Minimalist Starbucks Store Notable For What It Leaves Out Rather Than What It Puts In

starbucks green design toronto photo overall

image via Starbucks

Last year at Greenbuild we learned about Starbucks' new Global Store Design Strategy from Corporate Architect Tony Gale. One very attractive feature was that it was not a "one size fits all" program but would adapt the designs to different regions; Tony said "we like to do different things in different regions, to reflect what is going on in the local culture."

We previously posted about their New York store at Spring and Crosby; I recently visited their Toronto prototype and found it to be a very interesting project indeed.

starbucks green design toronto photo interior

It is a small store, on the ground floor of a brand new condo, at the intersection of Toronto's shiny new rebuilt dedicated streetcar line and a major subway station, so it will get a lot of walk-in trade.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the store design is not the green goodies that they put in, but the stuff they left out. They have taken a minimalist approach and left out ceilings, drywall and flooring, leaving the basic concrete shell of the building exposed. All of the piping in the ceiling that serves the floors above is exposed and open, not even painted. There is an obvious environmental benefit of using less stuff, less building materials, a smaller footprint in construction.

starbucks green design toronto photo board

But there is a reason that ceilings get hung and walls get tiled in restaurants; it is easier to keep clean. Concrete stains easily, and those pipes in the ceiling will be looking fuzzy in a few years if they are not really careful.

starbucks green design toronto photo service

As for the stuff they put in, it is simple, straightforward and chosen to make a statement about going green. The wood comes from a local fallen barn; the tables and seating are made from reclaimed materials; the big table at the rear is even made from an old bowling alley. It is a bit rough around the edges, but there isn't usual wall-to-wall brown laminate either.

starbucks green design toronto photo front

It is a small, crowded store and those hard surfaces make it a noisy one, but there is a small wood panelled seating niche at the front that was as cozy as can be.

Of course all the usual green bells and whistles are there, the LED lighting, variable flush toilets and the little bit of paint that there is would have to be low VOC. The countertops look like a TreeHugger favourite, Icestone. And of course, it is going for LEED certification. (Tony Gale said that Starbucks was working with the US Green Building Council to develop an alternative to the conventional LEED to cover small retail multiple locations.)

But the real lesson here is how designers can tread lightly and add as little as possible, while still building a store that looks good. You don't get LEED points for what you leave out; the fact that the designers have indicates that they are really thinking about sustainability and not about point-mongering.


credit: Mark Savel

I am not crazy about the new graphics, and they didn't have any control over the exterior of the building, which Page and Steele Architects have been cranking out around Toronto for twenty years. But this ugly oyster has a green pearl inside.

More Starbucks in TreeHugger:
The Subtle but Significant Greening of Starbucks
Green Mood Lighting for Starbucks ! Switching 8000 Stores to LEDs ...

Related Content on