Kum & Go Goes for the LEED

Retailer takes next evolutionary step in environmentally friendly building
JOHNSTON, Iowa -- For many retailers, a LEED-certified building is one of those pie-in-the-sky projects that sound nice until you begin to factor in the potential costs vs. rewards. For Kum & Go LC, West Des Moines, Iowa, achieving LEED certification, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is simply the next step in the evolution of a general store design that was already leaning green.

Kum & Go opened the doors today on what it hopes will be the first LEED-certified convenience store in the Midwest, [image-nocss] a 3,400-square-foot building on a one-acre site in Johnston, Iowa. As John Feldman, senior vice president of construction, told CSP Daily News, it is not really a massive leap for the 440-store chain.

"If you visited that store, it's not a complete departure from what we've been doing-as a matter of fact, we've kind of been building up to this in the past three years," said Feldman. "It's really been more of an evolution in our store design."

For years, Kum & Go has been integrating green features such as insulated glass, LED cooler-door lights and energy-efficient coolers in its new builds. The retailer sensed it was already approaching LEED status, and only needed to take a few extra steps to clinch certification.

The USGBC determines the sustainable, green credentials of a retail building by rating it on a 69-point system. To attain LEED status, a retail building must earn at least 26 points out of 69 by tapping environmentally friendly choices in areas such as site selection, stormwater handling, light pollution, water and energy efficiency, and materials. Sites that earn more than 32 points can attain silver, gold and platinum certification status.

Thanks to Kum & Go's attention to detail, the Johnston store is close to qualifying for that silver status, Feldman said. The retailer won't receive official LEED certification until the USGBC has an opportunity to fully evaluate the final site, a process that takes at least six months.

But based on the various green upgrades Kum & Go has made to the store, certification appears to be a good bet. They include:
Building materials. The Johnston store features a metal roof coated with a highly reflective finish, which deflects sunlight away from the building. White-colored concrete, containing a combination of locally sourced and recycled aggregate, prevents the "heat-island" effect created by darker, traditional paving. The red brick paving the c-store's exterior is sourced from a local Iowa manufacturer. The glue in the composite wood products is free of urea-formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Paints and adhesives contain no or little volatile organic compounds. Utilities. The fuel canopy features highly efficient LED fixtures, a first for Kum & Go, which typically uses metal-halide lighting. Interior lighting is highly efficient fluorescent, which uses 40% less energy than a conventional c-store. The store's digitally controlled heating and air-conditioning system also boasts a very high energy-efficiency rating. Lavatory, toilet and urinal fixtures use 45% less water than conventional fixtures, or 80,000 gallons less per year. Extras. The Johnston Kum & Go features an electric-car charging station, as well as preferred parking spaces for fuel-efficient or low-emission vehicles. It is also the 100th site in Iowa to sell E85 fuel. To celebrate, it will be offering E85 for a dollar a gallon for several hours.

Kum & Go estimates that the efficiency upgrades to the store's lighting and heating and cooling systems will save about 31% annually in energy costs, compared to a "conventional" c-store. It will also emit 67,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

Feldman said that the LEED store cost only 3% more to build than a conventional Kum & Go; because the chain had already integrated many green features into its stores over the past few years, another retailer might require a greater leap in investment. "A lot of people go from a really inefficient building to a LEED building-it makes it a lot more fun to talk about, leaps and bounds different," he said. "Whereas, over the last 60 stores or so, we've gotten better and better, and for this one, we're just taking that one more incremental step being LEED-certified."

Fortunately for Kum & Go, all of its building partners-general contractor Henning Construction Co. and Shiffler Associates Architects PLC, mechanical/electrical engineers Gilmor & Doyle Ltd. and civil engineers Pelds Engineering-are already well-versed in LEED building practices. This made the construction process relatively painless and quick: The store's groundbreaking was in September, and it was originally slated to open in December.

In terms of the actual LEED certification process, Feldman said it involves "quite a bit of paperwork," since Kum & Go had to document the building's construction and show that it had actually implemented the green choices originally planned. A third-party commissioning agent visits the store during construction, after completion and later on to observe the building process.

"They will review our documentation, make notes, take photos of what see during construction," said Feldman. The agent then submits its observations and makes a recommendation to the USGBC.

While the effort to build a LEED-certified building is admirable, Feldman explained that it is meant to be more than a feather in Kum & Go's cap. "One, we want to take the things we have learned, technologies we have discovered, and apply the ones that make sense to all stores-whether they're LEED-certified or not," he said. "The second piece is, yes, we want to continue to build at least a portion of our stores each year as LEED-certified stores."

It's the latest step toward what Kum & Go hopes will be a sustainable, green future.

See related story in this issue of CSP Daily News for additional coverage of green stores.

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