Ericsson USA 5G Smart Factory achieves LEED Gold Certification
The facility is the first Ericsson factory globally to achieve the prestigious environmental designation and exemplifies the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
By Bhushan Joshi
Climate change is having devastating effects on the world today. According to NASA and NOAA, 2020 was the second hottest year on record and in 2020, extreme weather events like wildfires and storms cost $95 billion in damages to the US economy and impacted countless lives. The need to act is urgent and time is running out.
Ericsson’s net-zero pledge
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 50 percent between 2020 and 2030, and by another 50 percent each decade thereafter to reach net zero carbon by 2050. For its part, Ericsson as a company has set a goal for operations to be carbon neutral by 2030, meaning that carbon emissions from Ericsson´s fleet vehicles and energy usage from facilities will be net zero by 2030.
A sustainable smart factory
Ericsson’s commitment has been integrated into the design of the 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, which is not only the company’s first highly automated smart factory in the United States, producing 5G and Advanced Antenna System (AAS) radios to accelerate 5G deployments in North America, but also integrates sustainability in all aspects of its building design, construction and operations. Today [April 26, 2021], we are thrilled to announce that the factory has achieved LEED Gold Certification, making it the first Ericsson factory globally to do so.
LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a globally recognized green building rating system and the most widely-used of its kind. To achieve LEED certification, projects need to integrate metrics like energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, as well as stewardship of resources in the building design, construction and operations.
Obtaining LEED Gold Certification, which is usually associated with office and residential buildings rather than factories, was no easy feat. The 300,000 square foot concrete building was originally designed as a fulfillment center, and turning it into a high-performance, automated and sustainable electronics manufacturing facility took a concerted and creative effort. Ericsson’s team examined every possible technology such as fuel cells and microgrids to reach our sustainability goals. The design team also adapted to the realities of the site – for example, rooftop solar would have required major structural upgrades, so bifacial solar panels were used on the ground as well as on a covered parking garage.
Rising to the challenge of designing a sustainable factory
Ericsson invested in high-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems that are designed to enable the factory to operate with up to 24 percent less energy use than comparable buildings, lowering the operational carbon emissions of the factory.
Other highlights of the facility include:
- 40,000-gallon tanks capture and reuse rainwater, resulting in an estimated use of 75 percent less indoor water compared to a similar building
- 98 percent of the construction and demolition waste (i.e. bricks, drywall, plastic, paper and wood) was diverted from the landfill
- An estimated 17 percent of power is produced by on-site solar panels
- The combination of on onsite solar and green-e certified renewable electricity procured from the utility gird means the facility is powered 100 percent by renewable electricity
Digital connectivity is a key to making the 5G smart factory sustainable. Technologies like 5G, IoT, AI and machine learning are all employed to increase production efficiency and reduce resource consumption.
The factory is a standout example of how digitalization can combat climate change by directly reducing carbon emissions 15% by 2030 and indirectly supporting a reduction of 35% through digital transformations in other industries.
We’re proud of the work we’ve done in making the 5G Smart Factory more sustainable, and the LEED Gold certification is an independent third-party recognition of our efforts. We know there’s more to do. Ericsson plans to pursue LEED Zero Carbon certification for the factory by addressing emissions from natural gas, other fuels and employee transportation. Our hope is that the 5G Smart Factory will be a beacon for how manufacturing, the ICT sector and Ericsson can be leaders in the fight against climate change.
The above article originally appeared on the Ericsson website. Facility Executive recently followed up with Ericsson’s Bhushan Joshi about this project.
Please describe the site selection process, and tell us about the existing facility prior to Ericsson building this factory.
Joshi: A few key factors went into selecting the location of the 5G Smart Factory. First, Ericsson wanted the Smart Factory to be located close to the Ericsson Distribution Center, reducing transport distance and carbon emission in our supply chain. Selecting a building that was being constructed helped us drastically reduce the total construction time, enabling the 5G Smart factory to become fully operational faster and reduce our time to market. Finally, we wanted to create synergies by locating the 5G Smart Factory closer to Ericsson’s North American headquarters in Plano, TX.
In your article, you write: “Digital connectivity is key to making the 5G smart factory sustainable.” Did the highly automated nature of the facility present challenges to LEED certification?
Joshi: Actually, the focus on digital connectivity and automation helped us with LEED certification. Ericsson deployed six use cases based on 4G private network that includes energy monitoring and management and environmental (i.e. temperature and humidity) monitoring that helped make the factory more energy efficient. For example, the 4G connected energy monitoring and management solution gathers energy consumption data of all energy appliances in the factory for real-time display and turns off particular appliances based on predetermined rules.
This Lewisville, TX plant opened in early 2020. What impact did the pandemic have on the project schedule or elements of the facility?
Joshi: The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike any challenge we have experienced before. As society came to a grinding halt, network connectivity became profoundly important for all Americans. Ericsson teams across the country have been focused on keeping America connected through the pandemic. The project team at the 5G Smart Factory worked closely with construction teams to implement CDC guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19 on the project site. We implemented strict protocols that included not allowing visitors to the project site and regular temperature checks. All these precautions helped Ericsson complete the project without any significant delays. Also, Ericsson leveraged the Industry 4.0 and rapid technology development capabilities to implement COVID safety protocols, including the ability to inspect for face masks and smart badges that track if employees have been too close for too long. Instead of having technicians fly in from outside the country to fix an issue, we had Ericsson technicians use a HoloLens and get remote guidance to fix problems.
Joshi is Head of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility for Ericsson in Market Area North America. He has been in the energy management and corporate sustainability domain for the last 15 years. Joshi’s experience includes business development, energy management, renewable energy, project management and sustainability strategy development. He has an MBA in Sustainable Business Practices from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.