Jack Caldwell's unlikely path to pioneering his environmentally sound Arkansas dealership began with a call from Toyota.
Caldwell and his son, Jay, were planning to build a much larger Toyota store than the one they had. The automaker suggested they make it a "green" building.
"Green was not really a thing in 2007," said Caldwell, 65. "But they tweaked our interest."
Now the Caldwells are glad they got the call from Toyota -- and just as glad they did the legwork needed to bring the idea to fruition. Building a green dealership came to feel right -- and saved them money.
The 32,000-square-foot showroom they built in 2008 was nearly three times the size of the dealership they were leasing nearby. The new dealership includes an air-conditioned shop and outdoor lighting, which the previous store lacked, and a much bigger car wash -- all of which are energy hogs.
But Caldwell Toyota-Scion's monthly energy costs are only double those of the family's former store -- and less than two-thirds of what they would have been without the new efficiencies.
The Caldwells estimate the energy and water innovations added 5 to 7 percent to the design and construction cost of the new dealership in Conway, a town of 60,000 about 25 miles outside Little Rock.
They project it will take 6 1/2 years for the energy and water efficiencies to offset the higher initial cost of the building, which they plan to own for at least 20 years.
"We were surprised at how little it added to our initial costs," Jay Caldwell said.