Wal-Mart Evaluates Green Stores' Progress
BENTONVILLE, Ark., - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says it has reviewed early results of various projects at its experimental "green" stores located in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colorado, after one year of operation and is applying new learnings to other Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs.
Along with offering a full line of products and services, these two stores operate with innovative environmental technologies designed to reduce operational and construction waste, use recycled and renewable materials, and conserve water and electricity.
"When we conceptualized these two experimental stores, we thought about our environmental opportunities which led our thoughts to our current goals: to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain our resources and environment," said Charles Zimmerman, vice president of prototype and new format development. "We see these stores as moving in the right direction for a more sustainable future for Wal-Mart. We will continue to lead the way in developing sustainable building and business practices."
The stores are being evaluated over a three-year period by two government- sponsored laboratories. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will provide monitoring services for the Aurora, Colorado, store and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory will monitor the McKinney, Texas, store.
"Wal-Mart's experimental stores should radically change the way retail stores are designed, constructed and managed in relation to the environment," said Michael Deru of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "These stores contain technologies that will help Wal-Mart minimize their impact on the environment."
Already, some of the experimental technologies are proving to be successful. LED lights installed in exterior signs and grocery-, freezer-, and jewelry-cases use less electricity, contribute less heat and have a longer lifespan. Wal-Mart has been using LED lights for all building-mounted exterior lit signs for the last two years and now after 16 months of testing in the experimental stores, Wal-Mart has decided to integrate these lights into freezer cases in new Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores nationwide beginning in January 2007. Other energy efficient lighting opportunities continue to be monitored at the experimental stores.
A portion of the heating for the experimental stores uses recovered cooking and motor oil-burned via a waste oil boiler-to heat water used in a variety of systems throughout the building. Heat recovered from the refrigeration racks also heats water used in the system. One of the systems utilizing waste heat is radiant floor heating in select areas of the building. This system helps keep associates and customers warm even in the freezer section.
Water conservation and waste reduction are also occurring at the experimental stores. Wal-Mart is very pleased with the results of the xeriscape that integrates native, drought-tolerant plants and drip irrigation for the landscaping. These landscaping changes are visually pleasing and have significantly reduced the amount of water needed for irrigation.
Fly-ash, a by-product from coal-generated electricity, and slag, a by- product of steel manufacturing, have been mixed with traditional concrete, either individually or combined to reduce the amount of raw materials needed for the construction of the facility. These concretes are holding up well at the experimental stores. They have been approved for exterior and building uses. In addition, waste building materials were recycled during the construction of these two stores, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.
"We still consider these stores to be experiments," said Don Moseley, special projects engineer. "While a number of the experiments have already proven successful, we will continue to monitor and learn from these stores for the full three-year evaluation period. Rather than waiting for the full evaluation period to lapse, we have already determined a need to accelerate implementation of some technologies for new stores."
One sustainable objective that still needs additional time and evaluation is renewable power generation, such as wind turbines. Mechanical problems have interfered with consistent and continuous power generation from the wind turbines this year. Wal-Mart hopes to experience improvement in this area soon and will continue with the plan to provide these and eventually other stores with renewable power.
"We are taking the experiences and learnings from this first year of the experimental stores and fine-tuning some of these technologies," said Moseley. "A number of these technologies are already being implemented in new stores and it is our intention and hope that other technologies will find their way into future business plans. By continuing to study, evaluate, and monitor these stores over the next two years, we will learn even more about sustainable technologies. Wal-Mart is very proud to be on the leading-edge of sustainable building and design."
Wal-Mart is confident these stores will continue to provide a wealth of knowledge on sustainable building practices. In the true spirit of sustainability, Wal-Mart will maintain its commitment to share experiences and lessons learned resulting from these experimental stores.
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