The economic downturn has not dimmed retailers’ interest in sustainability. Indeed, more and more chains are applying for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Chain Store Age editor Marianne Wilson spoke with James E. Megerson, VP, Larson Binkley, about some of retailers’ biggest opportunities for savings with regard to going green.
What are retailers’ biggest opportunities for incorporating sustainability into their sites?
Using more renewable or reusable materials and recycling the reusable waste due to construction. An efficient lighting design that maximizes the quality of the light for the watts of power used is also something that is easily accomplished. It takes either a lighting designer and engineer working very close, or a lighting designer that is an engineer and knowledgeable regarding the code and different proven technologies.
Also, water-efficiency fixtures are key. There are very low-flow urinals, dual-flush water closets, faucet aerators, etc., that cost relatively no more than their more inefficient predecessors. Water takes a lot of energy to treat and deliver. Also, we are starting to see water shortages in many parts of the U.S.
Do any opportunities exist with regard to green-related tax deductions/incentives and rebates?
There are a number of tax incentives and utility rebates available, but many retailers don’t know these incentives even exist, and others think they will be a hassle to obtain. There is also a misconception that these options aren’t available if you lease. But in most cases, the incentive goes to the party who paid for the system. It might even be applicable for items that are provided as part of the lease allowance (office space). We have gotten pretty good at finding these options and helping our clients take advantage of them.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was recently extended to 2013 by the current federal administration. It makes up to $1.80/square foot tax deduction available for buildings put in service after 2005 that exceed the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 energy code. The categories of energy savings include building envelope, HVAC and lighting, and options for analyzing the systems and the building in whole, or in part.
Can you help retailers qualify for the above?
Yes. The Energy Policy Act requires a licensed individual to confirm that the building or systems complies with the requirements. Since we have licensed professional engineers in every state except Alaska, it is easy for us to provide these services for nationally focused retailers. We recently helped one of our clients qualify for approximately $9.7 million in deductions resulting in about $3.4 million in reduced taxes.
We have fine-tuned our documentation for this program. Literally, the retailer just needs to have its tax preparer fill out the right form and provide our documentation for backup.
Can you assist retailers that are interested in achieving LEED certification?
Absolutely. Larson Binkley embraced the philosophy of sustainable design very early. We have a number of LEED-accredited engineers and designers on staff, including several in ownership. We are very active in our local USGBC Chapter and actively seek out clients who want to pursue or are just interested in adopting some of the sustainable strategies regardless of LEED certification. We have gotten very proficient in this regard and not only provide MEP Engineering design services, but also commissioning, energy modeling and in some cases LEED consulting.
What distinguishes Larson Binkley?
I hope that our clients see us as innovative and creative. We try not to say, “No way, no how will that ever work.” Instead we look for creative ways to solve problems.
We come from a very practical tool belt-wearing background with several of us owners having spent a good part of our careers in the construction industry. This helps us be better designers and also helps us communicate and collaborate with contractors when there are problems.
Larson Binkley has tried hard to develop a culture based on customer service. We select our project managers very carefully because they are most often the face of the company. They have to be customer service-oriented and very knowledgeable about all facets of our business.
Are you able to assist on multi-state projects?
Most definitely. We have multiple engineers licensed in every state, except Alaska.