General Motors’ engine plant in Joinville, Brazil has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

GM said this plant is the first automotive plant in South America to become LEED Gold certified, the result of investments in sustainability when construction began two years ago.

The Joinville facility is the sixth GM LEED-certified facility, with others being located in China and the United States.

“The environmental performance of this plant has been on our minds since day one of construction,” said Santiago Chamorro, president, General Motors do Brasil. “This operation embodies GM’s outlook on integrating sustainability into every decision we make – from building efficient facilities to designing efficient vehicles.”

A 350 kilowatt solar array powers plant-floor and office lighting declared GM, avoiding 10.5 tons of CO2 – the equivalent of energy consumed by 220 homes in Brazil annually. The solar power is also used to heat 15,000 liters of water per day, reducing natural gas costs and avoiding 17.6 tons of CO2 emissions annually. It is the first solar energy system in the Brazilian automotive industry.

The plant also uses reverse osmosis – a process that pushes water through a filter to eliminate particles – to filter water from recycled treated wastewater for toilet flushing and industrial uses such as cooling towers. Per GM, the plant saves the equivalent of nine Olympic-sized swimming pools – 22.9 million liters per year. It’s the first application of its kind at an automotive facility.

“Joinville’s environmental activity is aligned with everything we stand for as a company,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. “From the use of solar power to water conservation, this is how we want all of our facilities to aspire to operate.”

GM added its Brazil operations s reduced water consumption per vehicle produced from 2005 to 2013 by 58 percent and energy use by 36 percent per vehicle produced. During the same time period, non-recyclable waste – kilograms per vehicle produced – was reduced by 76 percent. In 2013, all Brazil sites combined composted more than 1,500 tons of organic waste from facility cafeterias.

The Joinville plant is working to achieve landfill-free status, under which no waste from daily operations would be sent to landfill, per GM. When certified, it would join six other South America facilities and more than 100 total GM global facilities to have earned this designation. The company said it is well on its way to its commitment of 125 landfill-free facilities by 2020.