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Finding Manufacturing Sustainability in Urban Areas

The pressure to be green is luring some industrial manufacturers out of the suburban sprawl and back into urban areas, according to a recent report from Cushman and Wakefield.

The availability of Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) credits is renewing interest in urban development. LEED, a voluntary, consensus-based, third-party certification program established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000, is the most commonly used sustainable-building rating system in the United States.

Many companies pursue the LEED certification for buildings, such as their corporate headquarters or warehousing facilities, as way to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and being environmentally responsible. However, there's much work to be done in the area of manufacturing.

The C&W Pursuit of Sustainability Brings Manufacturing Back into Town paper notes:

Since LEED's inception in 2000, the overall number of LEED-related activities (defined as each action, event or project occurring within a building) has grown to 276,295. Less than 1% of those activities are categorized under the use type 'manufacturing'… Based on high-level estimates it seems to be less likely that LEED certification is pursued for a manufacturing facility than for other facility types. Yet it also appears that LEED activity has room to grow, regardless of facility type.

The global business consultant group recommends that “careful consideration should be given not only to how the building is designed, but also to where the building is located” to achieve targeted credits, according to the. The maximum number of credits that can be earned is 100 (with ten incremental bonus credits available, based on regional priorities). C&W found that nearly one-third of all available LEED credits required for Platinum certification–or 30 credits– depends on new property and location attributes not traditionally present in the types of sites where industrial facilities have been previously constructed and housed. These new LEED-credit property and location features include:

  • Development density and community connectivity
  • Access to public transportation
  • Brownfield redevelopment and site suitability
  • On-site renewable energy generation potential and/or access to renewable power

“Organizations are increasingly pursuing sustainability goals for the industrial facilities within their supply chains – and achieving LEED certification for these facilities can be a meaningful differentiator,” said Matt Poreba, Cushman and Wakefield consulting manager and author of the report,

That means companies, who now face a challenge in finding building facilities that best meet their development timelines, budget constraints, and green-friendly criteria.

To address these needs, several cities already have started to promote the return of manufacturing into their communities. Cities such as New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Portland, among others, have joined organizations such as the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) and have regional initiatives underway to bring manufacturing operations back into their city limits.

The potential move back to cities comes with pros and cons from a supply chain and operations side. There are measurable benefits. First, companies will have  access to a larger number of potential employees and talent base. Employees could use public transportation, and there likely would be a wider variety of roads or other ways to get goods in and out of the facility. The downsides could be: overcrowded spaces, higher costs for brownfielding a site instead of greenfielding one, and limited availability of buildings suitable for refurbishment or Leed-credit-attainment potential.

What other kinds of logistics, supply chain, and operational challenges and advantages do you see with bringing factories into city spaces? Tell us in the comments section below.

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