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©2016 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 58, no. 7, July 2016

Jason Robbins, P.E., Member ASHRAE; Benjamin Skelton, P.E., BEMP, CPMP, Member ASHRAE; Steve Sovak, P.E., Member ASHRAE; Rob Olden, P.E., Member ASHRAE

About the Authors
Jason Robbins, P.E., is an engineer for Walgreen Co. in Deerfield, Ill. Benjamin Skelton, P.E., is president of Cyclone Energy Group, Chicago. Steve Sovak is an executive vice president for WMA Consulting Engineers, Ltd. in Chicago. Rob Olden, P.E., is a principal for Element Engineering in Chicago.

In support of its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, Walgreens, the largest pharmaceutical retail chain in the U.S., was determined to be the first to build and operate a net zero energy retail pharmacy store. Its reasons to pursue this goal were more than solely promotional value. Walgreens wanted to learn from the store design and provide data and guidance to the architecture, engineering and retail communities. The project’s design and operation are chronicled on the Walgreens Net Zero Community Facebook page (http://tinyurl.com/grhz63c).

Since Walgreens has a broad national presence, with nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population living within three miles (4.8 km) of a retail store, it was able to consider many sites around the country for the net zero store, but ultimately chose Evanston, Ill. The site is ten miles (16.1 km) from downtown Chicago, a region not known for net zero buildings. This is largely because the region has the extreme ambient conditions of a summer design temperature of 91°F DB/74°F WB (33°C DB/23°C WB) and a winter design temperature of –2°F (–19°C). It was also advantageous that the Evanston location is only 15 miles (24 km) from the Walgreens corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Ill. This appealed to Walgreens’ engineers and to its corporate leadership, who could easily access the site during construction and operation.

Adding to the project’s complexity, the design and construction teams were given only 18 months to deliver the never-before-done project. From the project’s inception, the executives, architects and engineers of Walgreens instructed the design team to be highly creative and to push the boundaries of design.

There were also operational limitations. The store layout, size, and location had to remain within Walgreens’ standard prototype store design. It was also necessary to keep this store’s operational procedures as similar as possible to that of a typical store, so any technology that proved successful in the net zero store could be replicated in future projects or retrofitted into some of Walgreens’ existing 8,200 stores in the U.S. Simply, the net zero store was built to be an innovation and technology research project for the brand and the retail design community at large.


Designing for Net Zero Energy

Designing net zero energy buildings requires planning and evaluation. With only a three months to design the building, time was limited for detailed planning and evaluation. Therefore, Walgreens chose an integrated project delivery approach with the owner, architects, engineers, energy consultants, commissioning agents, and contractors all participating from the first day.

Often, when designing net zero buildings, designers will first optimize passive opportunities and hyper-insulate the building to reduce loads as much as possible before applying renewable energy. The net zero store had to take a different approach due to the limitations of the location, building size and store layout.


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