Office Depot’s Leed Milestone

Office Depot has taken its environmental commitment up a notch—specifically to the store prototype level. The chain is the first company to have its prototype precertified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED for New Construction Volume Certification Program. It is something the office-supply retailer—a participant in a pilot group formed to develop a LEED-certification program designed for volume certification—has been working toward for some time now.

“We took a number of innovative green design elements used in Office Depot store locations across the country and brought them all together in our new store prototype,” said Ed Costa, VP of construction, Office Depot, Delray Beach, Fla., at the Green4Retail (G4R) conference. Costa and Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy for the chain, addressed attendees at the keynote session “Office Depot’s Journey to Sustainability.”

The chain is using an Austin, Texas, store to test new technologies and equipment, Costa said, including a new system from Lennox.

Costa detailed some of the highlights of the store, which opened in June 2008. SBLM Architects, New York City, assisted Office Depot with the project (the firm does nationwide renovation, upgrade and ground-up projects for the chain). Among the eco-friendly features:

  • T5 lighting, which is 30% more efficient than traditional incandescent lighting;
  • More than 50 active skylights that adjust with the path of the sun and provide natural light to more than 90% of the store;
  • Solar panels on the roof, which generate about 10% of the store’s energy needs and power the exterior signage;
  • Reflective roof with a membrane that works to prevent absorption of the heat from the sun and keeps the interior of the store much cooler (Office Depot is using reflective white roofs everywhere it has control of the building, Costa said);
  • Water-conservation features, including dual flush toilets and low-flow urinals and automatic shut-off sensors; and
  • In-store signage that explains the various green components, from the reflective white roof to the use of solar energy, integrated throughout the store.

“If folks don’t know about it,” Costa said, “there is no incentive for them to buy at your store because it is green.”

Costa told attendees that back when Office Depot started its energy conservation efforts, the initial intent was to save money.

“We found that saving money and being green was an easy transition,” he said.

The chain credits its sustainability and conservation efforts with a 10.1% reduction in CO2 emissions, a $6.2 million savings in electricity costs and the avoidance of 66 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Because some green technologies or systems may have a higher initial cost associated with them, they need to be sold on their lower operating costs (or lower cost through re-use), Costa said. As an example, he pointed to polished concrete floors, which cost a bit more than VCT but are easier to maintain. On a cost per square foot basis, Office Depot estimates it can reduce maintenance costs $8,000 to $12,000 annually per store with polished concrete, according to Costa.

Looking ahead, Office Depot is getting ready to roll out a completely modular electrical system for the entire store.

“It’s a simpler way of electrifying a store,” Costa said. “It should cut down the time it takes to install electrical by about a week.”

For more information on Office Depot’s Austin, Texas, store, go to www.chainstoreage.com/WebExclusives.aspx .