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GI Energy help Walgreens to achieve the first ‘Net-Zero’ store in the US.

From its founding more than a century ago, Walgreen Co. has grown

into a network of neighbourhood stores that offer one-stop shopping for items ranging from lipstick to Lipitor, along with plenty of pantry staples and fresh dairy products for the 75 percent of Americans the company estimates live within five miles of a Walgreens store.

With more than 8,500 locations, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen is also

a good corporate neighbour: It has restored local landmarks in cities like Chicago and New York to house store locations. Now the nation’s largest drug store chain is banking on sustain- ability to curb energy costs.

It isn’t a new endeavor. Two stores have already achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification from the U.S. Green Build- ing Council; 150 stores are using solar power and another uses geothermal energy; its Waxahachie, Texas, distribution centre generates wind energy; 400 locations offer electric vehicle charging stations; and more than half of stores use 25-watt fluorescent lamps, LED cooler and freezer lighting and energy management systems. These efforts are joined by 15 Walgreen distribution centres that have achieved net zero waste, which means revenues from recycling exceed waste expense.

In its most recent sustainability initiative, the new 14,000-square-foot Walgreens store in Evanston, Ill., is a net zero energy facility. Located in a striking glass building, the new store is estimated to use 200,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually while generating 220,000 kilowatt hours. The numbers can vary due to factors such as weather, store operations and systems performance, but “We hope to be net positive — to have a credit from the utility company — at the end of the year,” says Walgreen sustain- ability manager Jamie Meyers.

That’s thanks to wind turbines, solar panels, LED lighting, “daylight harvesting,” advanced shading controls — and a geothermal system 550 feet below ground. The heating and cool- ing solution, designed and installed by GI Energy, is 60 percent more efficient than those at standard Walgreens stores. The system uses the Earth’s constant 54-degree temperature to heat and cool the store: A pump pulls heat from freezers and coolers that is either stored in the ground until need- ed or put right back into the space to heat the building.

Drilling for the ground source field was conducted while the building foundations were being installed, and the new store was constructed on time within Walgreen’s nine-month time- frame.

Achieving net zero was the goal, but not at the expense of providing the expected customer service and amenities that typify Walgreens stores. And while customers might be unaware of the behind-the-scenes energy efforts, they won’t miss the mechanical system on display on the store’s mezzanine level. It’s part of the public outreach that’s important to Walgreen’s sustain- ability education efforts.

The Evanston store also showcases the new “Well Experience” format with features like an enhanced, state- of-the-art pharmacy designed to en- courage greater interaction between pharmacists and customers.

Looking Forward

With the possibility for such savings, will all new stores be built to the same net zero standards? Not exactly, says Patrick Leonard, director with Seattle-based green building and sustain- ability consulting firm Paladino and Co. Instead, Walgreen is developing a LEED Volume program to roll out sustainable stores.

In 2003, PNC Financial Services Group partnered with Paladino and the U.S. Green Building Council to institutionalise the knowledge gained from a number of successful “one- off” bank branch certifications and apply it to their sustainable prototype design. Recognising that they would be consistently producing the same documents for each branch, Paladino helped USGBC develop a streamlined approach to certification that became the LEED Volume program.

LEED Volume entails a planning process and USGBC review prior to deploying the program to buildings that will be certified. This is the fundamental difference from the one-off certification process, says Leonard. “Here most of the activity is at the end of the design and construction phases to document outcomes.”

Paladino is also developing LEED credit approaches, advising recommended prototype design updates and facilitating the review process with USGBC. “Retail leaders in the LEED Volume Program such as Walgreens and PNC Bank have used net zero stores as proof points to tell their sustainability story to customers and as a learning lab to improve their prototype de- sign,” Leonard says.

“Capital construction budgets and schedules in retail real estate typically don’t support innovation on a one- by-each basis, so a net zero store allows the owner and designers to push the envelope and learn what is possible.” “We plan to take ... concepts from

the net zero store and apply them to the volume program, but those ideas will definitely evolve over time as we learn more about the Evanston project,” Meyers says. Once Walgreen receives pre-certification, expected later this year, “We will start with a block of 25 stores, with the goal to make nearly all new stores part of the program, and expect to see the first certified stores approximately nine to 12 months later.”

Consistent Practices

The LEED Volume Program allows portfolio owners to define their approach to LEED certification rather

than treating each certification as completely unique. Applicants do this by pre-certifying an organisational level quality control and education program, which results in consistent program outputs — in this case store- specific documents — which are audited by USGBC.

For a company like Walgreen with a consistent prototype, LEED Volume provides a number of LEED-specific advantages over “one-off” certification, including significantly reduced certification fees and the ability to use company-specific documentation to communicate with USGBC’s review team.

“LEED Volume allows a company like Walgreen to take green stores to market quickly compared to the one- off process, achieve economies of scale that can make the purchase of sustain- able finishes [profitable] and educate staff to implement and communicate sustainable practices to customers,” Leonard says.

It also helps retailers meet municipal or state requirements, he says. In California, for example, retailers are required to address building code requirements like commissioning, green building design and energy code.

All these elements are aligned with LEED, Leonard says. “So the retailer using Volume can confidently approach these requirements on their own terms, knowing they have the quality control process in place to deliver a compliant building without impact to store build schedule or budget.”

“Walgreens is similar to many applicants in their intent to use the pre- certification process to achieve greater consistency of internal quality control processes, roles and responsibilities,” he says. “LEED certified stores will be the yardstick to confirm that the process improvement has been success- fully implemented.”

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