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Auto dealers building new stores with environmentally friendly features are finding that going green shaves operating costs and also boosts branding.
Garrett Scott, dealer principal of Scott Subaru in Red Deer, Alta., built a Passive House dealership two years ago and said the benefits go far beyond the projected heating costs of just $200 a year.
“Quite frankly, that number is about bang-on. It is paying back a significant amount.”
The total monthly energy bill for the 14,000-square-foot (1,300-square-metre) Subaru store is $2,000, while the bill for Scott’s GMC store, which is almost twice the size, is $10,000, he said.
“The biggest chunk of [the Subaru dealership’s] bill is personal consumption — computers, lighting, doors opening and closing.”
Passive House refers to a set of voluntary building standards aimed at providing the lowest possible environmental impact from a structure, whether it’s a house, an office or a dealership.
Scott Subaru is listed as the world’s only Passive House dealership by the Passive House Database, which offers an overview of such projects around the world.
EXTRA COST PAYS OFF
The Passive House features added about 20 per cent to the cost of constructing the store, Scott said, but it was worth it.
“I have to look at it as that 20 per cent was spent in three ways. One-third is the energy savings; one-third is the marketable advantage; and onethird you’re paying for the luxury, the livability.”
Subaru’s branding as an environmentally aware automaker drives that marketable advantage, said Scott, whose website promotes his store as “the world’s most efficient dealership.”
“We get interest [from potential customers] from Calgary and Edmonton and other cities,” he said. “People are impressed with what we’re doing.” Given Subaru’s market positioning as a greener carmaker catering to outdoor enthusiasts, “it was a brand I felt we could capitalize on that advantage, more than other brands.”
The high level of insulation and walls that are nearly two feet (60 centimetres) thick also means the dealership is quiet.
“It’s like living in a big cooler or Thermos. You close the door and close out distractions from outside the shop.”
While Scott’s estimate of an extra 20 per cent in construction costs is accurate, the knowledge gained from his store means a similar one could now be built for only a 10 percent premium, said Andrew Peel, a Passive House expert based in Toronto.
Peel, who consulted on Scott’s dealership, said Passive House construction is a growing trend for commercial buildings such as dealerships, with the number of projects in Canada “in the hundreds.” Peel has had requests for information from architects who specialize in designing dealerships, but he is unaware of any moving forward yet.
“Nothing concrete has materialized, but certainly [Scott Subaru] had generated some interest.”
GREEN ROOF THE BEE’S KNEES