A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, is the company’s first to receive the U.S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, having earned LEED Gold this week.
Michael Garrison, senior director of environmental stewardship for Chick-fil-A, says the company plans to use this restaurant as a “living laboratory” for future sustainability practices.
“We kind of built a new store that was going to stretch us and allow us to learn a lot more about how you build smarter buildings,” Garrison says. “Building sustainability is something you can design for, but until you actually go through it and learn from it… This is the best way for us to learn.”
The new Chick-fil-A, which opened last year in Fort Worth’s Montgomery Plaza, includes several sustainable features, including low-flow water fixtures in the restrooms and kitchen, an underground cistern that collects rainwater for landscape irrigation, skylights in the dining room, windows in the kitchen, and energy efficient appliances.
Chick-fil-A also used construction materials that don’t emit harmful gasses; directed 20 percent of the building material budget toward products with recycled content; and diverted more than 50 percent of construction waste from the landfill.
All of the changes will help the Chick-fil-A unit use 40 percent less water than a typical unit and 14 percent less energy than industry standards.
Garrison says the company plans to retrofit 900 of its existing stores with similar features and will open four more LEED-certified stores this year.
Though he doesn’t believe the new unit will see payback from its energy cost savings for a long time, Garrison says the true financial relief will come in the lessons Chick-fil-A takes away from this first LEED-certified restaurant.
“When we take what we learn from this store and think about what we use to retrofit or improve the efficiencies of the 900 existing stores—and we’re also incorporating several of these same principles that we’ve built here into all new stores we build going forward—I think the payback is rather good,” he says.
Garrison says sustainable building practices follow in the broader ethos of the Chick-fil-A brand.
“Our corporate purpose challenges us to be a good steward of all that’s entrusted to us, so this environmental stewardship [and the] new focus on this is really kind of who we are and who we intend to be,” he says. “It’s part of the core of who we are.”
By Sam Oches