Tennessee is famous for its music and Civil War battlefields, but now it has a new claim to fame as the home of the world’s first LEED Platinum certified auto factory, the Volkwagen plant in Chattanooga. The plant manufactures the all-new 2012 Passat, which was recently been named Motor Trend magazine’s 2012 Car of the Year.

What, exactly, makes this factory so green? First, according to Volkswagen, is the fact that it was a brownfield development, constructed in a way as to generate minimal impact on the surrounding environment (and to leave untouched nature untouched). The plant established protected 100-foot-wide creeks and wetlands to create natural habitats for area wildlife.

Volkswagen Chattanooga
image via Volkswagen Chattanooga

Other green features claimed by Volkswagen include a sturdy six inches of mineral rock wool insulation (resulting in “720,000 kilowatts per year energy savings,” according to the company; we’ll assume they mean kilowatt-hours); green power sourced from the local hydroelectric dam’ use of exterior LED lighting (resulting in 68 percent less energy used, as well as a reduction in light pollution), rainwater harvesting and reuse (to flush toilets and cool the welding machines), a white, reflective membrane roof (minimizing heat island effect by up to 50 degrees F), and low-flow water fixtures with no-touch sensors throughout the plant (reducing water usage by 30 percent).

“Our commitment to building a LEED certified factory began in the planning and design stages,” Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said in a statement. “I believe that this not only helped insure that we would achieve Platinum status, but was actually a very cost effective way to implement environmentally responsible building methods.”

Building green in Tennessee appears to be a trend for Volkswagen, as the Volkswagen Academy (managed by Chattanooga State Community College) was also certified by LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. The primary purpose of the Volkswagen Academy is to prepare new employees for work at the Volkswagen plant, though it also offers an industrial technology degree and an apprenticeship program through Chattanooga State and Tennessee Tech.

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