clock menu more-arrow no yes

Map: Where to Find Seven Sustainable, Forward-Thinking Factories

View as Map


In many of the world's largest cities, teams of constructions cranes labor to build scores of skyscrapers, a few of which promise to be taller than anything currently standing today. But if you ask many observers to name the most buzzed-about building project in the world, they might sheepishly point not towards the financial district of a world capital, but to a dusty desert site in the aptly named town of Sparks, Nevada. In a state that's America's de facto gaming capital, the new Tesla battery factory being built here is CEO Elon Musk's grand bet on a greener future. Expected to open in early 2016 and produce next-generation car and home batteries, it could revolutionize the automotive and energy industries. A $5 billion, 13.6 million-square-foot behemoth that will produce as much energy as it uses, the facility is part of a wave of sustainable, next-generation manufacturing plants and industrial facilities not only changing construction practices but proving that factories and industrial plants don't always have to mean dirty buildings and pollution.

Read More

1. Method Factory

Copy Link
720 E 111th St
Chicago, IL 60628

A symbol of the soap company’s principles, this facility in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood on the far south side stands as just one of two LEED Platinum manufacturing centers in the country. Powered in part by a row of wind turbines and solar installations over the parking lot, the building also contains the world’s largest urban greenhouse on its roof, expected to produce a million pounds of pesticide-free produce such as bok choy and arugula annually. Formerly the site of a steel mill, this brownfield site, reborn as a symbol of 21st century manufacturing, suggests factories don’t always need to be dirty. [Image by AJ LaTrace]

2. Hero MotoCorp India Factory

Copy Link
Unnamed Road, Neemrana
Rajasthan 301709, India

Designed by William McDonough + Partners, a firm known for its focus on sustainability, this motorcycle plant in an arid region of northeast India called Rajasthan shifts green manufacturing into top gear. The nearly 675,000-square-foot plant challenges expectations of what manufacturing should look like. A rooftop hydroponic garden supplies crops for the employee canteen, and the interior—a relatively open space supported with exterior trusses and lined with biowalls—puts workers on the assembly line in close contact with plants and natural light. More green than gearhead, the airy design and a raft of green features, such as a rooftop solar power and LED lighting, make the “Garden Factory” a more healthy place to work on multiple levels. [Image by William McDonough + Partners]

3. Omega Center for Sustainable Living

Copy Link
150 Lake Dr
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Sure, wastewater filtration won’t draw the same attention as, say, an angular modern home or striking commercial development. But as the first project in the Unites States to ever to achieve both LEED Platinum Status and meet the rigorous Living Building Challenge standards, this plant and classroom may do a lot more than filter dirty water. Developed by BNIM and opened in 2009, the building replicates natural processes, purifying the institute’s water supply via a series of plants, microbes and algae that suck out unwanted minerals and chemicals. While wastewater may not seem like the sexiest case study for sustainability, the plant, which utilizes on-site geothermal and solar power, offers an impressive example of a closed-loop system. And, it’s not alone; the Brightwater Treatment Center near Seattle has such beautiful grounds surrounding the water-treatment facilities, that it often serves as a wedding venues. [Image via BNIM]

4. JST Malaysia

Copy Link
Jalan Tanjung A/3, Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas, 81550 Gelang Patah
Johor, Malaysia

Designed by Japanese architect Ryuichi Ashizawa, this factory extension interweaves Islamic stylistic references with sustainable practices as effortlessly as the vines that scurry up the facade to the green roof. A variety of earth-friendly features, such as the aforementioned green roof, geothermal power and rainwater collection come together in this elegant tower, capped with a woven dome (shown in the adjacent photo) that offers a serene space amid the industrial campus. It's a surprisingly natural extension to a electrical connectors manufacturing facility. [Image via Ryuichi Ashizawa Architecture]

5. Sputnik Engineering Production Facility

Copy Link
Länggasse 85
2504 Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

There’s a certain poetry in sustainable, solar-powered solar panel production. Sputnik, a Swiss company that creates photovoltaic inverters, a key part of solar installations, opened a facility a few years ago that, for the most part, run on energy provided by a photovoltaic systems installed on the building’s roof. The horizontally-aligned structure, which looks like a old Dieter Rams appliance sketch, was built quickly utilizing prefab wooden, concrete and steel pieces. And other, similarly sustainable structures are in the works (in addition to Tesla): Alevo plans to transform an old cigarette manufacturing plant in Concord, North Carolina, into a battery-making facility for wind turbines. [Image via Hansueli Schärer]

6. BC Passive House Factory

Copy Link
Artisan Rd, Mount Currie
BC V0N 2K0, Canada

While this demo project and working factory for a passive house manufacturing company can’t claim to be passive itself, it does provide a showroom for the beauty that’s possible when building with British Columbia timber. Constructed in a little more than a week, the facility, with a striking facade of sustainably harvested slats of Douglas Fir, demonstrates what’s possible with cross-laminated timber construction, a technique been utilized around the globe to build taller and taller wooden buildings. If any group should lead the way in green building, it should probably be the construction industry. [Photo via Hemsworth Architecture]

7. New Orleans BioInnovation Center

Copy Link
1441 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70112

While many of the factories and manufacturing plants on this list require a massive amount of power to run, research labs actually run up surprisingly high electric bills, due to the need for more precisely controlled climates indoors. This award-winning biolab and startup center by local firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple offers a better home to high-tech companies by looking backwards, architecturally speaking. The covered roof, courtyard and slatted design were all lifted from vernacular architecture, helping cool the building during New Orleans’s sweltering summers and reducing the power usage by 67 percent compared to comparable structures. [Image by Will Crocker]

1. Method Factory

720 E 111th St, Chicago, IL 60628

A symbol of the soap company’s principles, this facility in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood on the far south side stands as just one of two LEED Platinum manufacturing centers in the country. Powered in part by a row of wind turbines and solar installations over the parking lot, the building also contains the world’s largest urban greenhouse on its roof, expected to produce a million pounds of pesticide-free produce such as bok choy and arugula annually. Formerly the site of a steel mill, this brownfield site, reborn as a symbol of 21st century manufacturing, suggests factories don’t always need to be dirty. [Image by AJ LaTrace]

720 E 111th St
Chicago, IL 60628

2. Hero MotoCorp India Factory

Unnamed Road, Neemrana, Rajasthan 301709, India

Designed by William McDonough + Partners, a firm known for its focus on sustainability, this motorcycle plant in an arid region of northeast India called Rajasthan shifts green manufacturing into top gear. The nearly 675,000-square-foot plant challenges expectations of what manufacturing should look like. A rooftop hydroponic garden supplies crops for the employee canteen, and the interior—a relatively open space supported with exterior trusses and lined with biowalls—puts workers on the assembly line in close contact with plants and natural light. More green than gearhead, the airy design and a raft of green features, such as a rooftop solar power and LED lighting, make the “Garden Factory” a more healthy place to work on multiple levels. [Image by William McDonough + Partners]

Unnamed Road, Neemrana
Rajasthan 301709, India

3. Omega Center for Sustainable Living

150 Lake Dr, Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Sure, wastewater filtration won’t draw the same attention as, say, an angular modern home or striking commercial development. But as the first project in the Unites States to ever to achieve both LEED Platinum Status and meet the rigorous Living Building Challenge standards, this plant and classroom may do a lot more than filter dirty water. Developed by BNIM and opened in 2009, the building replicates natural processes, purifying the institute’s water supply via a series of plants, microbes and algae that suck out unwanted minerals and chemicals. While wastewater may not seem like the sexiest case study for sustainability, the plant, which utilizes on-site geothermal and solar power, offers an impressive example of a closed-loop system. And, it’s not alone; the Brightwater Treatment Center near Seattle has such beautiful grounds surrounding the water-treatment facilities, that it often serves as a wedding venues. [Image via BNIM]

150 Lake Dr
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

4. JST Malaysia

Jalan Tanjung A/3, Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas, 81550 Gelang Patah, Johor, Malaysia

Designed by Japanese architect Ryuichi Ashizawa, this factory extension interweaves Islamic stylistic references with sustainable practices as effortlessly as the vines that scurry up the facade to the green roof. A variety of earth-friendly features, such as the aforementioned green roof, geothermal power and rainwater collection come together in this elegant tower, capped with a woven dome (shown in the adjacent photo) that offers a serene space amid the industrial campus. It's a surprisingly natural extension to a electrical connectors manufacturing facility. [Image via Ryuichi Ashizawa Architecture]

Jalan Tanjung A/3, Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas, 81550 Gelang Patah
Johor, Malaysia

5. Sputnik Engineering Production Facility

Länggasse 85, 2504 Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

There’s a certain poetry in sustainable, solar-powered solar panel production. Sputnik, a Swiss company that creates photovoltaic inverters, a key part of solar installations, opened a facility a few years ago that, for the most part, run on energy provided by a photovoltaic systems installed on the building’s roof. The horizontally-aligned structure, which looks like a old Dieter Rams appliance sketch, was built quickly utilizing prefab wooden, concrete and steel pieces. And other, similarly sustainable structures are in the works (in addition to Tesla): Alevo plans to transform an old cigarette manufacturing plant in Concord, North Carolina, into a battery-making facility for wind turbines. [Image via Hansueli Schärer]

Länggasse 85
2504 Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

6. BC Passive House Factory

Artisan Rd, Mount Currie, BC V0N 2K0, Canada

While this demo project and working factory for a passive house manufacturing company can’t claim to be passive itself, it does provide a showroom for the beauty that’s possible when building with British Columbia timber. Constructed in a little more than a week, the facility, with a striking facade of sustainably harvested slats of Douglas Fir, demonstrates what’s possible with cross-laminated timber construction, a technique been utilized around the globe to build taller and taller wooden buildings. If any group should lead the way in green building, it should probably be the construction industry. [Photo via Hemsworth Architecture]

Artisan Rd, Mount Currie
BC V0N 2K0, Canada

7. New Orleans BioInnovation Center

1441 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70112

While many of the factories and manufacturing plants on this list require a massive amount of power to run, research labs actually run up surprisingly high electric bills, due to the need for more precisely controlled climates indoors. This award-winning biolab and startup center by local firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple offers a better home to high-tech companies by looking backwards, architecturally speaking. The covered roof, courtyard and slatted design were all lifted from vernacular architecture, helping cool the building during New Orleans’s sweltering summers and reducing the power usage by 67 percent compared to comparable structures. [Image by Will Crocker]

1441 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70112