« July 2008 Table of Contents
Case Study: Cutting costs
Retailers turn to energy efficiency in tough economic times
By Lisa Duchene
July 01, 2008
To keep perishable products like seafood cold, refrigeration
units remove heat from the surrounding air, then typically
release it. And as part of a growing trend among supermarkets
to go green, some grocery stores are putting that heat to good
At a PCC Natural Markets store in Redmond, Wash., a
custom-built refrigeration system that chills seafood captures
heat to warm water for hand washing and cleaning and to help
heat the store in winter.
"We're not paying a cent for heating hot water or heating
the building," says George Ostrow, an architect with
Velocipede, a Seattle firm that has been designing PCC stores
for 14 years. "All we're doing is paying for cooling the
PCC's Redmond store opened in May 2006 and in July 2007
attained gold certification under the non-profit U.S. Green
Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design (LEED). The voluntary program sets standards for
high-performance, environmentally sustainable buildings in five
areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy
efficiency, materials and resource selection and
environmental quality. Buildings earn points for various
features and the total number determines the certification
level: certified, silver, gold or platinum.
The 23,000-square-foot Redmond store uses half the energy of
a comparable store, says Ostrow. PCC is building its ninth
location in Edmonds, Wash., which is scheduled to open this
August and is designed to qualify for platinum LEED
LEED-certified supermarkets are an emerging trend. Fifty-six
grocery stores have attained LEED certification: five under new
construction and 51 within existing buildings.
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle opened the first LEED-certified
supermarket in Brunswick, Ohio, in 2004, an 80,000-square-foot
store that uses 30 percent less energy than a conventional
supermarket, with half of its power generated by wind. It
employs skylights and sensors to automatically adjust lights,
and also uses environmentally responsible cleaning products and
water conservation equipment to save an estimated 100,000
gallons of water per year.
In April 2007, Giant Eagle opened a 67,000-square-foot
Market District store in Pittsburgh that was certified silver
under LEED. That store uses 20 percent less energy than a
comparable supermarket and purchases wind power to offset all
of its energy use.
Twenty percent of supermarkets are planning to build a
LEED-certified store in the next five years, according to the
Food Marketing Institute's Facts About Store Development report
released in April.
Another 37.5 p e rcent of retailers plan to
pursue green building initiatives without official
Skyrocketing fuel costs are driving interest in energy
efficiency including green building, according to FMI. U.S.
supermarkets on average use 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity
and 50 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot per
year,according to the U.S. Energy Star program. For the average
supermarket, a 10 percent reduction in energy costs can boost
net profit margins by up to 16 percent and sales per square
foot by $44, according to Energy Star.
Since refrigeration and lighting account for more than 50
percent of total energy use at a typical supermarket, those
areas are great targets for change.
Meijer, a Grand Rapids, Mich., operator of 181 Midwest
stores, opened a LEED-certified store in Allen Park, Mich., in
May 2007. The nine stores Meijer opens this year are all
energy-efficient, says company spokesman Frank Guglielimi.
In Meijer's LEED stores, the refrigeration system chilling
seafood and other products uses non-ozone depleting refrigerant
"Water use is the other LEED measure we focus on," says
Guglielimi. "All water-using equipment includes nozzle
restrictors and aerators. This keeps water use as low as
possible. As far as seafood-handling practices, we offer fresh
fish and frozen fish. We do not thaw frozen fish, therefore, we
do not use water for that purpose."
Hannaford Bros., operator of 164 Northeast supermarkets
based in Scarborough, Maine, broke ground this spring on a
49,000-square-foot store in Augusta, Maine, for which it will
seek platinum LEED certification. Michael Norton, Hannaford's
spokesman, says the store's designers are working on what that
will mean for the seafood department and they are looking to
ice and refrigeration to maximize energy and water use.
Half the power purchased for PCC's Redmond store is in the
form of "green tags" from Puget Sound Energy, says Ostrow,
which uses the revenue to buy renewable power generated from
wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydrogen/fuel cell, ocean
wave or tidal sources, says Ostrow.
Twenty-eight sky lights flood the store with natural light.
Sensors automatically monitor light levels and turn on
artificial lights only when necessary. PCC is also replacing
the fluorescent lighting in its refrigerated cases with
energy-efficient LED lighting that uses one-tenth the energy of
fluorescent and an even smaller fraction of the energy used by
incandescent bulbs, says Ostrow.
The absence of ice is another energy saver in PCC's seafood
departments. Seafood is sold packaged and wrapped on Styrofoam
trays out of self-service cases in all the markets, a longtime
practice of all PCC stores, says Diana Crane, PCC
Prompted by a proposal from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and
City Council President Richard Conlin to ban supermarket foam
containers, PCC is considering alternatives to its Styrofoam
trays made of palm fiber, sugarcane fiber and genetically
modified organism-free corn. Even if the ban fails, PCC will
switch to that packaging for its meat and seafood, says
In its Edmonds store, PCC will collect rainwater and use it
to flush toilets and irrigate landscaping, but that water won't
touch food or people's hands, says Ostrow. "In seafood
departments, functionality and health regulations rule the
Technology exists to filter and sterilize rainwater to make
it safe for food, he says, but that requires expert engineers
found at the water utility, not the supermarket.
"We're grocers. We sell groceries. We don't get fish from
the water department," says Ostrow.
Contributing Editor Lisa Duchene lives in Bellefonte,