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November 2008
SHORT REPORT

Green Tales From The Field

Architects and designers from Brinker, Chipotle and Starbucks talk frankly about sustainable building design and equipment testing.

By: Janice Cha

Architects and designers from Brinker, Chipotle and Starbucks talk frankly about sustainable building design and equipment testing.

If you've wondered how major chains implement sustainable building designs and equipment—and what their returns are—we have some answers.

Earlier this year facilities designers gathered at the FER MUFES '08 symposium to address topics growing in environmental importance. Panelists Tony Gale, corporate architect for Starbucks Coffee Co.; Rick McCaffrey, v.p. of design and architecture at Brinker Int'l.; and Scott Shippey, design director for Chipotle Mexican Grill, answered questions put forth by sustainable design expert Tony Spata, now of Hyatt Hotels and formerly of Chipman Adams + Defilippis.

Read on for their discussion of solar panels, hot-water heaters, heat recovery, working with LEED designers and much more.

Spata: Was there a conscious decision to embrace sustainability at your companies?

Shippey: At Chipotle it was a natural progression, starting with Founder Steve Ells, a chef who was all about food with integrity. We've always had the philosophy that architecture and buildings should mirror the food: a few things done well, making it better than the sum of its parts. We joined the U.S. Green Building Council in 2002 and became active members in '04.

Gale: Starbucks added me to the team in part to assist company efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. About 80% of our CF as a company comes from the electricity used to operate our stores. Also following that same goal, Starbucks' building program produced what was perhaps the country's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold/Commercial Interiors store in Hillsboro, Ore., in '05.

McCaffrey: We started small, with R-19 walls, R-22 roofs and insulated windows. Then I talked to our CFO about how technology could allow us do a lot more with energy efficiency. The CFO agreed, providing there was payback. We looked at mechanical systems, daylighting programs, and then ran paybacks. That was the beginning of testing demand energy and demand ventilation.

The thing we discovered with solar energy was that there is not enough roof surface [on our restaurants] to make it worthwhile, and even with rebates, the payback would have been more than 10 years.

Spata: How does return on investment fit into your companies' plans?

Gale: Starbucks is looking at a number of green strategies, and we come at them from variety of viewpoints, not only from cost-effectiveness. If they generate some payback, we look at rolling them out to the rest of the company.

In Australia, our stores have dual-flush toilets; that was easy to come up with, easy to execute and had a quick payback. Other strategies that save initial construction cost include using structural insulated panels instead of wood framing, which reduces construction time and limits deforestation. We've got a store in Sheridan, Wyo., that uses these panels for its roof and walls, for example.

Shippey: At Chipotle, our first step in '02, working with Austin Energy, was to build a green store within our typical budget and timeframes. We used better paints, primers, lamps, light bulbs, exhaust systems, and rolled out much of what we learned to all stores. Now we're working with the USGBC and have two projects in their LEED for Retail Pilot Program.

We realized early on it was going to take a lot of hard work. We have also partnered with USGBC, teaching them what a restaurant is. Through all that we learned from our first LEED effort, we think we've cut our time and research for our next LEED store in half.

McCaffrey: It's been a progression at Brinker. For example, we looked at water heaters, critical because a bad heater could shut down a restaurant. We looked for the most efficient units and learned about wireless monitoring of temperatures. Once those monitors were installed, we discovered we were saving 8% to 14% in energy costs. That was the first time we could validate our savings.

Now we have monitors on other pieces of equipment to examine how we're using hot water and electricity. We've got a 20-store test going in different regions of the country to validate energy savings.

Spata: As you migrate toward more sustainable design, who's out there to help you move in this direction?

Gale: Our store concepts are designed within our own design studios where we consider sustainable design elemental to the process. We do a lot of energy modeling as a result. And when you have models on the computer, everyone can give input and develop optional ideas early in the design.

Shippey: If this is something you're passionate about, surround yourself with people who are equally passionate. We use a green-building consultant on the West coast. A year ago when we first got involved with them& they knew nothing about restaurants. But they do now. We had to take them through out stores, give them a crash course in equipment, energy modeling& Now this group is well-versed in restaurants.

McCaffrey: The other people you need are the manufacturers. We've got an energy board that meets once a quarter, and at times we have met as often as once a month. We get together with engineers, architects and manufacturers who know a lot about energy and brainstorm ideas.

Heat recovery is big now; we're looking at how to get manufacturers to include heat recovery in refrigeration or HVAC.

Spata: In seeking a general contractor for your green project, do you go with someone you've worked with before or with a green contractor?

Shippey: For our LEED-NC building in Gurnee, Ill., we emphasized the LEED aspects of the building to the bidding contractors. The numbers that came back were off the charts. So we rebid it, didn't say anything about the project being LEED, and the numbers were far more reasonable.

Gale: Contractors who have LEED professionals on their staffs make life much easier. We separate the bidding so we know what the LEED segment is costing us.

McCaffrey: On a practical note, make sure that your service companies know about the green equipment before you roll it out. Same thing with energy monitoring: Make sure your operators know what you're doing and why before you add it to restaurants. It takes a lot of upfront work before you even get started.

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