Retail Buys Into Green
Owners and developers seek new ways to cut costs.
When commercial real estate pros think about
energy-efficient buildings, what usually comes to mind are sleek office
properties with state-of-the-art mechanical and structural systems. But office
isn’t the only segment getting into green. Some retail players are buying into
sustainable design’s eco-friendly features as well.
Industry giant Wal-Mart is venturing into energy-efficient
design with two prototype stores in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora,
Colo., as part of a three-year
energy conservation experiment. Some of the stores’ sustainable features include
electricity-generating photovoltaic cells in skylights and radiant floor
heating. The retailer also harnesses wind to power stores and collects
rainwater from parking lots and roofs for landscape maintenance. While Wal-Mart
has not disclosed project costs, the company plans to implement the most
successful of these pilot features into its future stores, according to its Web
While reduced energy costs are the primary reason some retailers
are choosing to go green, research suggests that such features also improve
consumers’ shopping impulses. A study of 108 California big-box stores revealed that allowing
more daylight into stores through skylights increased sales by 40 percent,
according to Heschong Mahone Group, a Sacramento, Calif.-based consulting
company. The analysis concluded that if typical non-skylit stores averaged
sales of $2.00 per square foot, sales might increase up to $2.98 psf with the
addition of skylights.
Lighting offers many retailers a relatively non-intrusive
way to retrofit their properties and save money. For instance, Bloomingdale’s
implemented more than 2,000 sensor-lighting controls and 10,000 lighting
retrofits in 18 stores that resulted in a $600,000 energy savings in 2003,
according to Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Energy Conservation & Supply, an
energy-efficiency consulting company. The retrofits were completed during
nighttime hours to minimize interruptions in the store’s day-to-day operations.
Some supermarket chains also use lighting retrofits to
offset energy consumption costs and remain viable in this intensely competitive
sector. New England chain Shaw’s Supermarkets implemented
a comprehensive energy-monitoring system, including electricity reduction and
lighting retrofits, to significantly reduce energy use and carbon dioxide
emissions, according to a Center for Energy and Climate Solutions study.
A handful of retail owners and developers are taking the
initiative to certify their environmentally friendly stores. A Giant Eagle food
store in Ohio
recently became the first supermarket to achieve the U.S. Green Building
Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification,
according to Retail Traffic. Other retailers that are seeking LEED
certification include Wal-Mart, Target, Williams-Sonoma, Lowe’s, Whole Foods
Market, and Pottery Barn.