Hormel Pursues Green-Building LEED Certification for Plant

For a new shelf-stable meals plant, Hormel will pursue green-building LEED certification. We’ll follow the plant throughout the process.

By Bob Sperber, Contributing Editor

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It may happen that the Green Building Council might reconsider some of LEED’s requirements, which were never designed for industrial plants. Likely, that consideration will come with innovation points. Additionally, new LEED specifications are in the works for 2009 and may add some flexibility (see sidebar, “LEED Evolves with 2009 Update”).

Pfeil is hesitant to volunteer any premium on the cost of implementing LEED but offers that “It may be 5 percent higher than conventional construction, but only 1 percent higher than standard Hormel construction.”

The same goes for payback. Hormel’s been playing the energy-savings and conservation game aggressively for so many years, Pfeil simply cannot offer a “conventional” benchmark against which to compare the new plant design.

“We are among the first to try to apply the LEED criteria to a manufacturing facility, so we are asking questions that haven’t been asked before,” Pfeil says of his in-house engineers, Gleeson engineers and even equipment vendors. “LEED has opened our eyes to ask more questions and to consider how we might do things differently,” he says.

Having found new innovation opportunities, “there really aren’t a lot of things in this plant that we wouldn't seek to do, even if we weren’t building to LEED standards,” Sayles says.

Pfeil adds, “The ultimate reward isn’t the prize but the process: build the best plant possible; use LEED to spur new ideas; act on what is possible and implement those that make both environmental and business sense. The points will follow.”

Hormel is an early adopter of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. Excepting a few undisclosed certifications, there are few certified plants on record in the food and beverage industry and only one non-beverage plant: Kettle Foods’ 73,000-sq.-ft. potato chip plant in Beloit, Wis., which last September earned LEED Gold certification. The plant filters and reuses 1.65 million gallons of potato wash water; runs high-efficiency equipment; recycles cooking oil into biodiesel and generates wind energy equivalent to 56,000 bags of chips annually.

Most LEED-certified plants are on the beverage side of the industry, where temperatures, daylighting opportunities and all sorts of standards differ from a meat-or-meal production environment. But some construction and engineering cross-pollination can occur as more plants come online with LEED.

For example, PepsiCo’s 950,000-sq.ft. Gatorade facility in Wyetheville, Va., (www.gatorade.com/pdf/LEED_press_release.pdf) has reported significant productivity and efficiency in certifying for LEED-Gold with help from Haskell Co. (www.thehaskellco.com), a Jacksonville, Fla.-based AEC firm. Such improvements tend to crank out more product while using less time and energy.

More food and beverage projects are in the works, though the nature of these projects (plant, office, warehouse) has not been announced. Registrants include Full-bloom Bakery in San Francisco; Mission Foods in Panorama City, Calif.; Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Tasty Baking in Philadelphia.



Food plant operators and others who have faced the challenge of interpreting LEED’s general guidelines for their specific use may get relief in a new version 3.0, or LEED 2009, in January. It appears to both raise the bar for future projects, and lower the barrier to entry by making it easier to translate LEED into more specific needs, like those of the food industry.

Draft proposals are still subject to change, but it appears point thresholds will rise for earning Silver, Gold and Platinum certifications. And some current point-earners, such as a 20 percent reduction in water use, will be stripped-down to prerequisite level as they become commonplace practices. In general, the whole system is aimed at better flexibility.

"We're moving away from having separate categories, so there won't be a LEED for New Construction," says Ashley Katz, spokesperson for the program. Instead, a "bookshelf" system of practices will contain practices across all LEED rating systems that can be combined to better apply to "previously under-served markets” in Green Building Council-speak. This will help LEED to cater to the "the specific project type, location and usage of the building," she adds.

From the current system of 69 points, the proposed revamp uses a 100-point scale with 10 additional "Innovation & Design credits" similar to the present system. But of those 10, four points will be reserved for regional-specific measures that will be determined by local USGBC chapters. For example, a Nevada site might earn special points for meeting a local water-use reduction goal.

For more information, visit the U.S. Green Building Council at www.usgbc.org.

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