« Back to Facilities Management News Home

« Energy Efficiency

McDonald's Study Explores Idea of a Net Zero Energy Quick Service Restaurant


Jan. 30, 2015 — Through a recently completed study, McDonald’s Corp. seeks to better understand whether it would be feasible to develop a net zero energy (NZE) quick service restaurant.

Exploring net zero energy continues McDonald’s tradition of energy efficiency efforts, and helps to prepare McDonald’s for future energy codes. The study’s findings, including research, technical analyses, and detailed recommendations, form a roadmap for McDonald’s to pursue future net zero energy restaurants, as well as select energy efficiency solutions for existing restaurants.

“Our Global Energy Leadership Board sees net zero energy as an opportunity for McDonald’s as we work to advance the energy performance of the restaurants and proactively pursue opportunities for integrating emerging technologies,” said Roy Buchert, global energy director at McDonald’s.

“We are working with the study team and our suppliers to improve the efficiency of the restaurants. This net zero energy concept could change our approach from incremental improvements to substantial advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy integration where it makes sense.” 

While this study is intended to benefit restaurants globally, three potential U.S. locations were assessed in the study – Chicago, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. For each location, multiple scenarios were examined to determine the most practical and cost-effective pathway to net zero energy.

This high-level analysis, completed together with McDonald’s internal experts and equipment suppliers, generated a set of conceptual energy conservation strategies in addition to potential savings and cost estimates for prioritization.

Further work will be required to generate detailed designs and accurate costs for the high-priority solutions.

While all aspects of the site and building were included in the study, emphasis was placed on kitchen and HVAC equipment, which represent the predominant energy use in a typical restaurant.

“The study demonstrates that for high energy intensity building types, such as restaurants, every single piece of energy-using equipment must be examined as part of a system. There’s plentiful opportunity to optimize and reduce energy use without compromising the consistency and quality of the end products,” said Stephen Doig, of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which led the study. "To get to net zero energy, we reviewed the real-time energy use of equipment and developed system synergies to dramatically improve energy efficiency in kitchen equipment and HVAC systems.”

The study found that at all three locations, net zero energy is possible on a stand-alone traditional McDonald’s site, without any reductions to the menu or service. Specifically:

• Reaching net zero begins with up to a 60 percent improvement in energy efficiency versus an already efficient U.S. prototype restaurant design from 2013.

• Remaining energy needs could be met on the existing site area, with a 300 kW photovoltaic system primarily installed over the building and parking spaces.

• Energy efficiency combined with sufficient solar photovoltaics could significantly reduce energy costs to about only 5 to 15 percent of a U.S. restaurant’s current average energy cost.

• The additional capital cost to achieve a net zero energy restaurant in the U.S. was mainly associated with the integration of on-site photovoltaic systems.  

“Some McDonald’s suppliers worked closely with the study team to explore the potential for their equipment to contribute to energy savings in the net zero prototype,” said Don Fisher, of Fisher Nickel. “The huge challenge is reducing or eliminating standby energy consumption during periods when appliances are not cooking food.”

“An important finding of the study is that a majority of the energy efficiency strategies identified potentially could be cost effectively integrated into McDonald’s restaurants across the globe as they are renovated in the future,” said Ralph DiNola, CEO of New Buildings Institute.

McDonald’s plans to prioritize the findings over time to map alongside their business objectives, and have identified the following next steps:

• Explore recommended energy efficiency strategies, including research and development to improve kitchen equipment efficiencies in order to reduce overall NZE costs.

• Potentially design and build a pilot NZE restaurant in the future to act as a “learning lab” to test and validate new technologies.

• Find one or more vendors to design, deliver, and maintain large solar installations on standard McDonald’s sites, while securing incentives and potential financing.

• Engage with the restaurant industry and suppliers as appropriate to help drive improvements going forward. 

This announcement has been provided by the Rocky Mountain Institute.  For more information, contact media@rmi.org.


Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »   posted on: 2/5/2015

More From 2/5/2015 on FacilitiesNet