New or Old: Fabs Can’t Escape the Continuing LEED Efforts at TI

New or Old: Fabs Can’t Escape the Continuing LEED Efforts at TI

By Russell Hill, Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments (TI) has been awarded LEED Gold certification for its 300mm wafer fab in Richardson, Texas (RFAB). It is the first gold-certified wafer factory and— at 1.1 million square feet including the administration area— the second largest LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) gold-certified project in the world.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is a voluntary U.S. standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. (Read the SEMI EHS Advantage article here for more information).

Working within this framework, RFAB cost TI 30% less to build than its previous fab, and expects to save $4 million per year in operating costs due to sustainable design, including improvements in efficiency. The company is committed to LEED registration for all new projects, and is assessing LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) for all major sites worldwide.

Moving Forward with LEED-NC

TI’s construction team recently submitted its new Assembly and Test (A/T) site in the Philippines (TIPI) for certification. While RFAB’s application was submitted almost entirely by the project’s LEED Accredited Professional, each engineer on the TIPI project was assigned to champion a point category and was responsible for completing submission requirements.

Teaching the LEED system to multiple team members in remote locations and reviewing their submissions for consistency required additional attention at first, but this decentralization tends to be a better approach for LEED. It contributes to the project’s momentum and sense of ownership among the engineers.

However, while working in parallel has its benefits, having a LEED Accredited Professional on the team, although not required, is still important to help ensure consistency and flow in the application.

TI also established a LEED team (the Green Solutions Team). Members each took a section of points (e.g., Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere) and acted as the focal point for questions and clarifications. This approach helped spread project ownership, and the team will function as the clearinghouse for both LEED-New Construction (LEED-NC) and LEED-Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) certification going forward.

Moving On to LEED-EB

TI selected one office building and its 300 mm fab in Dallas as pilot sites for LEED-EB. Although several other sites are eager to get started, the company is taking a measured approach to avoid overextending its resources.

While the two pilot sites have a 2008 timeline to substantially complete their application documentation, the Green Solutions Team is breaking out only the LEED-EB prerequisites for its other sites worldwide. Each non-pilot site will then evaluate only those prerequisites by the end of the year, continuing to move all sites forward.

Initially, TI is seeking only the basic “Certified” level for each site to ensure that company resources are spent wisely, and to get the best efficiency improvements across all sites. Continual improvement will help drive subsequent certifications (LEED-EB requires re-certification at least every five years).

Lessons learned for sites considering LEED-EB:

  • Working with suppliers. Suppliers for cleaning services, cafeterias, pest control and building services (e.g., painting and repairs) can all help earn LEED points with the products they use. Educate suppliers early in the LEED certification process, especially if they have no LEED experience. For those who have experience, be certain you are dealing with the same version of LEED-EB. A new version came out earlier this year— “LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance.” Significant differences exist between this 2008 version and older versions.

      Also, be cautious of claims that a product or service can earn X number of LEED points. Many can contribute to points, but seldom can a single product or service meet the criteria for an entire point.

  • Resource commitment. While TI’s new RFAB proved that LEED need not be costly, LEED-EB tends to require more resources for some points since efficiencies were not built in during design. This is especially challenging if only monetary payback is considered.

      While we must be smart with our resources, the payback from certain energy and environmental projects is difficult to quantify with a simple financial equation. These should be considered on their merits, as we do with diversity and community service activities, and implemented selectively because they are the right thing to do.

      Investments may include motion sensors to turn off lights, CO2 monitors to meet fresh air requirements, and additional metering for utilities such as energy and chilled water. Metering will be an especially challenging consideration for buildings on a campus with interconnected utilities.

  • Focus on energy efficiency. LEED-EB: Operations and Maintenance (OM) is noticeably weighted towards energy efficiency, allowing up to 15 points in this category. However, the LEED criteria for these points are not very well suited to fabs. You must use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR criteria (which does not currently include fab buildings) or one of two similar options. To facilitate LEED certification for fabs, the industry will need to find an alternative agreeable to the U.S. Green Building Council.

      To that end, International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) is working with member companies through its Green Fab Working Group to develop an energy benchmarking tool for fabs and A/T sites. This will likely be an online tool that companies can use to input their own energy performance for ranking with fabs in similar climate zones, as with ENERGY STAR. Sites will need to have a minimum ranking to apply for LEED-EB: OM, as earning two of the possible 15 energy efficiency points is mandatory.

      TI’s fab pilot will apply for LEED-EB using existing benchmarking data that the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has been compiling for several years for more than 30 fabs. This approach isn’t identical to that of LEED, and will require a Credit Interpretation Ruling. With the amount of ranked year-on-year data available, the company believes that it will be acceptable to USGBC. The ISMI tool will likely be complete in 2009.

The Value of LEED

TI understands it may not make sense to attain LEED certification for every major site. Certification fees are $12,500 for a large USGBC member company site. Plus some sites may not meet a prerequisite, or it may be too costly to make the retrofits to achieve Certified level.

But the value of LEED isn't the plaque to hang up in the lobby at each location. The value is in going through the process. Working through the full certification process is valuable for TI’s office and fab pilot projects to ensure there is a solid understanding of each point that can be earned. Lessons learned can be used to ensure that other sites are certifiable to the LEED criteria (or as close to it as possible), if not formally certified. Resources can then be directed towards the areas that can make the biggest additional gains, continually improving each site’s level of sustainability, while balancing people, product, profit, and the planet.

The author wishes to acknowledge Paul Westbrook, Mel Hendricks, and the rest of TI’s Green Solutions Team for their contributions to this article.