By Carol Radice
Energy efficient, sustainable solutions providing meaningful financial return LEED the way in 2014. What do you get when you combine two 35-foot wind turbines, 850 roof top solar panels with geothermal energy, daylight harvesting and a host other state-of-the-art technologies? A store that can actually produce energy equal to, or greater than it uses. That is the premise behind the latest Walgreen’s store in Evantston, Ill., which opened in late November. Walgreens’ officials say the Chicago Avenue store marks the first time the chain has been able to incorporate so many sustainable technologies together. Shortly after opening, it was given platinum-level certification from the EPA’s GreenChill Program in recognition of its state–of-the-art carbon dioxide refrigeration and air conditioning system. Company officials also expect the store to be awarded a platinum certification from the U. S. Green Building Council’s (U.S.C.B.G.) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. So how do grocers compare to other retailers sustainability achievements? Industry observers say supermarkets tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Although grocers are clearly making progress, Lisa Stanley, vice president of product management for Washington, D.C.-based U.S.G.B.C., says supermarkets have more work to do. “The grocery industry is focused on energy efficiency work, with good reason—they can make a significant impact to the triple bottom line when they embrace energy retrofits for lighting, HVAC and refrigeration equipment,” says Stanley, adding that that is only part of the solution. “It is equally important to reduce heat-island effect by incorporating white roofs and shade trees, purchase sustainable materials, implement green operating procedures and reduce storm water runoff using pervious pavers.” When it comes to site work and material sourcing where the payback is less clear, Stanley says it can be harder to convince retailers to spend the money. “When the ROI is not as tangible as direct dollars saved, such as having a lower-impact site or a building constructed with low-VOC materials that help improve air quality and conditions for the people in the store, it is more difficult to make the case,” she says. While some grocers are looking to improve their existing programs, more are focusing their sustainability efforts on future store design, construction and operations. Patrick Leonard, manager, portfolio services for Seattle-based Paladino and Co., says at the moment the emphasis is on managing and optimizing current systems to reduce energy costs and extend equipment life. “The primary motivator here is reduced operating costs, which have a very tangible impact to the chain’s bottom line in a typically low margin industry,” says Leonard. Increasingly, retailers are paying attention to sustainability measures as they relate to their future builds where they can focus on the whole building rather than per system, he says. Paladino’s research found one of the keys to saving money is determining how to streamline LEED certification and make it easier for the construction team to maximize sustainability and job site efficiency. Leonard’s team discovered that consolidating outsourced energy related services has the potential to save approximately $10,000 per store build against the business-as-usual scenario. Recently, Paladino assisted Safeway in certifying one of its Washington, D.C., stores through the LEED rating system. Leonard calls the certification “the result of a rigorous quality control process that spans design and construction of the store” and it ultimately integrates well with Safeway’s new Lifestyle look and feel. “This store is the ideal venue to highlight the brand’s sustainability credentials directly to customers,” he says. Paladino also worked with ConAgra to develop one of the greenest frozen food manufacturing facilities in the world. Ask any retailer recently involved in trying to make their stores more sustainable and a recurring theme becomes evident—going green sounds great on paper, but balancing this and operational costs is not a job for the faint of heart. Discerning which technology is best for a particular operation and which suppliers can best help nearly amounts to a full-time job for most grocers. Eugene Grzynkowicz, senior project development executive of Pete’s Fresh Market, a 10-store operator in the Chicago area, says his stores only use equipment with a proven energy efficiency track record at previous stores. That means each new store has become more energy efficient than the one before it. For instance, the 62,000-square-foot, suburban Chicago Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., store has installed air curtains, dedicated outdoor air dehumidification, high-efficiency rooftop HVAC units, CO2 refrigeration systems, a green roof and energy recovery equipment, all of which were successfully tested in previous stores. The chemical-free air curtains from Berner International, based in New Castle, Pa., have proven highly effective in eliminating flying insect infiltration through the back entrance and shipping doors, but officials at Pete’s also installed them above the front entrance’s automatic double sliding doors on an entry and exit vestibule in the Oakbrook Terrace store. The air curtains keep indoor and outdoor environments separate by “sealing” the doorways with a strong airstream, and are helping to conserve energy and keeping employees and customers comfortable at check-out during the winter months. Pete’s other green efforts include Air Pear fan systems by Airius, based in Longmont, Colo., refrigeration rack and HVAC refrigerant management with UltraSite Control System by Emerson Climate Technologies, based in St. Louis, cold cathode lighting, shade trees for asphalt coverage, hot water reclaim, sensor light controls and recycled building materials. Here’s a brief look at how other suppliers are helping retailers meet their sustainability initiatives. The right equipment Supplier partner: Alto-Shaam, Menomo-nee Falls, Wis. Alto-Shaam has been providing sustainable solutions to customers for over 50 years. Officials say the company pioneered “Halo-Heat” in the commercial foodservice industry, which made low temperature cooking and safe hot food holding possible. The revolutionary heating technology, which is still in operation today in thousands of retail supermarkets worldwide, provided a multitude of food product related benefits, but at the same time allowed operators to provide consistent, high yield, food safe and high-quality offerings using very little electricity. Additionally, the technology operates outside the restrictions of traditional ventilation systems and officials say that alone provides a significant sustainability cost benefit. Today, Alto-Shaam has expanded its ventless offering to include Combitherm Ovens and Rotisserie Ovens. Alto-Shaam’s Combitherm Oven technology allows operators the ability to reduce overall asset investment through the consolidation of other equipment in order to take advantage of the multi-functional benefits that Combi ovens offer. The EcoSmart trademark badge is worn by most Alto-Shaam product categories where there is both an environmental as well as economical benefit to operators to utilize the technology. Market demand has guided Alto-Shaam to fabricate fixture components specifically for full- and self-service retail food bars. Drop in thermal shelves, heated and refrigerated food wells and the new round soup wells, all utilize “EcoSmart” technology. Cost reductions include construction and installation, ongoing water costs and the elimination of all water related service and maintenance costs. Baby it’s cold outside Retailer: Market of Choice Supplier partner: Berner International, New Castle, Pa. Berner International partnered with Market of Choice, an eight-store family owned chain in Eugene Ore., to install air curtains at the front entrance, a move that Steve Benes, sales manager for Berner, says reduced costs and saved energy while freeing up valuable floor space. An air curtain was selected instead of a vestibule because of its sustainability features, something Market of Choice is known for. The retailer sells power generated from its own solar photovoltaic (PV) electric rooftop system and even composts its own food waste. In addition to back doorways, officials also wanted to install a low profile energy-saving air curtain that would match its modern sliding door front entrances. The air curtains installed at Market of Choice are activated by a limit switch triggered when the door opens and deactivated on a five-second delay setting via Berner’s digital, programmable Intelliswitch controller which controls fans speeds via remote control. According to Berner officials, a properly sized AMCA-certified air curtain can contain approximately 70% to 80% of the surrounding air and return it to the space. They say air curtain payback ranges from one to two years and depends heavily on periodic checks for proper airflow performance. Berner’s air curtains are shipped ready for installation with no field assembly required. Another of Berner’s strengths, adds Benes, is its ability to work with the retailer to achieve the desired architectural look. No sweat Retailer: Kowalski’s Cub Foods, White Bear Lake, Minn. Supplier partner: ControlTec, Moorhead, Minn. ControlTec, a designer and manufacturer of energy management systems for anti-sweat heater controls, recently partnered with Kowalski’s to complete an energy saving project on all of its stores, including the White Bear Lake location. Officials at Kowalski’s say the project fit well with its green initiatives by reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as its commitment to sustainable operations. The project involved installing AS20 smart controllers and sensors on 29 frozen glass display cases and two walk-in coolers. The anti-sweat heaters in the 147 doors, mullions and frames were operating 24/7 year round. “With the new AS20 energy management system monitoring the ambient conditions of each case, those same heaters could operate about 40% of the year without impacting the operations,” says Mark Hanson, ControlTec’s energy manager. Hanson says the 60% reduction in runtime creates significant energy savings and reduced heat load on the compressor rack. “The money saved allowed for a good return on investment and the local electric utility was offering incentives to even make the payback faster (1.5 years),” says Hanson. Since installation, the system has paid for itself and continues to operate with complete control and communication over the Internet. The metrics of the Cub Foods installation as measured and verified by ControlTec for calendar year 2012 include saving 230,154 kWhs or $18,412.26 and 162 metric tons of CO2. “From installation through support, the AS20 anti-sweat control system has provided us the support and technical knowledge for a seamless operation,” says Darren Hines, director of facilities for Kowalski’s. Bright lights Retailer: Stater Bros., San Bernardino, Calif. Supplier partner: GE Lighting, Cleveland Stater Bros., based in San Bernardino, Calif., has a long history of doing right by its customers and the environment. To deepen its commitment to reducing energy usage, the grocery chain recently retrofitted the frozen food cases in nearly all of its stores with GE LED refrigerated display lighting. Stater Bros. switched from fluorescent lighting to GE’s 16-watt Immersion RV40 LED system, which translates to total annual energy and maintenance savings of approximately $570,000. Energy-saving Immersion RV40 LED lighting can help retailers like Stater Bros. slash the operating cost of refrigerated displays while enhancing the visual appeal of vertical cases. By replacing 60-watt fluorescent lamps with GE’s 16-watt LED lighting, Stater Bros. will use 28,444 fewer kilowatt hours (kWh) per store per year, a savings of approximately 4.6 million kWh across the 163 participating stores and equating to about $510,000 in annual savings (based on an $0.11 kWh rate and 17 hours of operation a day). The long-life Immersion RV40 LED lighting system also contributes to an 80% reduction in maintenance costs—totaling nearly $60,000 in savings annually. As an extra benefit, LED lighting generates less heat, which translates to fewer compressor cycles in the food cases for additional indirect energy savings. “We’ve received great feedback from customers and store managers,” says Scott Limbacher, vice president, construction and maintenance at Stater Bros. “Our managers tell us the new lighting is not only energy efficient, it really makes the products pop.” Earth friendly Retailer: Hy-Vee, Urbandale, Iowa Supplier partner: Hussmann Corp., Bridgeton, Miss. When it comes to refrigeration system design, Hussmann believes that there is no one perfect solution and that having a clear understanding of the customer’s underlying goals and objectives will help define the right solution for them. Hussmann worked with Hy-Vee to explore and evaluate several different refrigeration technologies that would help them achieve their three goals. In keeping with their company mission to “Make lives easier, healthier, happier,” the new Hy-Vee Urbandale, Iowa store had to be innovative, energy efficient and minimize its carbon footprint. In the end, Hussmann’s TerraChill CO2 system was selected for its ability to offer medium and low temperatures. Hussmann officials say TerraChill is a natural refrigerant solution that utilizes pumped liquid CO2 as its secondary cooling media and a smaller amount of R404A as its primary refrigerant. “CO2 is not corrosive and will not freeze when operating at low temperature, making it an ideal choice for a full range of temperature applications,” says Travis Lumpkin, senior product leader, refrigeration systems for Hussmann. “By utilizing a natural refrigerant, the TerraChill reduces the HFC charge by more than 65% and lowers Hy-Vee’s carbon footprint.” In combination with high efficiency medium temperature display cases with Hussmann EcoVision doors and EcoShine II LED lights, the store realized an energy savings of more than 23%. Hidden savings of going green Retailer: Fresh Madison Market, Madison, Wis. Supplier: Zero Zone, North Prairie, Wis. Fresh Madison Market outfitted its 14,000-square-foot store with energy efficient Zero Zone Crystal Merchandiser medium temp cases and the Zero Zone T2 low temp, tall cases. Located in the area of the University of Wisconsin—Madison, campus, the store draws upon a very energy-conscious type of shopper, one who demands tangible evidence that retailers are proactive in their sustainability efforts. Not only has the store delivered on that promise by a drastic reduction in energy consumption (up to 84%), but there are other benefits that owner Jeff Maurer has identified from his quest to go green. Carl Petersen, marketing manager for Zero Zone, says that by choosing the Crystal Merchandiser instead of the more common open cases, Maurer’s refrigeration rack size was reduced by three feet in length, requiring 12 tons (or 53%) less medium temp refrigeration. Horsepower requirements were reduced by 16 hp, which also reduced the size of the condenser and associated piping. “All told, these ‘hidden’ benefits of going green saved the store approximately $9,500 on the refrigeration system alone—plus a substantial decrease in installation cost,” says Petersen. The customized refrigeration system utilizes hydronics to recover waste heat from the refrigeration compressors, which is then used to heat the building, negating the need for natural gas or electricty. Maurer is excited about the long-term benefits of working with the energy-efficient Crystal Merchandiser “not only from a sales standpoint and selling more product to the customers, but also on the back side and the savings on energy costs,” he says.