Interview: Tony Gale, Corporate Architect at Starbucks

starbucks green store design renovation photo

Via Starbucks

As Jaymi noted in Green Mood Lighting for Starbucks! Switching 8,000 Stores to LEDs, Starbucks is going through a big makeover, and is aiming for LEED certification of all of its stores starting in 2010. With over 16,000 stores worldwide, going green is a big deal.

Corporate Architect Tony Gale used to be Chief Architect for the City of Seattle, the kind of job where you do the tough stuff, working with agencies, communities, entrenched interests and NIMBYs on policy, direction and strategy rather than the fun stuff of designing. It is the perfect background for a job the size of the one at Starbucks. We caught up with Tony at Greenbuild in Phoenix.


explore the new store

New and renovated stores will be LEED certified under a new program designed for small retail outlets. According to the new Global Store Design Strategy:

" Inspired by Starbucks™ Shared Planet™, the company's ongoing commitment to ethical sourcing, environmental stewardship and community involvement, the new designs will reflect the character of each store's surrounding neighborhood and help to reduce environmental impacts."

I asked Tony Gale how Starbucks is doing this.

Tell us about what you do at Starbucks.

I came to Starbucks four and a half years ago because there was a sustainable platform in place, dealing with farmers, getting them to grow the right thing, the way they treated the partners and the part time employees, so there was an opportunity to take that whole attitude into a building program so for the the last four and a half years we have been developing sustainable building initiatives. Part of the problem was that there was no standard at the time for small retail. Big box yes, but nothing that covered Starbucks. So we went to the USGBC to discuss an alternative to LEED to cover small retail and multiple units instead of individual stores. We had to find something like the International Standards Organization (ISO), standards that you could use anywhere. Now we are rolling out a program at the pilot stage, ten stores in six bio-regions.

So it is sort of a package approval looking at all of the stores instead of individual ones?

Yes, but we want to we want this program to beyond just the new stores, we want to get into kiosks, and then the renovation programs. So we approached it not as a building prototype, but as a list of standards, and there are about seventy of them that have been certified as of august this year.

So I understand that every store doesn't have to look the same, by using the different standard it can have a completely different look.

You can, and we like to do different things in different regions, to reflect what is going on in the local culture.

What are the most dramatic takeaway points? What are the top things you are hitting first?

We are really interested in water and energy savings, in the HVAC systems for instance. 13% of our energy consumption is lighting. 46% is the equipment we use. So while a house might draw ten kilowatts, we are going through 40 to 50 kilowatts. That was a challenge, finding a way to thin-slice that equipment, to bring it down so we don't have a V8 engine in every store. We have been looking at irrigation, at porous paving. Also local sourcing, looking at regional materials within an 805 kilometer radius.

Now if one builds a LEED platinum building in the middle of the suburbs and everyone drives to it, there is not much point in the thing. Are you looking at all at issue of drive-throughs, the transportation intensity of your stores?

It is one of the first things I asked about. We tell our real estate people to look at urban sites first. It is a tough nut, we have looked at a variety of concepts, sloping driveways so you can turn off the car, and more. What we are looking at are quick orders, ways to get them through faster. You need room for about eight cars and we have to find a way to get those cars off the street faster.

And of course all of your consumables, you are looking at where they come from and switching to recyclables.

We are looking at this for everything we touch. It is all part of our Shared Planet concept, we are looking at every aspect, from the coffee cups to the coffee grounds.

More On Starbucks:
Green Mood Lighting for Starbucks! Switching 8,000 Stores to LEDs : TreeHugger
Starbucks Switches To Hormone-Free Milk