Jul 18, 2011 • By

We’ve got gold in Georgia

In Social Circle, Georgia, General Mills has identified a way to increase the efficiency of its warehousing and distribution center, while minimizing its footprint on the environment. Officially opened in May 2010, General Mills’ new warehouse in Social Circle is the largest LEED Gold “Industrial” certified building of its type in the United States and the second largest of its kind in the world.

Gold certification is the second highest environmentally friendly rating the Washington D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council awards to new construction.

At first glance – and at eye level – the facility looks like an extra-large suburban office complex. But from the air, it’s breathtakingly large. It could hold 28 football fields, with room to spare.

The 1.5 million-square-foot facility received accolades for its energy efficient features that include a network of retention ponds for onsite irrigation, a sun-reflecting roof designed to reduce cooling costs, low-flow plumbing fixtures and energy-efficient lighting, both inside and out.

But as important as its energy-efficient bells and whistles, is how the distribution center impacts the environment from an operations standpoint.

The facility is strategically located just 10 miles from General Mills’ Covington, Georgia, production facility, which saves on transportation costs and fuel. The facility also uses a transportation management system to optimize the number of products that can fit on one truck, thereby reducing the number of trucks required to ship the same amount of freight.

Pete Smith, a senior project manager who manages General Mills’ capital projects, oversaw the building project.

“Actually, looking at this warehouse, you wouldn’t see much that’s physically different from many other warehouses,” says Pete. “It’s just that the materials and equipment are highly efficient, as are the operations themselves.”

It’s the holistic approach of green building and efficient transportation and operations that makes the Social Circle warehouse project stand out. “Energy efficiency is the right thing to do these days on so many fronts – from a financial perspective, a reputational perspective and an environmental perspective,” Pete says.

The Social Circle distribution center is one of a growing number of General Mills’ LEED-certified buildings.

Our Bassett Creek building in Minneapolis got a “green” light from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2010. The Minneapolis-area building was the first of the company’s buildings to receive LEED certification for an existing structure. Our Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW) joint venture with Nestle also opened a new R&D center in Orbe, Switzerland, that has been tentatively certified as Gold under the LEED standards and is being considered for platinum certification.