Mark Yamauchi
LEED AP®
Manager, Environmental Sustainability
Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Feature: Building for the Future


Toyota team members have always been directed by the company’s guiding principles of continuous improvement, known to us as kaizen, and elimination of muda, or elimination of any waste from the process of manufacturing our vehicles. But did you know that our relentless focus on kaizen and eliminating muda extends well beyond our manufacturing operations? We recognize that our building footprint is significant, and our work to minimize and optimize its environmental impacts is, therefore, directed by these same Toyota guiding principles.

As our physical building footprint started increasing in the late 1990’s, we made a concerted effort to apply environmental guidelines and our guiding principles to the way we design, construct and operate our facilities. The goal was to ensure the application of sustainable practices in our projects. This approach was used in 2000 as design began for the former Torrance, California, headquarters campus expansion known as South Campus. This 643,000 square-foot project increased the size of the headquarters campus by 47 percent and, when completed in 2003, was the largest commercial LEED Gold® building in the world. South Campus was also home to what at the time was the largest commercial rooftop solar photovoltaic system as well as many other sustainable features.

Since then, our North American real estate holdings have grown, and several facilities have undergone expansions. During this time, we have continually refined our approach to green building and construction.

So, in 2014, when it was announced that Toyota would be relocating to a new state-of-the-art sustainable campus in Plano, Texas, we were ready to scale up our approach for the new North American Headquarters.

What did we do? We aimed to incorporate the highest levels of sustainable features in all aspects of the new campus. These are the key steps we took as we progressed through designing, constructing and commissioning our new campus:

  • Set project-specific sustainability vision and aspirational goals.
  • Addressed Toyota Motor North America’s four environmental focus areas of Carbon, Water, Materials and Biodiversity.
  • Took an integrated and holistic design and delivery approach to ensure participation from designers, engineers, contractors and user stakeholders at project conception and continually through completion and commissioning.
  • Challenged the project team to be innovative and aspire for leadership in environmental sustainability.
  • Reviewed various third-party certification programs for their best practices and guidance.
  • Used a deductive approach rather than an additive approach to sustainability.
  • Evaluated possibilities and implemented options based on long-term environmental performance and financial value as well as initial cost.
Toyota's North American Headquarters

Our efforts to integrate environmental sustainability into the design and construction of Toyota's North American headquarters campus was recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council with the award of three LEED Platinum® certifications.

For our new headquarters campus, the vision and goals were set at the very beginning. These included visions of being net positive for renewable energy and net positive for water. Net positive means we would generate more electricity than we use and collect more rainwater than the total amount of water we use. In fact, as part of the Request for Proposal process, candidate architectural firms had to describe how their company and their design would address and respond to these visions of net positive. They had to show how closely they could design a campus that moved beyond just minimizing environmental impacts to one that actually would have a positive impact on the Plano community.

Integrated sustainability was incorporated into the very early stages of conceptual design using a deductive approach. This meant that we aimed to leave “no stone unturned” in looking at incorporating sustainable design and systems opportunities. All options were discussed and evaluated from the beginning.

While every option was discussed, not everything made sense for the project. For instance, using a geothermal system to assist the buildings’ cooling system seemed like a good idea to reduce electricity consumption. A good idea, that is, until analysis showed, due to the heavy cooling load imposed by the hot northern Texas summer, the ground temperature would be raised by two degrees!

Wind power in Texas seemed to make sense until we realized the wind turbine blades would be more than 300 feet in diameter and their noise level would not be so neighborly.

Here are a few of the features that we did end up with at the new campus:

  • CARBON – We installed the largest commercial, non-utility solar photovoltaic system in the state of Texas at 8.79 megawatts, which provides about a third of the power needs for the campus.
  • WATER – We installed a rainwater harvesting system that at the time of installation was the largest commercial system in the U.S. The collected rainwater provides water for landscaping irrigation. Additionally, in the buildings, water-efficient fixtures and reuse of gray water to flush lavatories result in substantial conservation of potable water.
  • MATERIALS – We recycled 99 percent of the construction and demolition waste and were the first customer at the first construction and demolition recycling processing facility in northern Texas.
  • BIODIVERSITY – Native North Texas Blackland Prairie species were planted as part of an integrated design that helps to minimize water use, chemical amendments, mowing and trimming, and landscape waste, while simultaneously addressing management of pests and invasive species and promotion of pollinators by design.

Our efforts have been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council with the award of three LEED Platinum® certifications for the campus.

We applied all these same principles to two other construction projects, one in York, Michigan, and one in Georgetown, Kentucky. Both projects are anticipating a high level of LEED® certification. And, many of our dealers have followed our lead. In fact, we have more Toyota/Lexus LEED-certified dealerships than our competitors combined.

The new Toyota supplier center in York, Michigan

The new Toyota supplier center in York, Michigan

The new Toyota Production Engineering and Manufacturing Center

The new Toyota Production Engineering and Manufacturing Center in Georgetown, Kentucky

We’ve learned a great deal from these experiences and we are applying our learning to other projects. We continue to refine our approach to green building, looking for ways to minimize the environmental footprint of our buildings and maximize our positive impacts. Not all projects will pursue LEED certification, but all will aim to incorporate sustainable features to the greatest practical extent.

These actions support Toyota’s Environmental Challenge 2050, which aims to go beyond merely minimizing environmental impact to creating net positive change. We look forward to sharing our green building successes in future reports, including the renovation of our facility at the Port of Long Beach in California that is currently underway.

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