sewage and wastewater treatment.
“We are one of the first companies in Brazil to push environmental innovation into the manufacturing space,” said Grace Lieblein, president of GM do Brasil. “Sustainability is in the DNA of our company, and we are incorporating environmental features into our facilities from the ground up.”
If GM is granted the LEED status for the plant scheduled to open by the end of this year, it will join GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan and its China Headquarters in Shanghai in earning the distinction.
It will soon also be joined by a transmission plant that GM says will employ similar sustainable initiatives, and scheduled to open in 2014.
Combined investment for the two sustainable Brazilian plants is $513 million (over 1 billion BRL).