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Web-based cameras keep Walmart’s sustainability projects on track

BY Marianne Wilson

Sustainability is a top priority for Walmart, and energy efficiency is central to its efforts. One of the chain’s three primary long-term objectives is to use 100% renewable energy. Walmart is actively working to meet that goal with projects that employ a wide range of technologies, from solar power to fuel cells, in development across the country.

“We have a large number of retail-store and distribution-center projects, often needing to be monitored simultaneously,” said Marty Gilbert, director of renewable-power and energy-efficiency projects, Walmart, Bentonville, Ark.

To monitor its multiple renewable-power and energy-efficiency projects and help them stay on track, Walmart uses Web-enabled construction cameras on the job sites. The cameras, from Atlanta-based OxBlue Corp., give Walmart’s teams 24/7 virtual job-site access. The teams are able to monitor projects moment by moment simply by accessing a Web-enabled construction camera interface from their desktops and mobile devices.

Gilbert’s department manages up to 40 projects in a month, and monitoring capabilities — whether remotely or in person — are critical for every project milestone. The sustainability initiatives overseen by the chain’s energy team often involve highly technical installations with compressed time frames.

“Solar panel installation projects, for example, take place on a roof over 10 to 20 days,” Gilbert said.

The OxBlue camera system is cellular-based, which is important, according to company president > Chandler McCormack, because > construction sites often do not have good Internet connections.

“Because we don’t have to worry about an Internet connection, our cameras can be deployed anywhere on the job site,” he explained. “This allows the camera to deliver the best-quality image from the best location and angle.”

Walmart also uses OxBlue’s monitoring platform. The supplier hosts all the components of the platform, including hardware, data transmission and storage. Walmart users can retrieve archived images or view up-to-date time-lapse videos of a project. All the images are archived and managed in the off-site data center.

“We provide the software interface for all the devices a team member is likely to use, from iPads and other mobile devices to desktop computers,” Chandler said. “We take care of all the logistics and technology, and provide whatever interface they need.”

Detailed images: The OxBlue camera systems provide the flexible viewing capabilities required for effective project management because they are designed specifically for construction sites, according to McCormack. They take very high-resolution images and provide close-up shots that allow for detailed inspection of solar equipment installations and other projects. Broader views are used to confirm environmental and safety compliance, and monitor workflow.

“Because I can zoom in and out, I can see details immediately,” Walmart’s Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he encourages Walmart’s external contractors to access the cameras.

“Archived and real-time camera images enhance team communication and training, both internally and with suppliers,” he added. “You can always struggle to walk someone blindly through a Gantt (a tool for planning and scheduling projects) chart. But when you can show them photos at the same time, the understanding is better and the learning curve is shorter.”

In another advantage, the cameras eliminate the need for the various members of the project team to travel together to the site.

“Seeing it on the screen is an efficient and effective management of time,” Gilbert explained. “You get back the time that would be spent out of the office. Plus, it saves money. Eliminating the need for just three trips can justify the price.”

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Parking Lots: Keeping up Appearances

BY CSA STAFF

Parking lots serve as the first point of entry for customers and, as such, are an important brand touchpoint. Chain Store Age spoke with Dan Flaherty, national accounts executive, Ultimat/Crius Corp., about how retailers can maintain a positive first impression without breaking the budget.

What, if any, impact does a badly maintained retail property have on customers? Can it affect business?

Studies have proven the negative financial effect of a poorly maintained property. Essentially, you only get one chance to make a first impression. People don’t want to shop at a run-down store or shopping area. This was shown years ago at Times Square in New York City. The city adopted a zero tolerance policy for graffiti, broken windows and litter. At that time, Times Square was a run-down, crime- and drug-ridden area. Numerous boarded-up buildings, strip joints, graffiti and trash all contributed to the overall horrible presentation of the area. Tourists did not want to go — or be — there. After the zero-tolerance policy went into effect and Times Square was cleaned up, it became a huge attraction to the city.

While Times Square is an extreme example, it does apply to parking lots. The parking lot is the company welcome mat, so it needs to look good. We are all shoppers, and I don’t know anyone that goes out of their way to shop at a run-down store. None of these even addresses the potential savings from preventing lawsuits related to accident or injury on the parking lot. Yes, it absolutely pays to maintain the pavement at a high level.

What is the most common mistake retailers make when it comes to taking care of parking lots?

Being reactive instead of proactive is the biggest source of problems with parking lots. Many owners have a wait-and-see approach to pavement problems. By the time a problem is repaired, it has caused extensive damage and is no longer a small problem.

What are some best practices in preventive pavement maintenance?

The single best practice is to have a maintenance plan and to follow it diligently. This plan should recognize and address small, active and ongoing problems. If a regular system is in place, the probability of a major defect is minimized.

How is Ultimat positioned in the marketplace?

Ultimat is an asphalt resurfacer and is an alternative to traditional methods. It’s a proven alternative to traditional repairs that are often short-lived, unsightly or expensive, and an alternative to the high cost of a mill and overlay.

Asphalt overlays are still necessary in some situations. However, Ultimat provides a solution that in many situations won’t require installing new asphalt. Ultimat is a cost- effective product that helps property owners address pavement needs without breaking the budget.

How can Ultimat help retailers with their paved surfaces?

Ultimat lowers costs and provides long-lasting solutions in lieu of short-lived repairs. This allows the retailer to touch more stores on the same budget. In 2010, a retailer was able to complete nearly 25% of the stores being repaired that year for 10% of the budget using Ultimat. So I say Ultimat can act as a financial alternative as well. It resets the pavement quality and aesthetics.

How is Ultimat different from competitive processes?

Ultimat is different from traditional processes in several ways. Ultimat is a cold overlay process. It is non-caustic, non-hazardous, nonvolatile, and it requires no additional heat during installation. It is as green as a pavement product can be. It does not soften in hot weather.

Also, it doesn’t oxidize, it remains black throughout its life, promoting increased melting of ice and snow in northern climates. Ultimat is a two-lift installation, utilizing two different custom aggregate loads. This provides a strong, tight surface that can stand up to heavy traffic.

Tell us a little about the company.

Ultimat is a product of the Crius Corp., a manufacturer of asphalt cold overlay and asphalt recycling products. The Crius product line is designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible; our products make use of the existing pavement as much as possible.

Crius also has a unique pavement management system: MyPave enables facilities managers to look closely at their properties, review a comprehensive evaluation and then decide which stores will be moved into the upcoming budget. This allows better decisions to be made regarding more comprehensive projects, such as remove and replace or complete reconstructions. Nearly everyone has asphalt, but only Crius has Ultimat and MyPave.

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Reduced Costs With Site-Recovered Energy

BY Marianne Wilson

Retailers and other building owners are caught between two powerful and conflicting forces: the need to lower energy and equipment costs, and the need to meet or exceed outdoor air ventilation regulations for the health and comfort of customers and employees alike. Indeed, studies have proven that outdoor air ventilation creates a healthier work environment. However, as outdoor air rates increase, so does the size, cost and operating expense of HVAC systems.

To address the challenge, many owners are deploying site-recovered energy technologies, such as energy recovery ventilation (ERV). Designed to operate with new or existing HVAC units, ERV technology provides an affordable means to simultaneously cut HVAC energy costs without compromising outdoor air ventilation requirements.

“Energy recovery wheels, also known as enthalpy wheels, resolve the conflict between indoor air quality and energy conservation by recovering site energy contained in building exhaust air,” said Stephen J. Pargeter, VP product engineering, Airxchange, Rockland, Mass., which manufactures energy recovery ventilation wheels. “Up to 80% of this energy is recycled to precondition outdoor air, resulting in reduced HVAC load and operating cost.”

For new and replacement projects, energy recovery costs are typically offset by lower HVAC system first costs, while up to 80% reductions in outdoor air fuel consumption provide healthy returns for the life of the HVAC system, according to Pargeter.

Energy recovery wheels may also be used to improve the efficiency of relatively new HVAC systems by up to 40% with one- to three-year paybacks when supported by the local utility. They also can help retailers with their environmental initiatives.

“Energy recovery wheels enable building owners interested in marketing green, healthy buildings to increase outdoor air levels above minimum code, earning LEED points and reducing the risk of indoor air quality complaints,” Pargeter explained.

Energy recovery wheels work by transferring energy by rotating between outdoor air and exhaust airstreams to transfer heat and moisture from one airstream to the other.

The total energy saved depends on the wheel’s effectiveness and the difference in temperature and humidity between the two air streams. A bigger differential drives larger energy savings.

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