Kum & Go Convenience Stores Help Boost State's LEED Projects

Kum & Go Convenience Stores Help Boost State's LEED Projects
Chris Ladner (left) and Chad Oppenhuizen of the Viridian consulting firm of Little Rock are helping Kum & Go expand its LEED-certified stores in Arkansas and 10 other states. (Jason Burt)

Thanks in part to an Iowa convenience store chain, the Arkansas roster of LEED projects topped the century mark earlier this year.

Kum & Go has contributed six LEED-certified projects and registered nine more for certification since announcing in 2011 its plan to roll out 20 to 25 new stores in central Arkansas.

“It’s a big commitment by the company,” said Linda Smith, executive director of the Arkansas Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Traditionally, new LEED projects are office buildings, schools and public buildings. We’re starting to see LEED expand to other categories, non-traditional areas like restaurants.”

And now, convenience stores.

“It just goes to show other businesses that LEED is a good target to stretch toward, and it’s easy to accomplish once you’ve done the first one,” Smith said. “It’s like everything else that’s new. It takes a while to understand the process of what LEED is all about.”

Officials at the home office in West Des Moines consider the green move in the Kum & Go building model to be a logical manifestation of its corporate personality.

“We’ve always made a commitment of giving back to the community,” said Megan Elfers, director of marketing and communications. “Another piece of being a good neighbor is to build sustainable. We heard that from our customers, and it just made sense to have more sustainable design.”

The more eco-friendly stores typically use 30 percent less energy and 20 percent less water, which provide long-term operational savings as a trade-off for more expensive short-term construction costs.

The company’s LEED-certified efforts began with two stores in Iowa in December 2009. The Springdale location at 1010 N. Thompson St. was the first Kum & Go in Arkansas to gain certification in June 2012.

It was followed by stores at 1709 N. Reynolds Road in Bryant, 1303 S. Pine St. in Cabot and 1220 E. Robinson Ave. in Springdale in November 2012. The newest additions to the company’s LEED stores in Arkansas are 2811 E. Central Ave. in Bentonville and 2388 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville, all certified last week.

Based on the sale-leaseback of its new stores in central Arkansas, the green Kum & Go developments are each valued in the $3 million range. Site cost is the biggest variable.

The LEED program at Kum & Go involves a mix of new construction and analyzing whether to sell, remodel or replace its inventory of older locations. That’s a list of about 450 properties and growing.

At last count, the Kum & Go chain operates 38 stores in Arkansas. The company is touted as the fifth-largest privately held convenience store chain in the nation, operating in 11 states in Middle America.

“We’re in the process of going through all of our stores,” Elfers said. “Some we are able to remodel. In some markets, we may choose to raze and rebuild.”

The company’s 4,958-SF prototype store is the sole focus for new construction these days. The configuration is the Kum & Go standard bearer for its green program and the model of choice for all new stores.

“We call it our 5K design,” Elfers said. “We like that footprint. We’re really happy with it.”

The 5K design is bringing standardization to the company’s retail operations, and this cookie-cutter approach has some benefits in streamlining the LEED certification process.

Kum & Go is proud of its standing as the first and only convenience store that participates in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Volume Program. The Volume Program simplifies documentation and speeds up the certification for multiple buildings of similar type.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the program reduces costs by taking advantage of uniformity in building design, construction and management practices. For organizations that certify 25 or more projects within three years, the Volume Program offers valuable economies of scale. Per-project certification costs drop significantly as the number of projects rises.

“It’s indicative of a corporate commitment to green building,” Smith said of Kum & Go’s participation in the Volume Program.

The Viridian consulting firm of Little Rock is helping Kum & Go with its green building program. The relationship dates back to 2011.

“Our job was to enhance what they were doing and get them into the Volume Program,” said Chris Ladner, partner at Viridian. “They’re a nice company to work with. They’re continually optimizing their store model to enhance energy efficiencies.

“It’s a challenge to them because of all the refrigeration they use. They’ve really gone after trying to refine the efficiencies of the refrigeration system.”

Kum & Go’s green efforts extend to areas that don’t always have a big direct payback, areas the company hasn’t promoted externally.

“They’re making a real commitment to indoor environmental quality,” said Chad Oppenhuizen, a sustainability consultant and project manager for Viridian. “It’s just the right thing to do, and that’s kind of refreshing.”

Deploying air systems with higher ventilation and filtration capabilities than required by local building codes is part of the Kum & Go model. Monitoring the air quality of its stores is normal operating procedure along with energy use and other green considerations.

“They really step to the plate on the performance,” Ladner said.

Kum & Go’s Green Building Formula

  • Sustainable Materials
    The brick and concrete used for the store are manufactured regionally containing raw materials from within 500 miles. More than 50 percent of all wood materials are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Steel and concrete contain high percentages of recycled content.
  • LED Lighting
    Highly efficient light-emitting diode fixtures are used inside coolers, above gas pumps, around the parking lot and in certain interior applications. LEDs give off less heat, and the light is more focused and pleasing to the human eye.
  • Reflective Concrete
    The parking lot is treated with a highly reflective white coating. Reflecting the sun’s heat prevents extreme differences in temperature on site, known as the “heat island effect.”
  • High-Efficiency Equipment
    Heating and air-conditioning systems have optimized direct digital control and a high-level filtration system. Most refrigeration equipment inside the store is Energy Star certified.
  • Daylighting
    Honeycomb-shaped prisms in the roof called Solatubes reduce glare and refract daylight into the building.
  • Reflective Roof
    A white rubber finish reflects the sun’s heat.
  • Water-Saving Fixtures
    Low-flow sink, toilet and urinal fixtures use at least 20 percent less water than conventional fixtures, saving thousands of gallons of water per year.
  • Single-Stream Recycling
    The company pays for single-stream recycling in every area that the service is available. It includes a dedicated dumpster for cardboard, metals, plastics, aluminum and paper.
  • Bike Rack & Changing Rooms
    Store design supports alternative forms of transportation.