LEEDs for All
While Giant Eagle judiciously targets specific new stores for LEED certification, Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y., with about 130 stores, decided two years ago to LEED-certify all of its new supermarkets.
This year, the chain's first three LEED certifications came through for stores in Warwick, N.Y. (gold), Madison, N.Y. (silver) and Colonie, N.Y. (silver), all of them pilot stores for the LEED for Retail (NC) classification. In addition, a store in Middletown, Conn., is under review for LEED NC, as is Price Chopper's corporate headquarters building opened in 2010. Seven other stores under construction or built have been registered with the USGBC for LEED NC certification, some under LEED for Retail.
In selecting a LEED classification, Price Chopper looks at “what is most beneficial from a site development and store format perspective,” said Joseph Berman, environmental certification specialist for the Golub Corp., Price Chopper's corporate name. For its new Saratoga Springs, N.Y., store, the chain chose LEED for New Construction because the store is being certified as part of an apartment building.
On the other hand, going forward, Price Chopper regards LEED for Retail as “the most viable and applicable [designation] for what we're doing,” Berman noted.
In terms of LEED level, Price Chopper will ordinarily seek LEED Certified, unless a particular site is conducive to gaining silver certification, he said. For example, a site's proximity to public transportation or denser population centers would qualify it for a silver certification.
Price Chopper's LEED process is now focused strictly on new store construction (or possibly major renovations), not remodels or existing store improvements. “We want to make certain we have a completely nailed-down approach in our construction platform before we broaden what we do into our existing buildings,” Berman said.
Among the measures Price Chopper is adopting for its LEED stores are: energy-management controls on ovens and refrigeration; T5 high-output fluorescent lights housed in auto-dimming ballasts; domed skylighting that covers 3% of the roof surface; high-efficiency HVAC configurations; ECM motors, LED lighting, anti-sweat heater controls, thermal film and energy-efficient fans in closed dairy and refrigerated cases; secondary-loop carbon dioxide/glycol refrigeration systems (in larger stores); R-30 roof insulation; and low-flow plumbing fixtures. The chain is also purchasing 3.44% of its energy needs in the form of renewable wind power credits, making it one of the Environmental Protection Agency's top 20 U.S. retail purchasers of green power.
In addition, a minimum of 20% (by cost) of the materials used in new construction must be sourced from within a 500-mile radius of the project site; at least 20% must also contain recycled materials. Low-VOC materials are used for carpeting, paint, sealants and wood-composite materials.
Why has Price Chopper embraced LEED? “LEED is the most broadly recognized, widely respected, most comprehensive sustainable building strategy that addresses all elements of the building process,” said Berman. Price Chopper, he added, finds value in using LEED standards — in the form of best practices — to reduce its environmental impact. “This is a benchmark for what we should be doing — and why. It changes the lens through which we perceive building processes.”
Through the LEED program, Price Chopper has seen “significant reductions in energy consumption” — its new stores are between 27% and 33% more energy efficient than comparable new retail stores, said Berman. The chain has also experienced a “significantly reduced material resources impact,” including a 20% to 30% reduction in potable water usage.
William Sweet, Price Chopper's vice president of construction and engineering, views LEED as a “differentiation factor” for the chain, not unlike its introduction of a range of organic products in 2007. “We've made a broad-brush commitment [to sustainability] that a lot of our competitors have not done,” he said.
Price Chopper promotes this differentiation through educational tours, in-store kiosks that report on energy usage, and LEED plaques, and plans to add information on LEED to its website and an upcoming document on social responsibility.
Sweet said that the LEED application and certification process, including commissioning and energy modeling, runs between $70,000 and $100,000. (Price Chopper receives a discount on the LEED process by virtue of being a member of the USGBC.) Berman added that the chain's internal resources, including design, engineering and construction functions, help it avoid the added costs of outsourcing those tasks to third parties. Price Chopper's LEED program also qualifies for incentives from utilities and groups like the New York State Energy, Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The extra building costs for a LEED project, which would have boosted the total by 15% five years ago, now represent a premium of 2% to 3% for Price Chopper, reducing the ROI to about three years, Sweet said. Many of the green LEED features have become standard best practices that “we would [invest in] anyway.”