LEED Certification


For years we’ve used the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) green building program as a resource throughout the many expansions of our Chico brewery, although it has not been certified. Our second home in Mills River afforded us the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to responsible building operations and pursue LEED® certification from the beginning.

In June 2016, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was the first production brewery in the US to be LEED® certified, Platinum —the highest level awarded—for its Mills River, North Carolina, brewing facility.

LEED® is a globally recognized rating system for the design and construction of environmentally responsible buildings. The ratings evaluate a large subset of construction factors including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovative designs. By including brewing equipment in energy model calculations, Sierra Nevada took the certification further than any other brewery has before.

Many of the brewery’s design aspects and construction innovations were simply the right thing to do and were part of the plan before we decided to pursue LEED® certification. Having a third party organization verify and validate these efforts is essential in creating a more sustainable built environment and recognizes Sierra Nevada’s founding commitment to environmental stewardship.


  • Alternative transportation considerations – we have provided ample bike parking for both employees and guests and installed two electric vehicle charging stations with preferred parking.
  • Stormwater management – the entire brewery site was designed to collect and manage rain water which is repurposed for irrigation and other non-potable water uses. The collection system utilizes both above- and below-ground cisterns to store water and prevent runoff and sediment loading in the French Broad River with bioswales, sunken gardens, permeable pavement, and a series of plunge pools which slow excess water as it makes its way to the river.
  • A conscious effort was made to reduce our heat island effect (not contributing more heat to our environment than surrounding areas) as well as to reducing light pollution from our facility and the grounds.


  • Potable water use reduction – by using captured rain water to flush toilets and for landscape irrigation, installing low flow toilets and faucets and making highly efficient brewing and kitchen equipment selections, our Mills River brewery has reduced potable water consumption by at least 40% over what a traditional building would have used.
  • Landscaping – although all of the brewery’s landscaping is irrigated by captured rain water, only native and low–water-use plants were used which further reduces water consumption and allows more rain water to be used for other non-potable needs.


  • Optimizing energy performance – in true Sierra Nevada fashion, we pioneered a way to calculate just how energy efficient a brewery can be. Using recent equipment purchases and manufacturer energy calculations, we built a theoretical brewery to derive an energy model of typical energy usage within a brewery our size. We then compared the model brewery to our actual brewery to illustrate how heat recovery and recycling, automation, and process controls can have a significant impact on energy conservation. We estimate that our new brewery will be 49% more efficient than our theoretical brewery.
  • On-Site renewable energy – we have installed nearly 2,200 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of our warehouse and on nine tree-like canopies in the public parking area. Additionally, we use Capstone Microturbine technology to convert methane biogas captured at our on-site wastewater treatment plant into electricity. Between the solar array and the microturbines, we can produce up to one megawatt of AC power for brewery electricity needs, an estimated 32% of the facility’s total electricity needs.
  • Green power – purchased electricity is offset by renewable energy certificates that fund local solar projects through NC GreenPower.


  • Construction waste management – through extensive and ambitious recycling and composting programs during construction, the brewery was able to divert 81% of waste from the landfill.
  • Recycled content – Although all of the timber that was cleared from the site to allow for construction was repurposed into doors, trim and furniture for the brewery, those materials did not count in our total recycled content credit. Eleven percent of the total building material content, by value, was manufactured with recycled materials.
  • Regional materials – throughout the entire construction project, we relied heavily on our local community for building materials and the crews that did the heavy lifting; 21% of the total building materials and products were manufactured and extracted within 500 miles of the project site.


  • Low emitting materials – adhesives, sealants and flooring were all selected to reduce concentrations of chemical contaminants that can damage air quality, human health, productivity and the environment.
  • Controllability of systems – lighting and thermal comfort systems were designed in a way to allow occupants to control their spaces in an energy efficient manner.

The LEED® Certification trademark owned by the U.S. Green Building Council and is used with permission.