In the Spotlight: Walgreens Net Zero Energy Store
Walgreens provided an up-close look at its new location in Evanston, Ill. — distinguished as the nation’s first net zero energy store — during a super-session at this year’s SPECS conference. Initial engineering estimates — which can vary due to the weather, store operations, systems performance and other factors — indicate that the store will use 200,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity while generating 220,000 kilowatt hours per year.
“Our goal is for the store to generate more energy than it uses,” said Jamie Meyers, manager of sustainability, Walgreens, Deerfield, Ill.
Speaking at the session, “An Industry First: Walgreens’ Net Zero Energy Store,” Meyers told attendees that the drug store chain had previously used or experimented with many of the technologies deployed in the net zero energy store. But Evanston marked the first time the chain had put them all under one roof.
“We want to learn as much as we can from this store, and share what we learn,” Meyers said. “We’re going to analyze everything.”
The store, which opened in November, is a replacement for an old Walgreens that was built on the same site. When the Walgreens team decided to go ahead with the net zero energy project, the Evanston locale proved ideal as the town is very progressive when it comes to green building, Meyers explained.
“The original store was scheduled to be knocked down, which meant we had less than 14 months to design, knock down [the old store] and build the new store,” he added.
One of the first things Meyers and his team did was bring in a solar developer. (Solar is the primary renewable energy source for the store.) “We covered the building with solar panels in order to maximize solar production,” he said. “We even put a canopy over the pharmacy drive-though.”
To help maximize daylighting, the roof plane of the building was broken up into four planes, with each plane facing directly south. Windows were placed in between the planes. And to provide as much roof space as possible for the solar panels (there are nearly 850 in all), all the major equipment is housed in a mechanical mezzanine that is open to public view.
Other elements that contribute to the building’s energy efficiency include the use of directional LED lighting, a geothermal system burrowed 550 ft. into the ground and a high-efficiency curtain wall system. The store also utilizes carbon dioxide refrigerant for refrigeration equipment as well as heating and cooling. The system uses a geothermal carbon dioxide heat pump to capture heat generated by the store’s refrigeration systems, with the hot air used for heating.
“We are recovering 100% of our refrigeration load,” Meyers said.
A large energy monitor is prominently located upfront, next to the cash register.
“It shows how we are doing with regard to energy production and consumption,” Meyers said.
Meyers noted that the store opened just before what would turn out to be the Chicago area’s third coldest winter on record since 1884. While the extreme cold forced the store to run at maximum capacity, it has performed well considering the harsh conditions.
In the few months since the store opened, Meyers said the biggest surprise has been the number of people, ranging from other retailers to customers to local school groups, that want to tour it.
“It’s generating a lot of interest,” Meyers said.
More than an actual store prototype, the Evanston store will serve as a testing ground, allowing Walgreens to determine what technology it can take and apply to new and existing locations. For example, it has already started rolling out LEDs to all new stores, inside and out, across the United States.
“We want to use the Evanston store as a model for what we do going forward,” Meyers said. “The real payback will be when we take the technology and apply it back to our footprint.”
It will take a full year of operation to get an accurate read on the store’s net zero energy status, but Meyers is optimistic based on its early performance.
“We are trending toward net zero for the year,” he said. “But we still have a lot of work to do. We are learning every day.”
SPECS: Focus on the Future
All eyes were on Texas as Chain Store Age’s SPECS conference celebrated its 50th annual show with an opening keynote by President George W. Bush. The 43rd president of the United States, who participated in a discussion moderated by Walgreens president and CEO Gregory Wasson, was given a standing ovation by attendees.
The appearance by President George W. Bush was a highlight of the show, which was held at the Gaylord Texan Hotel, Grapevine, Texas. Attendance at the event, which is targeted to retail and restaurant professionals, architects and other specifiers involved in store design, planning, construction and facilities management, was up 25% over last year.
The show combined dynamic keynote presentations with quality workshop sessions and a lively exhibit floor showcasing the latest in store planning/design, construction and facilities products and services.
The educational program was designed to identify key trends and provide insights and innovative solutions to help attendees give their companies a competitive advantage now and in the years to come. In an acknowledgement of technology’s increasingly important role in store development and facilities, the program included a series of tech boot camps, which offered attendees hands-on knowledge of new and cutting-edge on-the-job technologies and solutions and social media tools.
SPECS offered plenty of business networking opportunities, on and off the exhibit floor. There were planned meetings during the annual SPECS Exhibitor/Retailer Face-to-Face Information Exchange, which provided the ideal forum for retailers to discuss business needs with suppliers in a direct, time-efficient manner. And there were informal meetings during workshop sessions, breaks, meals and evening receptions. Indeed, business partnering, long the hallmark SPECS, was the centerpiece of the 50th show.
The 51st annual SPECS conference will be March 15-18, 2015, at the Sands Expo at Venetian/Palazzo, Las Vegas. Look for updates on specsshow.com.
Real estate is a complex issue no matter what industry you’re in. For retailers, who typically operate on slim margins and are generally the first industry to feel the effects of variations in consumer spending, navigating the tricky waters of real estate can be especially challenging.
Fortunately, there are a number of expert solution and service providers that specialize in aiding retailers in the development and execution of effective real estate strategies. The companies listed below all offer invaluable assistance to retailers in different areas of real estate management, taking the uncertainty and confusion out of a process where there is little room for error.
A&G Realty Partners
A&G Realty Partners, a commercial real estate advisory and investment group, brings experience, capital and decades of established and trusted relationships. A&G offers a comprehensive set of services that address both common and complex industry issues in today’s marketplace and combine both capital and expert strategic guidance through the entire real estate cycle. A&G is recognized for the creative solutions it applies across a broad spectrum of industry problems, particularly in growth, dispositions, lease renegotiations and due diligence.
A&G engages in a variety of acquisition strategies, including purchasing real estate and mortgages. The company provides mortgages, equity and “rescue” capital, and participates in tactical joint ventures. Through these means, A&G looks to create the most value out of the asset. It creates value out of distressed or underperforming assets by deploying capital and combining that with the team’s restructuring expertise.
Virtual Premise is a leader in best-in-class solutions for retail real estate information management. The company’s software and services help customers deliver on their business strategies by better managing their real estate portfolios. Virtual Premise solutions include strategy and analytics, portfolio management, lease administration, project management, transaction management and lease abstracting services. Virtual Premise differentiates itself by providing best-in-class software that provides superior visibility and control at a value that is unmatched in the industry. Virtual Premise is wholly owned by CoStar Group.
As the expert in cloud-based real estate information management software, Virtual Premise software helps customers become efficient retail organizations that eliminate information silos, open stores faster, improve store expense management, better manage their existing portfolio decisions and leverage all available lease terms to their advantage.
DJM Real Estate, a division of Gordon Brothers Group
Woodbury, N.Y., and Boston
DJM Real Estate, a division of the 110-year Gordon Brothers Group, specializes in occupancy savings, real estate dispositions, growth strategies, strategic reviews, auditing, advisory and equity investments. DJM Real Estate has serviced the nation’s most recognizable brands in healthy and distressed situations. DJM Real Estate clients have included Toys R Us, Pep Boys, Yum! Brands, Food Lion, CompUSA, BI-LO, Office Depot, CVS, Dollar Tree and Winn-Dixie. DJM Real Estate is a leader in finding innovative ways to consolidate and reconfigure real estate to achieve the highest possible value.
DJM Real Estate specializes in occupancy savings, real estate dispositions, growth strategies, strategic reviews, auditing, advisory and equity investments.
Fort Worth, Texas
Customer analytics firm Buxton works with retailers to provide answers to questions around growth and expansion strategies. By knowing where its customers are, a retailer can prioritize existing sites and pinpoint new store or restaurant locations, locally, regionally or internationally, with the greatest sales potential — right down to the intersection. Since 1994, Buxton has worked with more than 2,000 clients, such as Tommy Bahama, OfficeMax, Marriott, TCBY and more.
SCOUT is a Web-based real estate and analytics platform that allows users to analyze any location in the U.S., run custom reports and visualize data on dynamic maps. SCOUT has been utilized by some of America’s leading retailers to select high-performing locations for their stores. Utilizing customer analytics, every decision is backed by hard facts and objective data. Buxton can predict store performance with great accuracy, helping retail chains allocate the right resources for each location.
Bialow Real Estate
Bialow Real Estate is a full-service real estate consulting firm dedicated to servicing the needs of local, regional and national retailers. Based in the Boston metropolitan area with regional offices in Chicago and Atlanta, Bialow’s team of consultants are experienced real estate professionals who specialize in tenant representation only. Bialow works with retail chains and franchised companies that seek to outsource all of the traditional functions of an internal real estate department.
The Bialow team specializes in directing all facets of a retailer’s growth, inclusive of strategic planning, market analysis, site selection, lease negotiations and coordination of the construction process on through to store opening. Bialow works in congruence with an established network of brokers throughout every major metropolitan area in the U.S. The team prides itself on providing the personalized service of a boutique firm with the strength and resources of a large organization.