"With the energy climate the way it is, we thought it was smart business," says Jay Caldwell, general manager of Caldwell Toyota in Conway, Ark. Caldwell Toyota expects to earn gold certification for its new dealership in June.
Under LEED certification, dealerships earn points for their design elements and construction practices. For instance, dealerships could score a point for adding bike racks and changing rooms or by using carpets and paints that emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds. In other words, they get rewarded for saying goodbye to new-store smell.
Dealers also have earned points for reducing water and energy consumption by using flushless urinals and geothermal systems. Other categories encourage contractors to buy locally, thereby reducing emissions from transporting materials long distances, and to recycle more of their construction material.
Regular certification requires 26 points, silver 33, gold 39 and platinum 52, out of 69 total possible points. Builders typically plan to achieve more points than the certification they want requires, in case the Green Building Council denies credit on a few points.
Because LEED was designed for office buildings, some standards may require dealers to get creative. For instance, LEED awards credit to a building within a certain range of public transportation; a dealer might argue his courtesy van qualifies.
The competition for points is leading dealerships to improve aspects of their stores that were notorious for high levels of energy or water consumption. Some dealers have added automatically adjusting lighting systems to maximize energy efficiency in their showrooms. Innovative carwash systems can recycle 85 to 90 percent of the water they use.
"Dealerships are a very unique type of building. They combine the most difficult parts of retail, industry and office buildings" says Rick Ferrara Jr., a senior associate at the Gensler architectural firm. Gensler has worked on LEED dealerships for Toyota.
Ferrara says LEED protocols weren't really written with automotive dealers in mind.