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Sustainable Store Design in Action

I recently had the pleasure of cracking open my first built project for Starbucks: Reclamation Drive-Thru in Tukwila, Washington. This small project came at a perfect time here at Starbucks as we challenge ourselves to deliver LEED-certified stores across the US. Pending LEED certification, this project is just one step toward our goal of universally building all new company-owned stores to be LEED-certified Starbucks Stores. I wanted it to be green, thought provoking and sustainable  the sort of project that stirs chatter. I think we got it.

So, what is Reclamation Drive-Thru? The store was inspired by the view (captured in the image above) outside the window of our headquarters on first avenue in Seattle, as the Seattle Times rightly reported last week. Shipping containers source our coffees and teas from around the world. But many end up in scrap yards once they reach their average 20 year lifespan. Reclamation Drive-Thru was inspired by a desire to help keep items used throughout our supply chain, like old shipping containers, out of the waste stream. The result: a 450 square foot drive-thru and walk-up store made from four end-of-life-cycle shipping containers. One small 20-foot container holds garbage, recycling and storage, but other than that, the whole store is contained within the shells of four containers that have been reclaimed, refurnished, renewed and revived. And it works!

Savings go beyond storage containers, as well. The store reduces material use with simplified, environmental signage. The building itself serves as a sign post, while form painting on the asphalt intuitively guides customers into the drive-thru. Rainwater collected from the roof of the drive-thru is used to nourish surrounding landscaping. Xeriscaping (selecting plants that naturally require less water) helps reduce water consumption. And in the event that the store needs a new location, the entire structure can be disassembled and moved.

We are now talking about ways to extend the thinking and learning from this project into other areas, perhaps in prefabrication projects or in exterior furniture and accessories. I’m not sure where this all will land, but the launch pad has now been successfully cleared and the resulting conversation has been positive. Our global footprint presents powerful possibilities to replicate and scale our green building efforts.

So where from do we go from here? A decidedly new way of thinking about how large our stand alone buildings could or should be, how they could look and function and about the possibility of off-site fabrication and more. These questions are exciting design challenges to bring to light, and we’re looking for creative, brand appropriate and business-savvy ways to solve them, while honoring our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint. Could sustainable design continue to influence our brand, our mission and our size? We think so.

Happy to chat anytime. Stay tuned for our 2011 Global Responsibility Report, publishing this Spring, which provides an update on our progress in sustainable construction. In the meanwhile, share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

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