Just over two years ago, right before opening its Middleton store, Willy Street Co-op’s eastside location earned ENERGY STAR certification. Jamie Campbell – a Co-op Owner, engineer and sustainable energy proponent - had guided the Co-op through the process of getting Willy East certified, but he was already thinking about getting the new store certified as well.
“We needed at least one year’s worth of utility data before we could try to qualify,” Campbell says. So applying for certification would have to wait, but Campbell helped put the pieces in place.
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, and is designed to help save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices in homes and businesses.
There are two general parts to the certification process for businesses. First it has to be determined that a building is indeed energy efficient enough. This is done by comparing its characteristics to other structures and confirming that the building’s energy efficiency is in the top 25% of buildings of that type. “Once it’s been determined that a building is in that group,” Campbell says, “They make sure that people aren’t freezing in the dark to achieve that efficiency. They want to confirm that anyone inside is getting enough fresh air and enough light, and the structure provides a comfortable indoor environment.”
Sustainable features at Willy West that helped secure the ENERGY STAR include a high-efficiency HVAC system, night setback thermostats, an economizer mode (when the store requires cooling and the outside air is cool, vents open up to use that air), compact fluorescent lighting and occupancy sensors, so lights shut off in areas with no activity.
Campbell is part of the Co-op’s Sustainability Committee, which was created even before the Co-op Board set a goal for continued development of “green” initiatives. Also serving on the Committee is Co-op Operations Manager Wynston Estis, who calls Campbell’s work “extremely valuable. We couldn’t have done it without him.”
With these successes, the Co-op is considering setting another sustainability goal. “If the Co-op decides to move ahead with LEED certification,” says Estis, “our rating with ENERGY STAR will help establish our baseline to move forward from, meaning this is work we can build on when we are ready.”
“The Co-op’s commitment to sustainability provides a wonderful example to individuals and other businesses,” Campbell says. “Board, staff and Owners are trying to do the right thing for planet. That deserves recognition, and it may encourage others to take the next steps.”
Speaking of next steps, the Sustainability Committee views the ENERGY STAR certification rating as a benchmark that will be improved upon each year – a starting point, not an ending point. Estis says that there are already plans to install air curtains at the main entrance doors to keep in cool air and keep out hot air; insulating night covers for open refrigeration cases; and LED light conversions to reduce electricity consumption.