Going Eco on the Automotive Side

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When Jay Caldwell and his dad Jack Caldwell opened their green Conway, Ark., Toyota-Scion dealership in 2008, they knew it was not just the right thing to do. It also came with some benefits. To start with, it wasn't as expensive as conventional wisdom holds — about 5 percent over standard construction — and he expects to break even in 6.4 years (yes, he penciled it out that closely.)

What they've ended up with is a dealership that uses various technologies and techniques to reduce electricity and water usage, operates as a great work environment for employees and serves as its own best marketing tool. "It was a situation where you have the opportunity to do the right thing, but also be financially rewarded for doing the right thing," Jay says. "You don't come across that too often."

What did they do to qualify for LEED certification?

  • Used motor oil fuels the building's heaters.
  • Rain water and air-conditioning condensate is collected in a 11,000-gallon cistern where it is used to irrigate the store's drought-resistant landscaping.
  • A sophisticated energy-management set-up controls a Variable Air Volume HVAC system.
  • 17 Solatube skylights — 12 of them in the shop area — funnel natural lighting into the dealership.
  • Waterless urinals and a car wash that filters and recycles the water it uses cuts water usage.
  • Recycled and renewable materials were used during construction and for furnishing the building.

All of the above has helped to redefine who and what the dealership is all about, the younger Caldwell says. It's a part of the store's culture, right down to the increase in recycling and the cleaning crews who use green chemicals to the pest-control services that don't use toxic methods to get rid of pests.

And as early entrants to a movement that's picking up steam, the decision to go green comes with the perk of novelty, meaning free press and attention from all corners of the media. The dealership even devotes a space on its Web site to tell its story about the decision to go green.

"Not only is it smart from a business standpoint and an environment standpoint, but it's also smart from an employee-relations standpoint. It's a better environment for them," Caldwell says, adding that the natural light illuminating the service area is a huge bonus. "They feel like they're back there in a surgical center. So that kind of pride and that feeling for them translates into their work and productivity." — D.J.