And most retailers seem to be starting with a
light shade of green.
ONE AT A TIME
Office Depot received gold LEED certification
for its green retail store prototype design and then
debuted its first operational version in Austin,
Texas, USA in mid-2008.
That will make the process “simpler and more
efficient” for future stores, says Ed Costa, vice
president of construction at Office Depot.
“We will be able to scale the operational
efficiency that LEED certification enables
across our store footprint at a more rapid pace,”
Similarly, Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI),
an outdoor gear chain based in Kent, Washington,
USA, received gold certification for its green
prototype store in Boulder, Colorado, USA in
The prototype includes natural lighting,
integrated photovoltaics, a solar hot-water system
that meets 70 percent of the store’s needs and
high-efficiency plumbing fixtures. The retailer
also used materials made from rapidly renewable
resources and recycled waste, and more than
55 percent of the store’s construction waste was
diverted from landfills.
“The design and construction of our Boulder
store has allowed REI to test innovative technologies
and concepts, pushing the [company] to a new
level of sustainability,” says Brian Unmacht, REI’s
executive vice president of sales, store development
REI is awaiting official certification for another
site in Texas and has plans to build one more
prototype green store in an undisclosed U.S.
location, says REI spokeswoman Bethany Nielson.
“We are learning a lot from our prototype
projects, which we call our ‘working laboratories,’”
she says. “Once we finish the third prototype, we
will look at how we can incorporate the things
we’ve learned into the rest of our stores.”
Many of the retailers in the LEED program
are following a similar path—learning how to
efficiently implement green projects with pilot
stores, then pursuing volume certification
for future store construction using the same
This is where retail LEED and other LEED
projects diverge, says Mr. Heisterkamp. For volume
certification, retailers must conduct a thorough
pre-certification process, including a review of
standard LEED documentation. They must also
submit a quality-control plan that outlines internal
processes to ensure compliance on future
projects—even if there are another 100 stores
in the works.
Most of the retailers launching LEED projects are based in
the United States—and they’re focusing on their home turf
for now, with plans to green their overseas sites over the
Currently 20 percent of all LEED certifications by
square foot occur outside the United States (excluding
Canada and India, which have their own Green Building
Council operations). Among retailers, however, the number of non-U.S. LEED projects is just under 10 percent.
“From a retail perspective, it’s still much earlier in the
process,” says Marc Heisterkamp, U.S. Green Building
Council, which runs the LEED certification. “Most U.S.
companies will start domestically so they can hone their
LEED development skills before they begin building internationally.”
Starbucks is one of the few U.S.-based retailers trying
to grow green stores on overseas soil. The company has
committed to obtaining LEED certification for all new store
locations worldwide by 2010.
“It’s a commitment, so they haven’t started yet,” Mr.
Heisterkamp says. “But it’s an indication of the direction
these projects will go.”
Retailers are also required to submit a LEED
education strategy for the entire team, from project
managers and architects to contractors and
“Each player on the team has a key role in
delivering project success. You need to define how
you are going to change the way people think and
the way they behave,” he says. “It’s no different
from any other change-management process.
You first have to figure out how to create change,
then get the people on your team to buy into
that change. That’s what project managers do.”