Office Depot readies its first green store

April 01, 2008 |
Retailer Office Depot recently broke ground on its first green store, in Austin, Texas. Among the prototype’s sustainable features are a reflective roof, water-efficient taps and toilets, designated parking for hybrid vehicles, and green products. Designed to achieve a LEED Silver rating, the store is one the first prototypes in USGBC’s retail portfolio pilot program.

ffice Depot has broken ground on its first green store, in Austin, Texas. Designed to achieve a LEED Silver rating from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council, the store is one the first prototypes in the USGBC's retail portfolio program, a pilot program that enables owners to submit one LEED application for a portfolio of newly constructed buildings.

Delray Beach, Fla.-based Office Depot is no stranger to green building. In 2004-05, the company did $20 million worth of retrofits in its 1,212 North American stores, bringing in high-efficiency HVAC systems, T5 lighting, and centralized heating and cooling controls.

“We were already doing a lot of green things in our stores, and a few incremental practices in the new store are what put us into what we believe will be LEED Silver,” said Yalmaz Siddiqui, Office Depot's environmental strategy advisor. He says the office supply company is already committed to building at least six more stores based on the prototype, which was designed by SBLM Architects, New York.

Siddiqui listed the following features as contributing to LEED points:

  • Building-integrated features: skylights,a reflective roof, and sustainable features incorporated from the existing store retrofit.

  • Transportation: bicycle racks, maps, and designated parking for hybrid vehicles.

  • Waste reduction: steel decking and joists made of 60-100% recycled steel; 60% recycled-content concrete floors; interior partitions composed of more than 95% recycled materials; tilt-up concrete wall construction to reduce site concrete waste.

  • Water conservation: water-efficient taps and toilets in the restrooms.

  • Green products: office supplies, technology, and furniture from Office Depot's four assortments of products with green benefits such as recycled content, remanufactured components, energy efficiency, and non-toxic chemical use.

  • Green services: environmental solutions for Office Depot customers, including Office Depot's ink and toner cartridge recycling program, computer recycling service, and cell phone and rechargeable battery recycling.

Office Depot plans to open the Austin store this June. While executives would not reveal the cost of the Austin store, they said they expect a two-to-three-year payback on its green features based on previous investments.

“We have an estimated savings of $6 million a year on the energy-efficient investments in the existing stores,” Siddiqui said. “We've already made a payback on that $20 million investment. This one is obviously more extensive, but we can expect a two- to three-year payback based on that experience.”

Office Depot got involved with the portfolio program after meeting with USGBC representatives last year at a conference in Naples, Fla. “They were actively looking for retailers because that's a key part of their goal of 100,000 commercial buildings certified by 2010,” said Edward Costa, Office Depot's VP for construction.

Costa said that many of the chain's stores are “takeovers” of existing buildings. “The USGBC still has not defined how to address existing stores or remodels, so we're taking part in those discussions in the pilot program,” he told BD+C.

Other retailers in the pilot program include Best Buy, Bank of America, Kohl's, Starbucks, Stop & Shop Supermarkets, Toyota Motor Sales, Wachovia, and Wells Fargo Banks. PNC Bank of Pittsburgh has already constructed more than 50 stores based on its 2005 LEED-certified prototype but is not considered a part of the pilot program.

“PNC was the first case study,” said Justin Doak, USGBC retail portfolio manager. “We're taking a lot of what we learned in that certification process and putting it into the pilot. PNC can continue to certify stores based on their prototype but they're technically not in the pilot.”

Doak said USGBC is planning audits of stores in the portfolio program to make sure they are adhering to construction process and design specifications of the prototype.

“We want to do this in a cost-effective way without sacrificing the technical rigor and integrity of LEED,” he said. “We're still defining what the final volume build certification program will be, but it will include audits of future stores.” —Jeff Yoders, Associate Editor

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