Retail Case Study: Purchase Power

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the April 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The Stop & Shop supermarket in Dedham, MA has been undergoing upgrades to keep up with the company’s evolving store prototype. (Photo: Bluestone Energy Services, LLC)

As part of a network of more than 400 locations throughout the northeastern United States, the Stop & Shop supermarket in Dedham, MA operates in the context of a company wide approach to customer service and energy efficiency. Since its opening in 2006, the 82,000 square foot store has served thousands of patrons every week and undergone significant improvements to its environmental profile.

From the customer service standpoint, the store contains a broad range of traditional grocery store offerings in addition to various amenities. From its opening day, the store has featured numerous departments, including produce, bakery, meats, deli, cheese shop, kosher, seafood, natural and organics, floral, and pharmacy. Other services include RedBox movie rental kiosks, Coinstar®, Western Union, Citizens Bank, and a Dunkin’ Donuts. Meanwhile, the site also features a gas station, an offering found at about a quarter of Stop & Shop locations.

This store was built using many materials and systems aimed at reducing its environmental impact and energy costs. Since 2001, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC had been actively pursuing ways to elevate its energy efficiency profile; that year marked the opening of the company’s first Low Energy Super Store (or LESS), in Foxboro, MA.

The LESS project initiated the launch of a company wide store prototype, a model against which the Dedham store was designed. Since then, the company has continued to modify the prototype—with customer service, environmental stewardship, and operational savings all important goals.

Mark Macomber, energy project manager for Ahold USA, parent company of Stop & Shop, says, “When the Dedham store opened in January 2006, it reflected the current prototype at the time. This included: skylights to allow natural light to enter; T5HO (high output) fluorescent fixtures over the sales floor that can be dimmed when the store interior is benefiting from a certain level of sunlight; and a white TPO roof, which helps reduce heat gain and lowers demand on the air conditioning system.”

Keeping Current

As Stop & Shop has modified the prototype for its stores, the Dedham location has undergone changes to reflect some of these improvements identified by the company. Meanwhile, some of the projects done at this store have made their way into the Stop & Shop store prototype.

In overseeing the implementation of a company energy strategy, Macomber has headed up many changes to the Dedham store since 2009. “In the last several years, we have completed numerous energy conservation projects to help elevate the store to the standard to which we are building our new stores today,” he says.

In 2008, Stop & Shop called upon the expertise of Bluestone Energy Services, based in Norwell, MA, to assist in company wide energy improvements. “The company helped us with numerous aspects of our projects, from conducting store surveys to performing turnkey installations,” says Macomber. “Bluestone has also helped us with completing applications for energy rebates and incentives.”

A Chat With Mark Macomber
Energy Project Manager
Ahold USA

Mark Macomber, Energy Project Manager, Ahold USA

What are your responsibilities for Ahold USA, the parent company of Stop & Shop? I am the energy project manager for all Ahold USA locations. The company has four divisions, with over 750 stores in all. These are Stop & Shop New England; Stop & Shop New York Metro; Giant-Landover; and Giant-Carlisle and Martin’s. Currently, there are about 400 Stop & Shop stores operating in seven states.

How long have your worked for Ahold USA? I have been with the company for seven years. When I started here in 2005, I was in the energy management systems group and did control system design and troubleshooting. After two years I went to work in our maintenance department overseeing refrigeration, HVAC, and controls maintenance for approximately 100 stores. I did that for one year and then transitioned back into my energy project manager role.

What would you say have been one or two notable developments in the facility energy field during your career? I think the two biggest things have been the advancements in LED lighting technology as well as the advancements in renewable energy technology—and the price drops for both. Since we installed our first solar panel system in 2008 there has probably been at least a 50% drop in price to install such a system.

Stop & Shop’s work with Bluestone Energy Services has resulted in the supermarket chain reducing its energy use in stores by 46 million kilowatt hours (kWh) and securing four million dollars in utility incentives.

Commenting on projects done at the Dedham store, Macomber says, “Over the last three years, we’ve reduced consumption by at least 600,000 kWh.

“One of the first major projects we did was retrofit the frozen food cases with LED lighting,” Macomber explains. “This resulted in a 50% reduction in lighting energy use for those cases in that store. That was expected, because we always evaluate a technology or product in a test setting before undertaking an installation. The project benefited the store and the company’s energy goals overall. And now the freezer cases in all newly constructed stores feature LED lighting.”

Freezer cases are not the only place where LEDs can be found in the Dedham Stop & Shop. Shortly after the freezer case retrofit, Macomber and his team decided to change the track lighting in the produce department from metal halide lamps to LED light sources.

Other places where LEDs are used in the new stores are the walk-in coolers and freezers and exterior canopy and lighting.

Macomber shares that LED lighting is being considered for general lighting at the Dedham location—and company wide. “We’re finding there are more and more products on the market that we’d consider—a recessed 2’x2′ panel, for instance. In my opinion, the technology is still expensive for that application, but the cost is trending down. We are testing and looking at areas of the building where it could be suitable.”

Continues Macomber, “That type of product may make more sense in new construction, however, because we would already be paying the labor charge to put in a fixture. With a retrofit, the labor component is factored in, because you have to pay to have the fixture installed.

“We are exploring potential retrofit opportunities,” he adds, “but right now the broader LED application is mainly focused on new stores. Also, many of the newer stores are starting to be built with LEDs in the parking lots.”

Even with the interest in LED technology, Macomber emphasizes that other lighting types remain central to the Stop & Shop energy plan. Most recently, a large portion of the Dedham store underwent a lighting retrofit in January 2011.

supermarket facility energy LED lighting controls
Refrigeration systems in the store are equipped to use a natural refrigerant, which has reduced the carbon footprint of the facility by an equivalent of 500 tons of carbon dioxide annually. (Photo: Bluestone Energy Services, LLC)

“We went through all the departments, including the bakery, deli, backrooms, and offices, and performed what we call a peripheral lighting retrofit—all the peripheral departments in the store,” says Macomber. “We upgraded the lighting in those areas to more energy efficient fluorescent T8 lamps.” [To read more about lighting retrofit strategies, read “Lighting Boost”, also in the April issue of TFM.]

Beyond Lighting

Other equipment that has been overhauled at the store are the motors that run the refrigeration systems in the back of house coolers and freezers. “Since 2009, we’ve operated ECM [electronically commutated motors] equipment in those spaces,” says Macomber. “This is the highest efficiency type of motor available.”

ECMs are DC motors that function using a built-in inverter and a magnet rotor. As a result, these are able to achieve greater efficiency in air flow systems than some kinds of AC motors. ECMs are also relatively low maintenance; the use of true ball bearings reduces the need for oiling, and varied start-up speeds cut stress on mounting hardware.

These motors work as part of a larger refrigeration system that the company uses to lower energy consumption as much as possible. Stop & Shop stores employ a refrigeration system designed to meet the specific cooling needs of the products housed while, at the same time, minimizing energy use. This flexibility is accomplished through electronic temperature sensors installed throughout the display cases that feed information to controllers that manage the compressors and the remote air cooled condenser fan motors.

A grant from a state administered program contributed to the store installing a solar energy system. (Photo: Bluestone Energy Services, LLC)

The refrigeration systems also use energy saving glass doors, light diffusers, and low-energy anti-sweat heaters on glass freezer cases to reduce electric loads further.

Up on the roof, the Dedham store began using solar energy in May 2010 for a portion of its electricity needs. Stop & Shop installed its first solar photovoltaic (PV) system on its Fairfield, CT store in 2008, and the Dedham store was one of three locations chosen for the second round of installations. The PV panels currently provide about 7% of the facility’s energy needs.

“We received a grant through the Commonwealth Solar program, administered by the state of Massachusetts, to help finance the PV system,” says Macomber. “This brought the cost to a desirable point for us.” Whether it’s a lighting project or other energy improvement, the company seeks a payback of between two to three years.

The on-site store managers are brought into these test projects before installation to provide insight they have from working in the store each day. They are also consulted to ensure as smooth a transition as possible during a system installation.

Macomber explains, “When we are testing a product for a potential project, we make sure someone from the store takes a look at what we are doing, and we take that person’s feedback into consideration. In terms of project implementation, we work with the managers there to minimize disruption. However, much of what we have done has been at night, so that’s not often an issue.”

Standardizing Solutions

Since the company’s first comprehensive attempt to build a more environmentally friendly store in 2001, Stop & Shop has continued to research and implement cost-effective, impactful features to further that goal. In 2007, a Southbury, CT store was the company’s first location to be recognized by the EPA’s Energy Star program.

Aware that energy performance is only one aspect of high performance building, Stop & Shop continued to explore ways to reduce environmental impact. This aim took the form of the company participating in the pilot of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Volume Program, which focuses on certification for organizations that operate multiple facilities in their real estate portfolios.

In 2007, Stop & Shop was the only supermarket chain in the U.S. selected to participate in the pilot program. As a result, 51 existing stores were LEED Certified by 2009, and company policy became that every new store be built to LEED standards. As an existing store, the Dedham, MA location has not been certified, but through energy retrofits and other improvements, that site is increasingly operating to LEED parameters.

Macomber explains, “Every new store we build today is designed for us to pursue LEED certification, whether it is Certified or Silver.”

Applying Lessons Learned

Macomber’s work at the Dedham store impacts other Stop & Shop stores in a two way exchange. Changes implemented at the store are often resulting from positive findings put to the test in other stores; meanwhile, strategies that are first explored at Dedham have made their way to other stores and also have been added to the company’s ever evolving store prototype.

Commenting on the multi site nature of his work, Macomber says, “For us, the lighting projects have ultimately been the easiest to deploy. This is because the majority of our stores are pretty standard. The footprint and layout are generally the same. There may be nuances between some of the stores but, for the most part, anytime we perform a frozen food LED project or a track lighting project it’s standard in terms of the scope.”

And as the Dedham store continues to be one of the company’s focal points for exploring improvements, the company maintains the momentum by revisiting the Stop & Shop prototype regularly. In recent months, a store opened that is designed to the most current prototype.

“The prototype is revisited almost daily,” says Macomber. “We’re constantly finding ways to make improvements and changes, and it’s a constant, evolving process for us.”

This article was based on an interview with Macomber from Stop & Shop.

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