Since late last year, Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant has been in operation, and the innovative automotive factory was recently awarded<a href="http://inhabitat.com/tag/leed-platinum/" LEED Platinum, making it the FIRST and only automotive manufacturing plant in the world to receive such certification. The new VW Plant is located on a former brownfield which has been rehabilitated, and today the new plant utilizes a whole cadre of green building techniques, such as passive cooling, rain water catchment and storage and energy efficient lighting. The factory has been built upon a site that, not too long ago, was home to the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant and created TNT and other military products that were used in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Moreover, the city of Chattanooga has held close to the title of being one of the most polluted city in the U.S. (since 1969), and is still considered to be the fourth worst city in the U.S. for people with asthma. VW’s choice to build in the town has brought forth much hope in the community, and officials hope that this will be the catalyst needed to create a more sustainable Chattanooga.
The new plant features a number of sustainable systems and tries to use renewable energy when possible. This means keeping the microclimate stable by redirecting two creeks to the borders of the site instead of running right through the middle; using LED night lights that do not emit a lot of light pollution; and dedicating special parking spaces for EPA-rated green vehicles, carpoolers and cyclists. There are also big tanks located around the plant that save rain water for irrigation, toilet water and for use in the cooling towers.
The plant is also well insulated, boasting six-inch insulated walls in some areas — twice as thick as what is standard. Almost 50 percent of the materials used to make the plant were recycled from previous products, and the designers integrated materials that could be reused and recycled should the plant ever shut down.
With the release of a bunch of new hybrid and electric vehicles in the past year, and the recent launch of their Think Blue campaign in 2012, Volkswagen appears to be making a serious effort toward environmental sustainability. We’re happy to see it and can’t wait for electric VW beetle (aka the E-bugster) to become available!