Kum & Go goes large with LEED certification, while smaller operators are opting for lighting upgrades. What can your store do to grow sustainability?
By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
Regardless of a convenience store chain’s size, opportunities exist for improving the bottom line through energy efficiency, both by reducing operations costs and by attracting environmentally-focused customers with sustainable initiatives.
While some stores opt to go all the way with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, others save dollars and improve efficiency with simple steps in energy efficient equipment or LED lighting upgrades.
LEEDing the Way
Kum & Go is an example of a chain that considers energy efficiency and environmental consciousness one of its core values. This year, the company announced plans to invest $90 million to construct 20-25 eco-friendly stores in the Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak area within five years.
The West Des Moines, Iowa-based firm is currently the only convenience store chain participating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Volume Program, and since 2011, every new Kum & Go store has been submitted for LEED certification.
Kum & Go has opened 39 stores using its new building design, which includes environmentally-friendly features ranging from sustainable materials, reflective concrete, a reflective roof, LED lighting, water-saving fixtures and high-efficiency equipment.
Of the stores using the new eco-friendly design, five are officially LEED-certified. “We are in the process of building over 40 new stores, which will open this year—and that’s in all 11 states we compete in,” said David Miller, senior vice president of marketing for Kum & Go, which operates 400 convenience stores in 11 states. “While five of our stores have been officially LEED certified, we also have another 27 in the submission process, and we’ve also registered another 19 stores, so those numbers are growing.”
The process of becoming LEED certified can take time. Once a store is submitted for LEED certification, it goes through a process to review whether or not it meets the various standards and qualifications. If the store meets them, then it becomes registered as a LEED certified store.
“What we’re doing now is figuring out a fast track process because every store we’re building has the same qualifications and specs, so we’re trying to see if we can’t move a little faster in the future. But for now, we’re submitting every store we build,” Miller said.
Kum & Go’s newest store design, which is being instituted across Colorado, is based on its latest prototype of an eco-friendly store.
“For us it was a simple decision to reinvent our store and go with the newest prototype, which you see being built out there today,” Miller noted. “We felt that meeting our core values of both sustainability and giving back to the communities we serve are aligned perfectly with what we were trying to achieve as a c-store retailer.”
From the very start of the construction process, Kum & Go worked to use sustainable materials. “Operationally, elements, such as LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures in our restrooms, skylights and high-efficiency heating and cooling elements help us deliver a more efficient store that has a low impact on the environment,” Miller said.
Energy Efficient Features
Kum & Go relies on LED lighting in the cold vault, throughout the store, and in the forecourt—in the outdoor parking lights and on the overhead canopies.
The restrooms feature low-flow sinks, toilets and urinal fixtures that use 20% less water than conventional fixtures. High-end energy efficient equipment is used throughout the store and a reflective roof and concrete help keep the building cool.
To control utility costs even further, stores use a direct digital control to optimize the interior temperature, as well as a high-level filtration system to maintain a higher level of air quality, and installed Energy Star certified refrigerators. The HVAC system is also rated by Energy Star.
“Having a sustainability message at our stores, we believe, is a good business practice. It helps both the company save money and also helps to have a longer lasting impact on the environment, and it helps communicate back to our customers that Kum & Go not only cares about the communities we serve, but about our impact on those communities as well,” Miller said.
The energy efficiency message has been well received by customers as well. “Customers see Kum & Go as more aligned with their values in helping to protect the environment,” Miller added.
Lowering Lighting Costs
But smaller chains don’t have to think in terms of LEED certification or bust. “Every chain can look to itself for ways it can actually impact the environment for the better today and make that impact right away,” Miller said.
Chevron franchisee Gary Analian in Pomona, Calif. agreed. It wasn’t too long ago that he first realized the cost of running lighting throughout his 24/7 Pomona Chevron store, including the reach-in coolers, was significant and growing, and that energy efficiency could possibly help his bottom line.
About eight years ago, Analian converted from t-12 fluorescents to t-8s inside his Pomona Chevron store. Then, in November 2011, he went a step further and partnered with EcoGreen Solutions. With help from EcoGreen, he converted the t-8 fluorescent bulbs in his store to LEDs, and also switched to LED lighting on the canopy, and converted the pole lights outside from metal halide to LEDs.
Analian’s store was able to stay open during the three days it took to finish the overhaul.
“I saw about a 30-35% savings (on lighting costs) from converting to LEDs,” Analian said. “We did this for energy savings, but it also reduces maintenance costs that would have gone to replacing the florescent light bulbs or the metal halides.”
EcoGreen used SimpleTube by American Bright Lighting, which consumes 17 watts of power and runs on direct 120-volt AC line power, thus not requiring an external power converter or ballast. For a standard two-door case, the SimpleTube system requires just 68 watts, compared to 360 watts consumed by the fluorescent system.
“The fixture is sleek looking and unobtrusive inside the cooler case,” said Analian. “The product inside the case really pops. Initially, I was hesitant to go to LED because I’ve heard from stations that converted to LEDs years ago that the LEDs didn’t have the lumens. But today’s LEDs have more lumens per watt than the older version, so our LEDs are bright—outside they are equivalent to the brightness of the metal halides we used to have, only with a significant savings in energy.”
Pomona Chevron was able to fund the conversion through a project with Edison utility company, which financed the store upgrade upfront. Now, Analian pays monthly via the savings on his electric bill.
“Converting to more energy efficient lighting really helps the bottom line. The lighting looks great, and the visibility at the store is great. Fluorescent lights tend to change color temperature, but the LED sustains the color temperature—so there is no longer this 2-3 color florescent effect in the store—instead we have a solid color throughout the station,” Analian said.
He noted other stores could even see a much larger savings than he did depending on their current lighting system.
“If you have the old version fluorescents—like the t-12s and the 420-450 watt metal halides—it pro
bably can result in more savings,” he said. “It just depends what you’re starting from and what you want to achieve.”