Written By: Steve McLinden
The operators of retail facilities and their tenants are aggressively seeking energy-saving measures large and small, as evidenced by ICSC’s Beyond Sustainability Summit, held early this year in Miami, at which some 40 sustainability specialists disclosed the industry’s latest green findings.
Beyond the proven effectiveness of LED lighting and solar energy, here are six energy-saver strategies that the industry has been adopting or is considering — or which should at least receive consideration. Given the widely varying energy needs of retail centers and their tenants, not all of these measures will prove affordable or feasible for the present, but they may provide intellectual fodder for an industry that continues to be in search of economy, sustainability and shopper comfort.
1. Retrofit for huge power savings
In a test program, one of Norway’s largest malls, the 32-year-old City Syd center, in Trondheim, has been retrofitted with smart skylights, advanced daylighting systems, solar tubes, high-quality insulation and even a system that determines where to integrate vegetation to reduce cooling and heating demand. City Syd underwent similar retrofits under the now retired European CommONEenergy project, as did the Modena Canaletto center, in Modena, Italy; and the Mercado del Val, in Valladolid, Spain. The malls reduced energy consumption and reliance on installed power systems while improving shopper comfort and environmental impact, according to CommONEenergy.
At Ridge Hill shopping center, in Yonkers, N.Y., a 2017 energy retrofit boosted efficiency by 7 to 10 percent, allowing the center to achieve 65 percent energy savings. Aside from the latest lighting technologies and controls, the retrofit included a street-light control system for its 140 light poles deploying calendrical timers that turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn in accord with the calendar year’s changing sunlight hours. Ridge Hill was able to incorporate lighting of holiday displays and decorations into the same controls.
Developers are close to completing 95 percent of lighting retrofits across their portfolio, noted a best-practices report drawn from the Sustainability Summit, authored by Rudy Milian, founder of Woodcliff Realty Advisors; and Abigail Jagoda, ICSC’s director of public policy and best practices.
2. Go with the ventilation flow
Researchers at SINTEF, an independent research firm in Trondheim, Norway, created a system that makes use of the natural air currents that flow through centers. These flows are guided upward to ceiling vents and out to exterior doors, enabling the temperatures to be adjusted based on the weather, resulting in heating-and-cooling savings.
Walmart says it is saving as much as $1 per square foot using the Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) system. Instead of ventilating space at constant rates for the maximum number of customers, DCV sensors adjust vent flows according to the number of people in the store, cycling those flows down when few or no shoppers are present. Such systems, including Enhanced Ventilation Controls (EVC), can usually be added to existing HVAC units without an overhaul.
Green-minded companies without access to local renewable energy sources are increasingly turning to Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) to buy affordable renewable power from remote sources, according to the ICSC report. Power buyers agree to pay a wind- or solar-project developer a fixed price per megawatt hour for the output. That commitment, usually made for 15 to 20 years, becomes the financing foundation for the project, and the buyer captures all of the renewable-energy credits. Buyers should exercise care in agreeing to a price as sold on the grid, because one can lose as well as make money under the arrangement, a consensus of attendees said at the summit. For companies seeking to reach carbon neutrality, such agreements may be considered financial transactions under the federal Dodd-Frank Act.
4. Chill out
Tavistock Development Co. has tied into a central energy plant at its 17-square-mile Lake Nona master-planned community in Orlando, Fla., to cool its new mixed-use component, Lake Nona Town Center. “It will provide one single source to feed chilled water to our retailers,” said Ralph Ireland, the firm’s vice president of development operations. “It’s a big upfront investment, but it will reduce energy consumption considerably so that not every retailer is running on their own less-efficient system.” The center has restaurants, shops, hotels and offices.
5. Seeding the cloud with big data
Carrefour Egypt says it has cut electric bills in nearly 20 stores by about 7 percent, using the EcoStruxure Facility Advisor system of energy-management company Schneider Electric. The product allows cloud-connected meters to measure power consumption in real time and lets centers address operating anomalies in HVAC systems, store lights, ovens, freezers and other appliances. “It can be accessed from any smartphone, tablet or computer, and that allows our managers to intervene quickly,” said Jean-Luc Graziato, country manager for Egypt at Carrefour Majid Al Futtaim Retail, in a demonstration video. Carrefour will roll out the system at the balance of its Egyptian stores, Graziato says. A new wave of energy-efficient products and meters is revolutionizing the ways that the electric systems of buildings communicate with one another, says Jim Sandelin, senior vice president of Schneider’s U.S. EcoBuilding division. “They’re starting to leverage connectivity with big data and analytics to take this to a new place,” he said.
6. Smart and smarter controls
Besides helping to regulate energy usage in shopping centers, smart controls are evolving to shift energy loads and to balance electricity delivery when and where needed most, in order to reduce peak energy-consumption charges. Such controls combat high-demand time rates that can constitute up to half of a center’s utility costs, according to European utility-consumption manager WeMeter.
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