Ontario's Soprema Factory Is LEED Certified and 'Net Positive'

A decade ago this would have been impossible. This is real progress.

Soprema building


It’s counterintuitive to imagine a company that manufactures plastic and foam products for the world would apply for and achieve LEED v4 certification. But that’s exactly what building materials company Soprema has done with its new facilities in Canada, spotlighting how much progress has been made in the past decade.

Québécois architecture firm Lemay recently completed the manufacturing facility for Soprema—founded in 1908 in Strasbourg, France—just 88 miles west of Toronto in Woodstock, Ontario. Lemay claims "these facilities help set new standards with its green building leadership in efficient carbon- and cost-savings, in addition to a focus on employee health and well-being."

Glass wall of building

David Boyer

The building is not only LEED V4 Certified, but Lemay developed its own green standard and applied it to this project.

"Using Lemay’s rigorous, award-winning NET POSITIVETM framework as guidance, the design of this location makes leaps and bounds in Canada by making sustainability a core element of its conception and creation. Following an in-depth lifecycle assessment that measured the facilities capabilities against the next 60 years of operation, SOPREMA’s Woodstock plant achieved a global standard of green building with a LEED v4 certification, an internationally recognized symbol of sustainability excellence from the Canada Green Building Council."

Some might say "leaps and bounds" is somewhat of an exaggeration; the project got 40 LEED points out of 110, which is the minimum to be certified. It's hard when you build a factory out in the country and get 2 out of 20 for location and transportation and 2 out of 10 for sustainable sites. But there is a much more important milestone here.

thats a lot of white plastic roof
That's a lot of white plastic roof.

David Boyer

A decade ago, the plastics industry was trying to kill LEED certification and the U.S. Green Building Council. The American High-Performance Building Coalition was made up of everyone in the plastic building material biz, including the kinds of membranes and insulations that Soprema makes, the white stuff on the roof of their building, and was established to destroy LEED. Joel Makower explained it in 2012 in Green Biz:

"The latest skirmish is over the chemical and plastics industries’ objection to LEED’s proposed fourth-generation standard, known as LEED v4, which originally allowed buildings to score points for avoiding certain chemicals of concern, such as polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. The chemical-plastics industry coalition complained that these are 'arbitrary chemical restrictions' and claims that LEED is 'becoming a tool to punish chemical companies.'"

And here we are, 10 years later, with a company that makes plastic roof membranes and foam insulations, applying for and getting certification under LEED v4. That's actually a very big deal and they deserve great credit for this.

They also bravely published a full life cycle analysis, demonstrating the impact of the Soprema plant on the global warming potential is 12% lower than that of the reference building.

Carbon emissions by category
Comparison of global warming potential (kg of CO2 eq./m2) between the Soprema plant and the reference building.


Soprema also shows where the different phases of the embodied carbon in the building produced the most carbon and provide confirmation of Chris Magwood's thesis that it's the product stages (A1-A3) that matter most. Magwood told Treehugger transport to site and assembly don't amount to much. "They are much less significant than might be expected (3-6% of total emissions), and it's impossible to estimate them accurately," said Magwood.

The differences between those gray bars and blue bars can be difficult to discern. And while it is not exactly leaps and bounds, they are definitely better and going in the right direction—and they are actually trying.

“This plant is not only one of the few industrial projects to have obtained the prestigious LEED v4 certification in Canada, but it also demonstrates that it is possible to create comfortable, sustainable, and inspiring industrial work environments,” said Loïc Angot, Lemay's associate and sustainability practice leader. “In embodying Lemay’s Net PositiveTM approach to create positive impacts for the client, as well as their plant’s users and community, this project transforms the image of Woodstock’s industrial park with the quality of the environment it offers.”

3 aspects of Net Positive
Three aspects of net positive.


Going beyond carbon and LEED, the issues raised by Lemay's net positive initiative are important. Louis T. Lemay writes in the Net Positive Report:

"History shows us that great humanitarian and ecological crises have often been at the origin of great societal transformations. Just as the recent health crisis has fostered experimentation and the implementation of new practices, the climate crisis must become a vector of transformation and innovation. It is time to make a drastic change to our lifestyles, both collectively and individually. Together, we must take up the challenge by quickly adjusting to the urgency of the situation. As design and built-environment professionals, we have a responsibility to improve the quality of life and well-being of people by creating living environments that contribute to saving our planet. By focusing our efforts on three areas—health, environment, and carbon reduction—our NET POSITIVEtm program is focused on tangible ways to mitigate the climate crisis."
Soprema Wellness


The emphasis with the Soprema plant appears to be on the wellness sector of the radar.

soprema angled

David Boyer

The most remarkable thing about this building is the client went for these certifications in the first place. Having covered the LEED wars a decade ago, where the entire future of the U.S. Green Building Council was at stake due to the unrelenting pressure from the plastics industry, here we have a manufacturer of plastic building materials going for LEED and Net Positive certifications. This is true progress.