Best Buy and AAFES Detail Green Building Plans

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Daylight harvesting, dimmable lighting with ceramic metal-halide high-bay fixtures, white roofs, high-efficiency HVAC units and energy recovery are among the key initiatives in Best Buy’s green building program. Dwayne Shmel, manager of development and architecture for the Ridgefield, Minn.-based consumer electronics chain, offered insights into the program during the Green4Retail (G4R) session, “Building Green From the Ground Up.”

The initiatives, Shmel said, will be incorporated into new builds (currently the company also is exploring how to make existing stores sustainable).

“We build about 100 stores a year,” Shmel said. He added that the plan is to work backward from the scheduled grand-opening date and “identify how we will create a new design and construction process [toward sustainability]. It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

Best Buy’s journey includes an intensive commitment to environmental preservation through recycling. The company initiated a formal grant program last year to extend the reach of its recycling opportunities to more consumers around the country. The program helped to fund about 90 electronics recycling events in 26 states, collecting 3.45 million lbs. to recycle. Through its services and haul-away program, Best Buy has collected more than 111,000 consumer electronics this year and some 300,000 appliances—totaling 77.5 million lbs.

The chain also is focusing its attention on additional conservation programs, with a specific emphasis on its electrical consumption.

“Best Buy is a huge user of energy,” Shmel said, “since we’re operating electronics in-store for long hours.”

The typical 30,000-sq.-ft. store uses 178,704 kilowatt-hours/year of lighting, 240,445 kwh/year of plug load and 148,153 kwh/year of heating and air-conditioning loads, according to Shmel.

“That is why it is so important that we do things like create our own sources of energy,” he explained.

By maximizing the use of daylight in its stores through photovoltaics, the company can decrease its energy drain on the environment.

Water conservation is another priority. The use of low-flow fixtures has allowed the chain to reduce its water consumption by 12,590 gallons per year per store.

Future initiatives include a solar-powered baler and compactor.

Shmel advised attendees to network with industry leaders to discover best practices. He also recommended they provide employee training and education.

“Engage your employees,” he added.

“This [green building] is new for many of us in the development world,” he said.

As to potential obstacles, Shmel told the audience not to forget about system integration and system dependency.

AAFES: Dallas-based Army and Air Force Exchange Stores (AAFES) operates some 34.6 million sq. ft. of facilities, and sustainable practices have the organization’s full attention. Corporate energy manager Ann Scott told attendees at the “Building Green From the Ground Up” session, that AAFES has four projects currently seeking LEED Silver certification.

Currently, AAFES is developing a variety of programs to eliminate energy waste in its facilities and ensure energy-efficient new construction. It has established a Web-based utility tracking system, upgraded its lighting and put a waste-reduction plan in place. It also has implemented an equipment-maintenance schedule.

Scott said her position was created about 18 months ago, when AAFES began to evaluate its energy bills.

“They wondered why the bills were so high,” she explained. “They knew the total dollar amounts, but didn’t know the rate. It’s important that we educate operators about energy rates and maintenance, about spending more up front to gain down-the-road savings.”

The AAFES energy-program model establishes a framework that includes energy management and strategy, energy risk and performance, energy-efficiency initiatives and strategic energy opportunities.

Employee training is a big part of AAFES’ sustainability push, as associates are encouraged to conserve energy at store level.

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