One of the first LEED platinum certifications for a warehouse and hemp facility was recently granted to Ecofibre’s hemp processing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky. More remarkably, an exacting design, build, and certification process that would normally take upwards of three years was completed in just 18 months, despite some pandemic-related delays in material deliveries.
This facility breaks new ground in so many respects, but it’s proof that modern design principles, strong teamwork, and a willingness to innovate will always carry the day.
Australia-based Ecofibre’s 50,000-square-foot facility is the first of its kind in Kentucky, a state that has warmly embraced hemp production and processing on the heels of its nationwide approval in the 2018 farm bill.
“Kentucky has exceeded our expectations in every respect, from governmental support for economic development to professional experts like JRA and their teammates who guided us through the entire process,” said Eric Wang, CEO of Ecofibre. “This LEED Platinum facility is a great objective affirmation of our company’s desire to do things the right way economically and environmentally every time.”
According to Ralph Whitley, principal engineer at Shrout Tate Wilson, Ecofibre prioritized LEED and energy efficiency from the team’s first official conversation in February 2019.
“From day one, Eric was talking about the importance of energy efficiency and sustainability, applying it to every decision, ranging from the selection of JRA’s proposed design to the discussion of adopting solar power to offset the load from hemp-specific needs like clean rooms,” said Whitley. “Ecofibre’s enthusiasm for LEED streamlined the decision-making process and allowed us to leverage our energy modeling capabilities effectively and efficiently.”
In pursuit of LEED certification, the Ecofibre facility’s design incorporates a wide array of resource-efficient technologies, ranging from solar panels and nearly 70 light-channeling solar tubes to geothermal and water capture for flushing in the bathrooms. A rigorous building commissioning process led by Paladin Inc. served to further improve efficiency.
“The process of completing any LEED certification is incredibly complex and preparing a building owner to reap its benefits over time requires precise documentation and operating policies,” said Candice Rogers, president, Paladin, Inc. “Done right, LEED becomes a lifestyle of its own, with the upsides of sustainability enjoyed for the long haul.”
The building also won points on the USGBC’s detailed checklist by incorporating into its various finishes an array of fabrics grown, processed, and woven on the premises.
It takes a great team to complete a project like this ahead of schedule in the midst of a global pandemic. While the LEED criteria are rooted in environmental concerns, they ultimately have a great impact on a company’s bottom line. This remarkable project may be the first hemp facility to clear the LEED Platinum hurdle in the U.S., but I’m very confident it won’t be the last.