Green building

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 site.

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.

Jennifer Norbut

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