DREAM GREEN 4 Transcript
Hy-Vee Director Randy Menke: “We know what our responsibilities are to Fairfield. We're responsible to help our community grow. We're responsible to help our community be successful and we try to do that. We try to be involved in as much as we can and we're happy to do that because we feel that’s our responsibility. If we want to grow our business, our community needs to grow with us and we recognize that and we know that.”
Mike Smith: “Every store that we've challenged ourselves with to do LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design], we’ve just looked at new opportunities. So in Fairfield there is the opportunity to build upon the relationship we've got with EPA and the Regional Program and to try some things with the refrigeration system that we haven't tried previously. We’re gonna be doing some new LEED stores here in Des Moines and elsewhere. And in each one of those instances there’ll be items that we will take a shot atthat will be new to those installations but yet we’ll be carrying through on some of the things that were a part of our very first stores. So to give you an example, you'll see concrete floors, you'll see sky lighting, you'll see refrigeration systems using LED lighting and motion sensors to turn on the lights. You see these things carried though all the stores but at the same time each of these new opportunities that new stores present us will be trying a new and different things.”
Voiceover: Welcome to the Dream Green Series with co-host Stuart Tanner and James Moore on Solar Powered KRUU FM. Iowans creating a greener tomorrow today; a journey of discovery across the state, featuring innovators, cutting-edge projects and communities leading the way to an energy independent and sustainable future. Visit our website at greeniowa.org.
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James Moore: We're off on another adventure. Today we're gonna be looking at the brand new Hy-Vee building, $13 million and opening just in April. We'll be speaking with Randy Menke, the local store manager, the director. Hy-Vee has been a store that has been around in the Fairfield area, I think five or six different locations, as a matter of fact. Now they've moved closer into town with this new building that we're approaching as we speak.
Stuart Tanner: Yeah and actually we’re just about to turn left into the Hy-Vee store. It's a very short trip because it is out local store; so I've been here a few times to the new store and I have to say I was mightily impressed so it’ll be great to hear about what constitutes all the LEED features of the store. We'll be hearing about that very shortly.
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JM: Here we are walking into the coolness, the skylights. It is a beautiful design, very open. Well, in all the counters here, you can here in the background, right now we're gonna see if we can secure our interview with the director of this beautiful store, Randy Menke, so stay tuned.
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JM: Here's Randy Menke as we promised walking in the door. How are you doing today, sir?
Randy Menke: I'm doing great and appreciate you coming out today.
JM: Our pleasure, we feel really honored doing this 20-part Dream Green Series all across the state looking at great energy-efficiency practices, cutting-edge communities doing great things and here we are in our very own community with this amazing store. Stuart, do you want to start?
ST: Yeah, actually, it was a delight when it first opened. When I first came to the store, I immediately noticed, it felt very different. It has a very different atmosphere and I have to say it was extremely pleasant to work around. It did feel like a major improvement on the other store. And also, it clearly represents a major investment as well. I just wanted, if you could start by just talking us through the investment in the Hy-Vee store--why it was done and what are, you know, the basic features?
RM: Sure. We invested a little over $13 million in this operation and the reason that happened is a lot to do with the customers. And customers have supported us so well over the years, it has given us the opportunity to reinvest something back into our operation. A lot of the additions that you see here are from customer demands and customers wanting change, something different. Customers dictate really what happens in the store through things that they suggested, their buying habits and that's what has led to this.
JM: I'm just wondering, you've also, I've read, added 125 jobs to the operation. That's something too, right?
RM: Yes it is. We have about 375 employees today. So that was another investment back into the community, to be able to provide opportunities. We did add, of those 125 jobs, we've added about 30 full-time positions, which is a full benefit position to us. It means a person is able to get their health insurance and dental insurance and life insurance and vacation and all that that comes to what we classify as full-time.
JM: Well, that's great and also we're talking about a store that is twice as big as your previous store. Is that right?
RM: Yeah, not quite as twice as big. This store measures in at a little over 64,000 square feet. The old one was 35,000, so it's almost double.
JM: Pretty close.
ST: Yeah, you've talked about this being led by customer demand. Obviously we're in Fairfield, which is well-known for being a leader in sustainability initiatives. A lot of people are interested in that in the Fairfield community. So do you think the demands that you're talking about and suggestions were particular to Fairfield or are they repeated in other communities throughout Iowa?
RM: A combination of both. You know, the design of this store is exactly the same as a store that opened a week before we did in Worthington, Minnesota and basically the same set-up. So a lot of the products that you see us carry here, you'll find there too and again, dictated by customer demand. So, yeah, unique, Fairfield is a unique place and has some unique things about it but a lot of the products thatyou find here are being requested in other areas, too.
JM: Great and also, this is a, if I read correctly, second LEED building that Hy-Vee's going for, the headquarters, which is I believe in Madison.
RM: The first LEED store is in Madison, Wisconsin, yes.
JM: The headquarters is in Des Moines, of course...
JM: But the first store in Madison, I'm actually from Madison originally,
RM: Hy-Vee's first LEED store was in Madison Wisconsin. We are the second in the company, the first one in Iowa. Hy-Vee does have some plans to do some other LEED stores.
ST: What about the experience of working here, for yourself and employees. We just come in and shop, you know, yeah, maybe an hour, two hours a week, maybe a bit less. But obviously for people who work here that's a lot of time out of their day spent in the store. I feel that the atmosphere has changed. It feels to me intuitively as though it would be a healthier place to work, a more positive place to work. Have you noticed any of those things?
RM: Well, yes and one of the thoughts that went into this store when it was being designed was to create more customer space and to make it more efficient for employees to be able to work. The space added, and, like the area we're standing in, you would've never found a space like this in the old store where it's easy for people to get around--it's wide, it's open--but also that allows our employees to be efficient and work in an efficient manner. There's been some challenges but more rewards than, far more rewards than challenges.
ST: One of the features of design, of course, is that it would be more energy efficient in terms of people's work. It's not only energy efficiency, I suppose, in terms of lighting and heating but energy efficiency in terms of people's working practices and ease of work. So I believe that is actually one of the features of good building design and a LEED feature, so that's a very interesting aspect of it.
JM: We are talking with Randy Menke. Randy Menke is the director of the Hy-Vee store that has opened here, beautiful LEED design and with great new cuisine. We're gonna walk through and get a little sense of all that as we go. I don’t know how early you’re into the process but are you seeing energy savings already?
RM: Well, really, we don't have anything to compare to. But when I look at our utility bills compared to the old store, yes, when you look at it square footage point, it is a little less. For us, the energy efficiency comes in the cleaning, is our floor. It's a polished cement. We just clean it with water. There's is no wax anymore. We use to run a burnisher, it was called, across it every night. We do that once a week now instead of seven days a week. So that’s just one little thing that customers wouldn't know unless I told them that but that we see and that's a huge savings to us. And it's good for our environment, too because we're not using those chemicals to clean our floors that we needed to do in the past because of the type of material that was on the floor.
ST: It is very pleasant looking, now that you pointed it out. You look at the floor and "Oh, yeah, actually, it looks like concrete and it's very polished."
JM: Randy, why don't we just start now with a little bit as we walk down through the aisles here, wide aisles. So there's more room for smiles, huh?
RM: Yes, that was one of the goals--to create that customer space that I talked about--you know, one of the things as we walk up to the frozen cases here, you'll see that the lights come on when somebody approaches and that was one of the energy efficient things. We, the estimation is, that you can save 20% on your bill by that design and so in the middle of the night when nobody's in here, those lights will be off.
ST: They've just gone off there. So if we approach, oh, there you go! Just as I'm waving my hand around--obviously, I’m waving my hand a lot when I talk--it triggered the lights.
JM: The design there is to save up to 20% just because the lights aren't on all the time. They go off when nobody's there.
RM: And another thing, as we stand here, we have these skylights and as the natural lights comes through our building, our ceiling lights dim. You know, they'll never totally shut off but you can actually tell as you look down towards over here, you can see that they're running a little bit less output than the ones that are on the back row where there are no skylights. So that's another huge savings, is using the natural light as it comes in, to illuminate the inside of our store.
JM: And I see there's a little, little egg-shaped design or something. Is that to prevent the direct sunlight or, what is that for?
RM: Well, that is to, because we're in Iowa in the winter times, keeping them clear and open so the snow or ice or whatever will come right off of them and that.
ST: Which those of us who live here know all about.
RM: Yes. And last year, we did not want it as much experience as we did but… [Laughter.]
ST: It was a lot.
JM: So let's keep moving here so. We're on this beautiful floor and we're looking at the skylights as we go, we're noticing the lights. Give us some of the other features. I'm sure some of the materials we're talking about, you can talk about at all?
RM: Well, a lot of the materials were part of the LEED building practices and again things that customers probably wouldn’t notice but a little like caulking. They used a special type of caulk that meets the LEED certification. The dry wall, another thing, and the construction people were giving lists of products that they needed to use and be able to prove they used in the building process because that is part of the application for the LEED certification.
JM: All right, of course, all the different requirements. It’s quite a process, isn't it? Isn't it that, when people say "LEED", it sound, it just doesn't mean "leadership" it's a very specific, very strict measure in order to get this? It's an array of things. We'll talk about that more and we've heard some of it, we've spoken with Kevin Nordmeyer, who is the Iowa Chapter US Green Building Council, I think, person as well. So pretty exciting, pretty exciting stuff. So now we're back by the meat section and looking out toward the front of the store and you know what? It's somewhere between a really good--I hope this doesn't sound funny--a really nice airport, the way the feeling is because there is such spacious area towards the ceiling and very high ceilings, but very open. And by that I mean, a really beautiful airport.
RM: Well, in our old building practices, we would've used ceiling tiles and things like that and that is not the case here. It's just the open ceiling that creates that atmosphere of openness, that what we're trying to do, create the open airy feeling and it's also a savings because we're not putting that roof in and using those materials that wouldn't be part of the LEED certification. But you know, even in our stores that we built recently that are not part of the LEED certification, this is how we're building them.
ST: Actually, isn't that one of the features of the building that there is more air coming in from the outside? There's more of a circulation?
RM: Yes, it is. And actually, we're trying to get that figured out cause we have too much air and it's created some refrigeration issues for us and some humidity issues in the store and it’s not that we didn't know that's gonna happen ‘cause we did, but we just have to get our system dialed in to where it operates at the appropriate level.
ST: Is there any other feature about the air conditioning system that's different?
RM: Well, I guess unique to us, as you look at our system, we have four output areas and we call these "spaceships" ‘cause that’s kind of what they look like. And they operate independently. So they're monitoring the temperature in areas of the store and people may think this is weird but when you get back over here by the one that's by the frozen food department--and I don't know the percentage--but a majority of time, it will probably be blowing heat out. But you get over here on the other side and it's gonna be blowing out air conditioning. And it's recycling the air too as we use it, too. So it is unique to us and that is the system that we're really trying to learn and get dialed in correctly so it operates even more efficiently.
JM: Well, fantastic! This is the spaceships on the ceiling. See there, I knew there was an aeronautical something there.
ST: I've noticed that obviously in the store, you have quite a few organic produce and there's quite a large area for all things organic, an extension of the range as well. Is that just a local consideration, or is that more of a Hy-Vee drive to have more sources which are organic?
RM: Actually, it's more of a Hy-Vee. We've been, the Hy-Vee health market, as we look at it at our store, we've been putting these in stores now for, I think, 12 to 13 years. You know, our selection here may be a little different than you would find in, say, even Mt. Pleasant has a Hy-Vee health market in it and Burlington, but again customers decide what we carry and what we don't carry.
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ST: James and myself are doing a show for KRUU-FM radio. I just wondered what you thought of the new Hy-Vee store?
Female Shopper 1 : I think it's wonderful.
JM: What do you like about it?
Female Shopper 1: The organization of it and the airiness of it. It's just really nice and friendly. It's nice to have the light.
JM: I agree, there's just, there's something fresher about it.
Female Shopper 1: Yeah, I think it's more open and you get a lot of help in here.
JM: And are you aware of the sort of green aspects of it, or are you just enjoying the fact that it's open and nice?
Female Shopper 1: Well, I'll go for the greenness of it but I just love the openness of it.
JM: Great, thank you very much!
Female Voice 1: Thank you.
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ST: I just wanted to ask you as someone who works in the store, that is the experiences like for you working here compared to the old place?
Male Employee 1: No, absolutely fantastic. It's something that's completely different. They just brought in a lot of opportunities into, with the new cheese ball even and some things that were brought in, like Chinese and Italian, some of our new gourmet breads and our seafood section. So definitely been great.
JM: Have you noticed any difference in the sort of green aspect of the building?
Male Employee 1: Oh, absolutely. Definitely a lot of the usage of the light and everything, it really flows through very well, compared to the old store. It's a lot more brighter and welcoming.
ST: Do you find it a more pleasant place to work?
Male Employee 1: Yes, yes, I do. Atmosphere, when it brightens up, of course, everybody's a lot more, happier. It's not as gloomy, it's friendly, it's really welcoming kinda exotic environment compared to what we've been used to.
JM: Any other final thoughts?
Male Employee 1: Come on in. Check it out.
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ST: We're just making a show about the new store, the Hy-Vee Store, so just wanted to ask you what you felt about the new store? I see you're trying to choose between a number of different yogurts there.
Male Shopper 1: Oh, the new store is fantastic. The increase in the selection is monumental. Takes a lot longer to shop. That's the only downside really, but it's fantastic. Can't go wrong.
JM: Are you noticing anything, in terms of the difference from the green aspect of the building?
Male Shopper 1: Sunshine. Through all the windows and the roof which is great. And the increased selection of organic and natural food is phenomenal. It must have quintupled at least. At least.
ST: Yeah, you're a man after my own heart. I was standing here, I think last week, with yogurts in my hand, just like you, trying to choose between all the increased selection. I think it took me about 7 minutes.
Male Shopper 1: Well, you're beating me then because I’m, still haven't decided. It's phenomenal. It really is. The first few weeks I have to admit it was almost too much. The selection was like, it was such a change, but it’s, it turned out--I’m in the groove now, so I'm all right.
JM: Thank you very much.
Male Shopper 1: You're welcome.
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JM: Well, great. Maybe we should mosey toward one of the other new aspects of this brand new LEED Hy-Vee here in Fairfield. By the way, this is part of the Dream Green Series, I'm James Moore, we’re with Stuart Tanner, my co-host, travelling all over the state looking at different cutting-edge communities, different innovators, different, well, progress in this direction. But in terms of this Hy-Vee store that we're in, one aspect is the cuisine. There have been some decisions to kind of open up some sushi aspects, some Chinese. Talk to me a little bit about that.
RM: Sushi is something new to Hy-Vee. I can't tell you exactly how many sushi bars we have in our company right now but I think it's around 25. But it's something that we are doing in remodels and adding and again, it's by customer demand. It’s just something, it's been a trend that customers have gone to and it's part of the healthy lifestyle that people seem to wanna be gearing their lifestyle towards and again we're just trying to meet what customers want.
ST: I wanted to ask you, some of the people that we interviewed, one of their major comments is, "We'll never really have energy efficiency, sustainability until businesses switch to those models because they want to, because it makes economic sense. Not because it's a green thing to do or for the publicity or any other thing other than it just makes economic sense. Would you say that's fundamentally why Hy-Vee switching to it?
RM: Well, I think that we're exploring that and trying to determine from an efficiency standpoint because it does cost a little more to build the facility but we have to realize what the savings is on the backside. And that's what we're trying to learn; try to determine if there's a substantial savings. Now the outlook is that, yes, there is. But the reality we don't know yet, but it appears that that is the case. And I'll give you an example. You know our floor care and our cost in the upkeep of the floor in this building is exactly the same as it was in the old store but yet we’ve added 30,000 square feet. So that's what I mean. It appears that there is a substantial amount of savings and over time we'll learn that and be able to gauge that but it does appear that there a substantial savings in what we've accomplished here.
JM: Any other thoughts that we haven't covered that you would like to bring up.
RM: We know what our responsibilities are to Fairfield and we're responsible to help our community grow. And we're responsible to help our community be successful and we try to do that. We try to be involved in as much as we can and we're happy to do that because we feel that's our responsibility. If we wanna grow our business, our community needs to grow with us. And we recognize that and we know that.
ST: I just wanted to ask what the customer feedback had been like, what kind of comments you'd been getting from the customers.
RM: Mostly, very good. You know, there's been some that don't like it and for whatever reason. But overwhelmingly the support has been very good and the comments have been very good. I think for the most part people were anxiously awaiting to be able to come in to see it and when they got the opportunity to see it, they were, I think, very happy.
JM: Stuart, any final thoughts from you?
ST: Yes, talking about the sushi has made me hungry, I think I might indulge a little bit later. But seriously, this is my local store, so speaking personally, I'm delighted that this development has taken place. Thank you to Hy-Vee and thank you for going green because I think personally, that's what every responsible business needs to do these days and Hy-Vee are being a leader in that area and that's a very, very fine thing indeed.
JM: It is dangerously close to lunch and I think I might just “sushify” myself. Randy Menke, again thank you so much, director of the Hy-Vee here in Fairfield, for giving us a tour of this beautiful new facility and also a sense of Hy-Vee and its commitment to the community. Keep up the good work.
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ST: Just wanted to ask you, are you enjoying the new store? What do you think about it?
Male Shopper 2: I, well, it’s, aesthetically it's nice, yeah.
JM: Have you shopped before in the other Hy-Vee?
Male Shopper 2: Yeah, a long time ago. It doesn't feel cloistered and just dark, like the other one did. It's a nice design. Yeah, it really is. It looks like they're trying to emulate the Whole Foods image perhaps, even Costco, kind of large warehouse, open air warehouse style.
ST: Actually James described it as looking like an airport. I think he's getting confused because there's someone making announcements but they're not aircraft actually.
JM: But they call these things spaceships. See on the ceiling? The circulators, so I felt at home.
Male Shopper 2: Yeah.
JM: Thank you very much.
Male Shopper 2: You're welcome.
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ST: We're actually doing a little show on the Hy-Vee store and we thought we could ask you what you felt about the new store?
Male Shopper 3: It's a great store. I think it's LEED certified so it's very energy efficient, great selection of foods--lot of organics. I've never been to a big supermarket like this. I've been to Whole Foods and it almost reminds me that in some ways but good service, can't complain. It's added a lot to the town, I think.
JM: And what is your feeling in terms of the green aspects/ Anything you noticed there with this LEED building?
Male Shopper 3: Well, it just feels good when I'm in here. You know, the air flow seems good. You come in--it's very hot out today--it's cool but not cold which I dislike in a lot of stores. [To deli staff: Thank you very much.] Just getting my sandwich here. You know, it feels like a good building. The airflow definitely, and there's light coming in--it's fantastic--the skylights. They went the extra mile in making the building good and I'm happy about it.
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ST: Did you use to work at the old store?
Female Employee 2: Yes.
ST: So what do you think of working in this store compared to the old store?
Female Employee 2: I love it.
JM: What do you like about it?
Female Employee 2: I think it's much bigger. It feels more like a bigger city.
JM: I 'm wondering if you've noticed any of the sorts of green parts of it, the green aspects, you know...
Female Employee 2: Yeah, I know pretty much all about it.
JM: How are you relating to that? How does that feel to you?
Female Employee 2: It's a lot easier to clean up messes, for sure.
JM: That's a big thing. We learned all about the floor and how much, how it's just using water to clean and all that sort of thing. But, and so how does it feel working here?
Female Employee 2: Well, I'm from New York so I'm used to a big city and everything like that. So moving here was like really tiny and I kinda felt like out of place. It took me four years to get used to the way the pace is over here. So it kinda feels like I'm going to a bigger city.
JM: Funny, cuz that’s one of the things coming in that I noticed is like, this does not feel like...
Female Employee 2: A little town.
JM: A little town. Just because of the design, the openness and so forth. We don’t mean to interrupt your work. I see, I see she's getting right back at stocking those shelves.
ST: Do you find it easier to work in this store?
Female Employee 2: Um, some parts. You have a lot more to learn. I work in the health market, so I have to learn all the organic things and I have to know where everything else is in the store. Because I always get asked, especially when I'm running back to the back room, everybody always stops me to ask for things.
ST: Because you work in that section, has it changed what you eat and your lifestyle?
Female Employee 2: A little bit. My mom dabbles in organic food a little bit, you know. So I try
out little things here and there. Some things are expensive so I wait until we get paid, of course.
JM: Well, I also hear that it's quite an expanded section, so there's a lot going on there, a lot of customer requests. Is that right?
Female Employee 2: Definitely, requests are just about every day for something. So, it’s nice.
JM: Well, it's nice for us. Thank you so much. Have a great day.
Female Employee 2: No problem. You guys have a great one.
JM: Yup. Bye-bye.
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JM: And this is James Moore, along with me, my co-host Stuart Tanner, as part of the Dream Green Series. We have an interview today with a number of the individuals who are really blazing a trail in terms of LEED Building. This is a corporation. We visited the local store here in Fairfield and spoke with the local Director, Randy Menke, looking through the new LEED building here in Fairfield, with the Hy-Vee grocery chain. And I just want to say, by way of introduction, Hy-Vee, really, one of the pioneers, one would say, in terms of this attention to energy and environmental design. The LEED designation from the US Green Building Council we've been learning about, as part of the series, and talking with a number of people--really something to behold. We're gonna be speaking with them about the company's approach to healthy living and sustainability through this emphasis on buildings. Hy-Vee is an Iowa-based, an employee-owned grocery chain. They do about 6.4 billion in [annual] sales, fifty thousand employees, some 229 stores. So we're talking about a company that ranks among the top 30 in supermarket chains, the top 50 in terms of private companies. So this is an interesting angle and commitment. I happen to also originally be from Madison, so the very first store that they achieved this LEED Platinum Gold status was right there in Madison. We're really delighted to speak with a number of the key players from Hy-Vee. We'll be starting off with Mike Smith. Mike Smith is the Director of Real Estate and Sustainability and has been since 2006. Mike, thank you so much for joining us today.
Mike Smith: My pleasure.
ST: Mike, I just wanted to start by asking you, what are the fundamental reasons why Hy-Vee has decided to start building LEED certified stores? What's the thinking behind it?
MS: Well, I think it really goes back to our focus on healthy living. We see sustainability in the context that doing things sustainably is a part of a healthy planet and living. You can't live healthy without a healthy planet. So we made the decision back in 2007 that we needed to look a little more closely at what we could do in our stores, I’ll say, green them up. The stores were, what I would call, a kind of light sheet of green, to begin with and we were just looking at the type of things we could do to challenge ourselves to get a little greener. And so LEED seems like a good platform. I always tell people it's kind of our learning platform, almost our R&D for green things in our buildings. And so that's, more or less, where we started and we’ve just kind of gone from there.
ST: When we've talked to people, many of them have said this whole sustainability thing will never really take hold until companies start shifting into it because they believe that it’s the future and they believe that economically it makes sense. Would you say those were reasons behind your decision as well?
MS: Well, certainly economics played a role and if it didn’t make economic since, I don’t know if we’d have the enthusiasm we have. But I think there are other reasons that are compelling and not the least of which, you know, the things that we--if there are things we perceive to be impacting, whether it be local or global environments, we think we would certainly take those things seriously. So I don’t think, I don’t think economics are the sole reason for doing this, although, obviously they’re a significant part of things. And so, many of the things that we're doing, there is a return of the investment. On the other hand, there are some of the things that we've done where the return is negligible but yet we still perceive those to be things that we would pursue.
JM: I'm wondering, in terms of your roll out, moving forward, Mike, what is it that you're looking to do? Now the Fairfield was a construction site. I know in Madison you adopted from an existing site.
MS: Every store that we've challenged ourselves with to do LEED, we’ve just looked at new opportunities. So in Fairfield there was the opportunity to build upon the relationship we've got with EPA and the regional program and to try some things with the refrigeration system that we haven't tried previously. We're gonna be doing some new LEED stores here in Des Moines and elsewhere. And in each one of those instances, there’ll be items that we will take a shot at that will be new to those installations. But yet we'll be carrying through on some of the things that were a part of our very first stores. So to give you an example, you’ll see concrete floors and you’ll see sky lighting, you'll see refrigeration systems using LED lighting and motion sensors to turn on the lights. You'll see these things carried through all those stores. But at the same time, each one of these new opportunities that new stores present us we’ll be trying new and different things.
JM: I wanted to ask one slight follow-up question. You mention obviously the Madison store's been going for some time. Are you seeing energy savings? I know that's a big store in Madison. What's your takeaway there?
MS: I’m going to turn that over to John Scanlon, who is our Energy Manager, and John knows a great deal more about that.
John Scanlon: We are seeing energy savings in Madison. We’ve done a number of things and a number of the strategies that Mike just mentioned, from the day lighting, we use dim-able ballast, we use energy efficient fan motors, the LED lighting that we use in our refrigerated cases, a number of refrigeration controls, and we’ve really tried to dial in that store, and it is one of our more efficient stores in the chain.
JM: Could you talk us through the Green Chill refrigeration? I know that's one key aspect of the energy saving regime.
JS: The Green Chill--it's really twofold. Besides just energy saving, and that’s really not the key component. The key component is we've partnered with the EPA. They’ve developed the Green Chill program. Refrigerant leaks are a problem in the grocery industry. The average retail grocer can leak anywhere from 20 to 23% of the refrigerant. We've gotten rid certainly of the R12s and the 502s and the R22s. Now we’ve gotten a new refrigerants. The problem with one of the latest refrigerants that most of the industry is using, it has a high global warming potential. For example, R404A is one that much of the industry has landed on. So our real challenge is how do we reduce the amount of refrigerant that goes into our systems in general. So that if we do have leaks--we certainly want to tighten those systems up so we don’t have leaks--but if we do have leaks, how do we minimize that impact? Green Chill really promotes the use of advance refrigeration technologies. One of those would be secondary. Instead of having refrigerant flow through our refrigerated cases, we basically are cooling another fluid which would be, in this case, glycol, for our medium temp, and we're pumping glycol through those cases. Really it just reduces our exposure to that leak. So, for instance, in a store like Fairfield, we've cut in half our refrigerant charge. Instead of having 36 to 3800 pounds, we actually have 1700 pounds of refrigerant in that store. So really, just helps our carbon footprint.
ST: What would you say with the other key aspects of energy saving in the design then?
JS: Well, we built very energy efficient HVAC systems. Really they all work together. And we’ve just tried to be as efficient as we can.
JM: I think the store manager referred to those as the “spaceships” in the ceiling area.
JS: They are a little bit of a unique looking air diffuser for our world, yes.
JM: They looked great. It reminded me of a sort of a modern airport, And the floor is an amazing thing. I mean, Fred Astaire, I think, would be very happy being inside there as well. And we've learned about being able to clean it without the use of chemicals and all that. I want to ask a little bit more of a general question, have you noticed as you've led the way on LEED building, are other people becoming interested talking to you?
MS: I think the first thing that I would say is that in our industry--now, in our trade area, it's not nearly as common--but in the grocery industry, a lot of large grocery retailers are really digging in and doing LEED stores. Regionally, you see players in the Northeast that have really done quite a few LEED stores. There’s actually a LEED platinum store up in Portland, Maine. You see Publics doing some stuff in the Southeast. So, again, it's not uncommon to see LEED stores. In our trade area, on the other hand, it's a little less common. While I haven’t seen a great deal of our competitors getting involved in LEED, what you do see is a number of the convenient store chains that are looking at LEED, and have actually built a couple of LEED stores. And we have, we actually participate, not only with other grocery retailers, but also with other folks in other industries, large box retailers, and what not. And you're seeing them dig a little deeper and get more involved in LEED as well.
JM: Well, that's great. I know the American Institute of Architects has made a goal to have all energy efficiency buildings being built by 2030, so we see some convergence. Of course, the US Green Building Council’s the body responsible for giving the LEED Certification. Is part of the move in this direction, is it because of funding available locally or on the state level, or federal with some of these programs? How much does that play into it?
MS: I wish I could tell you it played a role. To our knowledge, there is no federal or local funding to assist in LEED. It's frankly just been an investment we've made. We think it's a good investment, but it’s an investment we've made without any kind of outside assistance.
ST: It’d be interesting to hear what you are planning going into the future. Obviously, it could be the case that you’re going to build LEED stores when the opportunity arises, for building a new store or, you know, when there’s occasion where you need to do a refit. Or it could be that you plan to role this out in a much more substantial way. So could you give us a sense of how aggressive you're going to be about this switch over?
Jeff Markey: This is Jeff Markey, Assistant Vice President of Engineering. As far as the future, and specifically with LEED, our direction has been to look at more and more locations being LEED-certified, whether it’s new stores or major remodels, expansions, or relocations. So going forward, we are going to look at a majority of our projects being LEED-certified at this point.
JM: Congratulations on that. I'm wondering, we did have a chance to ask some of the customers, some of the employees there, about how they felt working in this different kind of environment. What’s your sense from your employees in Madison, and I guess we're still just at the beginning here with Fairfield, but any word back from the people that work for you, in terms of those environments?
JMK: For one thing, they’re, you know, it's positive to come work for a company, frankly, that puts this kind of effort into their building design. Let alone just being able to work in a space that empathizes with natural lighting and day lighting, and looking into different characteristics of comfort, whether it's thermal comfort or just the surroundings. So we have had some positive feedback from employees themselves. We're getting good customer comments through from--I do get emails from the website when there’s comments when it regards the building. We are getting quite a few comments in Madison. Fairfield, like you said, is quite new, so we're just starting to get some comments back there, but we would expect the same.
JM: My sense is that you have decided to do this as part of what you do, sort of, anyway. But I'm just wondering, now in the last five, six years, Mike as you move on this direction, is it something that feels good, or is it something that also has, sort of, another part of the branding that works well?
MS: Well, the thing is, at our core, we're a fairly humble Midwestern company. We're employee-owned. We’re committed to not only the health of our employees, but also very much so to the health and well-being of our customers. And so it's very consistent with who we are. I mean, to me, sustainability is just very a part of Hy-Vee’s DNA. It’s a buzz word that’s come about in the last four or five years, but the idea of being genuinely committed to the well-being of your employees and your customers is nothing new around here.
JM: Beautifully said. I’ll have to say, now with the new LEED Hy-Vee store, you have wider aisles for wider smiles. And Stuart, you wanted to ask something else?
ST: Just wanted to pick up on the aspect of healthy living which seems to be a part of the core values of Hy-Vee. Obviously, one of the things you need for that is for the customers to pick up on that, and you know, that they are purchasing more healthy living products. So have you noticed trends or a shift in the buying patterns of your customers towards a more, healthy lifestyle?
MS: I think clearly that's been something that we’ve seen. We have somewhere on the order of 170 dieticians in our stores and people have increasingly began to interact with them and use those services to help them. You see an integration of health and wellness. You know, we have pharmacies in our stores, but we've integrated into those pharmacies these dieticians, and so, one of our goals has been to get people off of medications and into better eating habits. And we've seen a proliferation of those programs and participation. Many of our new stores, for example, have club rooms, and those club rooms provide an opportunity to not only showcase some our products, but also to help customers understand how to make healthier choices, how to prepare meals more healthfully. You may have seen, we actively display NuVal scores, which score the healthiness of our products on a scale of zero to a hundred. And we've really had a concentrated effort to get that information out to the customers and help them understand that. And slowly but surely, we're seeing that translated into different choices they're making, you know. If you have a choice between two products, competing products, but one has a higher NuVal score, we’re beginning to see people actually opt to buy the product with the higher NuVal score. So we're beginning to see, it takes time, I mean, it's an educational process but certainly we're beginning to see those things take shape.
ST: Well, having a mission like that as part of the core of the company is a little bit different than, if I might suggest, a lot of corporations, a lot of companies. Particularly if they're answering to shareholders in many ways. Clearly, for Hy-Vee, this is not a veneer, and it’s not about a publicity campaign.
In fact, in some ways, you've been quite muted about these things. I wanted to ask you whether you felt that the structure of the company is vital in terms of giving you the freedom to have a core mission like that?
MS: Well, clearly, I think it allows us to be who we are. I mean, it's at the core of who we are. There are public companies that have committed to these things. I think, there’s, to some extent, a little bit more cynicism, when it comes to public companies, whether that's rightly or wrongly deserved. But truly, we're free to be who we want to be and this focus on healthy living is consistent with who we've always been. And so, I'm sure that our structure gives us the ability to get perhaps a little bit more entrenched in this endeavor. Our store directors take it very seriously and there’s a commitment at the local level consistent with this corporate commitment to healthy living. And so, I think our ownership structure, the philosophy in which we share profits with our employees, all these things kind of merge together. There’s a kind of convergence of perspectives in the way we do business. So I do think it makes it much easier for us to do that but it also, I think, makes it a challenge at times, too, because we give our stores autonomy and that autonomy allows them to do what they want to do. And one of the things, frankly, that allows that they know what their local customers want and need, and can meet those needs a little bit better.
JM: How did Fairfield end up being able to be this next endeavor for Hy-Vee?
MS: Well, that's a great question. And I think it was a combination of factors. I received calls from the city of Fairfield about their interest in this being a LEED store. We had considered it and we were kind of, just sticking our toes in the LEED waters, so to speak. And so, while we hadn't committed it to being a LEED store, we thought it was a great idea. We thought the community would appreciate it, and frankly, we just looked upon as another opportunity for us to do some more testing, if you will. As I mentioned, LEED provides this kind of R&D opportunity for our buildings, and so it was a great chance to--it’s a little smaller store than the store in Madison, as you mentioned earlier, so it was a good opportunity. And again, our perspective that the community wanted it and desired it, helped us to make that decision. When communities express those things, and we're structured the way we are, their wants and needs play a role in what we do.
ST: I wanted to ask about construction and the use of recycled materials. I know that that's also an important aspect, so perhaps you could talk us through that.
JMK: Well, as far as the recycled materials, especially with LEED stores, doing a LEED store, and you have that type of scorecard, it helps you, to remind you to emphasize items like recycled materials. So it's something that normally, maybe, on a normal construction were starting to think about that, but this has really put the emphasis on actually checking materials and getting the background sheets on it, and finding out how much is recycled materials now that we have to track it. I could say also, like in Madison--there was an earlier question about it being an existing structure opposed to a new structure in Fairfield--that was one where we did a new process in Madison of anything we took from the old structure to make sure that was diverted from going to landfill. And we had huge success and actually had a management company we hired just to manage that portion of the construction projects. And we were able to salvage over 75% of our waste stream from avoiding the landfill, and going to recycled materials sources. Little alone, the materials we brought into the store for construction being recycled content.
ST: Yeah, well, that actually is really impressive when you put that all together. What about sourcing of green products? That’s also mentioned as part of the strategy.
MS: Sourcing food locally is, again, something that we've just done for many years. We've done it because that's what our customers want. We've done it because in these communities we want to support the local farmers and the local producers. There's always been a great deal of local food available in Hy-Vee stores. And frankly, over the course of the last four or five years, we've really begun working more closely with Iowa farmers, and things like the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. And trying to find ways to make it easier for local producers to sell stuff at our stores. And that, you know, obviously competes with issues of food safety and standards that we have to deal with now that are much more stringent than they were just several years ago. So there's a concerted effort to bring more local food. We’ve had a focus on organics for quite some time. Many of our large format stores have health markets and, associated with those health markets oftentimes, we’ll have what we call affectionately, “the green aisle," which has, you know, a large array of green products, recycled content materials and things of that nature. And we're constantly looking at, not just the products that we offer for sale, but also, you know, how they’re packaged. We’re beginning to look much more clearly and with more focus at how those products were produced. You know, I work with our buyers and making sure they're aware of the sustainability issues that are relevant to the products that they're purchasing. So that’s a criteria that's evaluated in addition to the other things that we look at when we buy products and offer products for sale. So it's something that's an ongoing effort and something we're constantly bringing more and more energy into. And over time, you'll see us migrate to having more and more green products available. Although, we already have a fairly substantial selection as we speak.
ST: Dan, I just want to ask you, since you’re the architect, how it is for you, as an experience, to be moving into this area and rethinking from the most fundamental level all the way up through the building of sustainability and green initiatives. What's the challenge like and what's the experience like of that?
Daniel Willrich: Yeah, I mean, it requires you to rethink everything that you sort of learned in your career up to this point because things evolve. And I think being here at Hy-Veehas been, is a great opportunity to experiment and try things like we’ve said. You know, we tried the sky lights at the Madison store. It worked, we keep doing it. You know, if we try something that just doesn't work for us, we have an opportunity to make it better on the next store. So it's really a great opportunity just to continue to evolve and focus and fine-tune approaches to construction.
JM: Let me just say again, congratulations on your efforts. And also with the vision of the founders that have created such a success across eight states here in the Midwest and certainly in Iowa, now particularly for those of us who are in Fairfield, to see the fruits of this labor and this effort, and also, really the humble nature of which you're going about it--I mean, ‘it just makes sense; it's the right thing to do’--those are strong and powerful words. I wonder, Mike, if you have any final thoughts?
MS: Well, I appreciate you guys thinking of us and giving us this opportunity to talk a little bit about what we were doing. You know, mentioned at the onset, that, you know, sustainability here is truly just a part and parcel of this focus on healthy living. And, that focus is because we care about our customers, and we care about our employees, and let’s face it, these are our neighbors as well as our customers.
And so, you know, it really is a, it's not a challenging thing for us to see sustainability in that light. When we do sustainability stuff, we kinda look at things in three kind of general areas--we’ve focused on one of those, which is how we build stores. But when we look at sustainability here, we look at how we build our stores, how we operate our stores, and then how we stock our stores. And we talked a little bit about, you know, the products that we have on our shelves, and our focus on trying to have more and more, not only green, but healthy products available to our customers. But the piece we didn't talk a great deal about is how we operate our stores. And there’s a real concerted effort going forth to figure out how we get greener, for lack of a better term, and how we operate our stores as well. And that’s about employee education, and working more closely with our partners and our vendors. And so there's a real, there’s a lot of people that are involved in this effort and it would be remiss for us not to mention how many other folks are involved in this effort, and how their energies are important to making it work. So shout out to the people we didn't mention here, but there's a whole lot of people helping us get there.
ST: That is an important point. One of the things that sustainability ties into in many respects is community building. Once you start sourcing locally, using local materials, in so many different ways, and in order to initiate healthy living, it initiates conversations, contacts. It is actually community building, it's job creation. It’s job creation comes through energy saving, in fact, because obviously it's putting more money back into the state, in one way or another eventually. So the community building aspect is something that is very fundamental and it is appreciated. And I just wanted to say from myself personally, to thank Hy-Vee for creating this wonderful local store. And to thank you from Fairfield as well, because I think, many, many people love the store already and really appreciate it. And on a more profound level, when you look out there and you see the energy challenges, the energy crunch that there is, the situation that the countries are in, and the requirement for using resources in the future in a much more sensible manner, then, you know, that's something quite profound. Really to be able to go to your local store and know that you’re shopping in a place where that's part of the strategy of the company is something that's a very positive experience, in fact.
JM: And that was a little taste of the Apocalypso Tantric Boys Choir. We’ve been featuring various Iowa bands and musicians, to give a little musical reprieve as part of our shows. Hope you have been enjoying that feature, Apocalypso Tantric Boys Choir, a jazz ensemble out of Fairfield. We have really enjoyed this journey to Hy-Vee looking at the green building that has gone up, the LEED building. And also talking with the corporate management team, the sustainability team. What a great vision those guys have. And Stuart, you have some other points you wanted to share on this topic?
ST: Well, I thought it would be interesting to look at the list of Iowa LEED certified buildings. I've got the list here. There’s about 60 or 70 of them, in various places throughout the state: Ames, Des Moines, Davenport, Iowa City, Fairfield, Dubuque, North Liberty, Pella. They’re spread quite widely and there's quite a variety of different buildings: Davenport Police Facility, Durrant Group Corporate Headquarters, Dubuque, Grinnell College Athletic & Fitness Center, Iowa City Fire Department, Johnston County Health and Human Services, Iowa City. So, you know, quite a range--Progressive Packaging LLC Dubuque. So their packaging is progressive and so is the building, another kind of packaging.
JM: And speaking of Dubuque, that's a place that we will be visiting as part of our discovery across the great state of Iowa. We will be heading to Dubuque in a future show. So do stay tuned and follow the journey at greeniowa.org with blogs and transcripts and archives of past shows, all that good stuff. How about any buildings in Des Moines?
ST: There are some buildings in Des Moines. Yes, let's have a look: the Martin Luther King Park Shelter, City of Des Moines; Mercy Lakes Medical Center, West Des Moines; the Des Moines Federal Building, I think that's one of the ones that we were mentioning. There’s clusters in different places. Clearly once they get going somewhere, other people latch onto that and then it encourages people in the area to get their buildings LEED-certified, to build them that way for clearly all the advantages that come with that.
JM: And again, that's leadership in energy and environmental design. I think there's one that we're gonna be visiting in the, right around this area as well, right?
ST: That's right. The Sustainable Living Center, Fairfield. We will be actually visiting that. The Student Center at M.U.M. campus is also LEED-certified. Then there's the Willow Wind School, Iowa City, which sounds like somewhere Harry Potter might have gone to.
JM: Well said. Now, you said Willow Wind. Speaking of wind and all those wonderful connections, our very next show, we are headed to Jamaica, mon. That's right, Jamaica, Iowa. We're going to visit with Tom Wind, who is a long time leader in the field of wind consulting, and we're gonna actually visit with him at his home and office, up in Jamaica. He's gonna give us a tour also of a community wind farm--seven wind turbines. I can't wait. I’ve never seen a wind turbine close up. I'm kind of excited.
ST: We are going to get close up and personal with the wind turbines and that's an exciting prospect. As you say, wind is a big source of renewable energy in the state of Iowa, so it's going to be fascinating to hear about it.
JM: Well, I can't wait. As always, Stuart, it is such a joy working with you, driving around the state, seeing all the different corners and talking to people that are really making a difference in green, sustainable energy efficient approaches, cutting edge projects, communities that are leading the way. Well, that's the purpose of this series--to celebrate what's gone before and look at who's doing what to see what we can do to jump on a great bandwagon. Any final thought?
ST: Yeah. I’d just like to encourage people to go and visit the greeniowa.org website because there are a few programs already posted up there. So you can join us in the journey to Solar Splash, to Des Moines, and there's other programs coming up, and you can see some of the blogs that we've written, hear some audio clips, listen to the entire programs. So, do go on, go on the site and indulge yourself.
JM: And remember that we're happy to have these freely shared with anyone interested. Great to visit with you. We'll see you next week with Tom Wind, all about the wind. We'll see you next week right here on the Dream Green Series on solar-powered KRUU-FM.
Voiceover: Produced by Stuart Tanner and James Moore at solar-powered KRUU 100.1 FM in Fairfield, Iowa. Online at kruufm.com. This series is funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence and nearly seventy individuals companies and organizations. For a list of sponsors, visit our website at greeniowa.org. Archives available for download under Creative Commons license. Music from Zilla and Apocalypso Tantric Boys Choir.
DG4: Hy-Vee LEEDs - English Transcript
DREAM GREEN 4 Transcript