Intel has opened Fab 32, an Arizona-based plant that it claims "meets the highest environmental standards."

The new plant makes 45nm silicon chips on 300mm wafers, and Intel is seeking certification under a US government-approved green buildings ratings system.

LEED is a green building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council (GBC) that provides a set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction, and requires several months of operating data before certification can be completed.

The rating system promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognising performance in five areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development; water savings; energy efficiency; materials selection; and indoor environmental quality.

There are LEED ratings for a building's lifecycle and for different kinds of buildings, such as retail outlets, schools and campus facilities. Rating systems are being developed for healthcare buildings and laboratories, and buildings such as Fab 32.

We might think of it as a quasi-building equivalent of the EPEAT IT ratings scheme.

The GBC states that the LEED rating scheme was created to transform the built environment to sustainability by providing the building industry with consistent, credible standards for what constitutes a green building. Projects are awarded Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification depending on the number of prerequisites and performance benchmarks within a variety of aspects of their design, construction and operation.

What has helped its progress has been US government approval; it is the green building standard of choice for Federal agencies and US state and local governments nationwide.

The GBC is a non-profit trade association with membership fees. There is no ready access to the list of criteria making up the four certification levels.

A LEED standard for fabrication plants like Fab 32 doesn't exist and Intel is working to have one created using a semiconductor industry consortium called SemiTech.

This is a global industry association serving companies that provide equipment, materials and services used to manufacture semiconductors, displays, nano-scaled structures, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and related technologies.

Intel claims that certification would demonstrate that Fab 32 (pictures here) meets the highest environmental standards and 'reflect Intel's history of commitment to environmental leadership.'

With no actual LEED fab rating system, there is no way of comparing the environmental credentials of Intel's Fab 32 with other chip and wafer manufacturing plants using LEED criteria.