Puerto Rico Pharma Lab First To Earn LEED Platinum

Adhering to green building standards at pharmaceutical facilities is often difficult due to strict sterility requirements, which often use large amounts of water and environmentally harmful chemicals.

In the verdant hills of Yauco, Puerto Rico, however, Germany-based Sartorius Stedim Biotech has overcome these hurdles to become the world’s first biopharmaceutical firm to operate a LEED Platinum-rated manufacturing plant.

The new LEED Platinum-certified plant in Yauco, Puerto Rico. Image via Sartorius Stedim Biotech.

The new LEED Platinum-certified plant in Yauco, Puerto Rico. Image via Sartorius Stedim Biotech.

The Yauco plant, which makes single-use filters and bags used in the production of biopharmaceutical medications, was completed last summer and earned its Platinum cert in late January of this year. During the design process, Sartoirus Stedim officials say special attention was given to conserving energy and reducing water usage by 85 percent, compared to conventional Big Pharma factories.

The new $20 million production complex took approximately one year to build, covering an area of about 55,000 square feet. The facility includes space for two new sterilized “cleanrooms” for filter and bag manufacturing, as well as laboratory and office space.

Sartorius workers in a cleanroom use the filter and bag products made at the Puerto Rican factory. Image via Sartorius Stedim Biotech.

Sartorius workers in a cleanroom use the filter and bag products made at the Puerto Rican factory. Image via Sartorius Stedim Biotech.

To cut down on water use, the plant harvests rainwater on its roof and collects condensate from its HVAC system for use as a coolant in the cleanroom. Gray water is also collected and processed for use as irrigation around the site’s landscaping.

Climate control techniques in the building include the use of special building materials, perforated metal fins and semi-transparent screen walls to provide shade and reduce solar gain in the tropical sun. In addition, a roof-mounted photovoltaic system provides the facility with about 10 percent of its energy needs.

Sartorius Stedim has had a manufacturing presence in the American commonwealth since 1982. The Yauco complex currently employs about 240 people and is one of the three major building projects undertaken by the Sartorius Group over the past year to expand manufacturing capability, the company said in a press release.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.