Eco Friendly Big-Box: A Dream or Possibility

shopping-cart-globe.jpgCan large retail chains help lead the way in green building? LEED certified (Leadership in energy and environmental design) retail stores currently account for only 6% of the LEED certified projects. The recent collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Counsel (USGBC) and national retail chains indicates that change is on the horizon with the USGBC Portfolio Program.

Many large retail stores have very similar stores from city to city. Designing a LEED certified prototype store that is then replicating across the country is a great way to quickly implement large-scope green building programs in a cost effective manner.

“Being green often makes business sense, but it’s the idea of being more sustainable that is really motivating us, because it’s a part of our core values,” said Brenda Mathison, Best Buy’s director of environmental affairs. “The reality is that 60 percent of all energy use in the United States comes from commercial buildings, and we decided to take action on that.”

Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Kohl’s are all participating in the USGBC Portfolio Program.

“To gain even further traction on CO2 reductions, we are piloting our USGBC Portfolio Program, introduced last year, with organizations all over the nation, an effort that will begin an amazing transformation of the built environment and spike our immediate and measurable impacts,” said USGBC President S. Richard Fedrizzi. “The Portfolio Program is a significant way to compress the period of time needed for certification, meaning we’ll have more LEED buildings out there performing at top levels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The USGBC Portfolio Program will have some challenges to overcome. There is concern that an effective retail store design in one climate might not be suitable for another climate. For example, a solar system in Phoenix may produce a lot of electricity, while the same sized system in Seattle would generate much less electricity. Regional building codes may present a challenge in some areas that make certain design features hard to implement.

Regardless of potential problems, the USGBC Portfolio Program is a leap in the right direction for retail stores. It is anticipated that the LEED certified stores will consume 1/3 less energy. Many stores will help reduce the heat island effect with parking lot and roof design or reduce water consumption.

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