General Motors is pioneering several environmental practices in its construction of a new engine plant in Joinville in southern Brazil, scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2012. These sustainable features are expected to accredit the plant for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

A plant of “firsts” for the Brazilian auto industry, it will use a solar energy system, introduce the first water recycling process using reverse osmosis and employ a new way of treating sewage and wastewater by a wetland process. It will also be the first GM landfill-free plant in the country.

“We are one of the first companies in Brazil to push environmental innovation into the manufacturing space,” said Grace Lieblein, president of GM do Brasil. “Sustainability is in the DNA of our company, and we are incorporating environmental features into our facilities from the ground up.”

The new facility will be packed with sustainable features including:

  • Solar energy to power the plant’s lighting on the manufacturing floors and administrative offices – an amount equal to the energy consumption of 285 Brazilian homes.
  • Solar energy to heat 15,000 liters of water per year – equal to the consumption of 750 people.
  • Reverse osmosis, a membrane technology filtration system, to produce purified water for drinking and industrial purposes – enough to supply all the tap water used in the plant, saving 22 million liters of water per year.
  • Sewage treatment with filtering gardens instead of chemicals, saving electricity and avoiding 3.6 tons of CO2 per year.
  • Water conservation through use of rainwater to flush toilets and installing low-flow, sensor-based faucets.
  • Waste reduction through use of local materials, certified wood and recycled content in the construction of the facility. The site will recycle and compost food waste.
  • Biodiversity through the planting of 720 native trees on the property.

Local GM leaders also will encourage the use of public transportation and bicycles, and include a parking lot designated solely for FlexFuel vehicles.

If successful in securing LEED status, it will join GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan and its China Headquarters in Shanghai in earning the distinction.

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