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Retail has it rough. At least when it comes to energy management. Individual facilities in a portfolio can be numerous and widespread. Lease arrangements can indirectly disincentivize energy efficiency strategies or make incentives like tax rebates enjoyed by other commercial property types wholly unavailable. To say nothing of the fact that any energy initiative must play second or third fiddle to the needs of the customer. Here's how adopting energy management strategies helps retailers be more energy efficient.
"In retail, our primary focus is on a premium consumer experience," says Kirk Beaudoin, facilities manager with Adidas. "We don't want to make any adjustments that would impact consumer comfort or sales."
This directive holds true whether the outlet is a stand-alone big box store, a neighborhood shopping center, or an enclosed mall. Though the customer is king, it doesn't mean there aren't a whole host of energy management strategies and systems available to retail facility managers.
The idea of a retail portfolio might bring up notions of cookie-cutter facilities, but the reality is that these portfolios grow over time, sometimes by acquisition, which means often there are disparate systems and strategies in place. At Adidas' 108 retail stores in the U.S., Beaudoin is in the process of evaluating what controls are in place for the HVAC systems. At this point, he's focused on gaining control with programmable and lockable thermostats.
"The key there is you're only using what is needed when it's needed," he says. The lockable aspect is important, says Beaudoin, as override is something that many retailers are struggling with. If the store is a little warm, an associate might crank the thermostat all the way down to 60, causing the units to run all day and potentially ice over, leading to avoidable damage.
Kohl's Department Stores started deploying building automation systems at stores 15 years ago. When it came time to replace the system due to its reaching end of life, Kohl's ran a pilot in one store to ensure the replacement system would have less than a two-year payback. After this pilot, it was rolled out to 57 stores and vetted again for the ROI and finally deployed to more than 400 stores. All of the HVAC and lighting systems are controlled centrally through the BAS. "That allows our store managers to concentrate on assisting our customers and not have to worry about turning lights on and off and changing setpoints for heating and cooling," says Tari Emerson, Kohl's director of capital projects and energy.
Central controllability is also important at Kimco Realty, a REIT that owns and operates 900 neighborhood and community shopping centers. Their property managers are responsible for 10 to 20 shopping centers each and don't have the luxury of being able to visually verify that systems are working as they should or of driving for several hours to change the runtimes on a particular system, says Will Teichman, director of sustainability at Kimco. What started as an initiative to control the parking lot lighting has evolved into a proprietary iPad app that property managers use to check system status and change schedules at 300 properties.
"Building controls and controlling your existing equipment in a better way is probably one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy," says Teichman. "You're not ripping out expensive equipment and putting in more expensive equipment in its place. You're simply taking what exists in the building and controlling it more effectively."
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