Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hannaford's LEED learning lab

Hannaford Supermarkets
170 stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York

Owned by Belgium-based
Delhaize Group

Started in 1883 as a one-horse
produce cart in Portland, Maine

The last Saturday in July, shoppers lined up out the door and around the parking lot to enter the new Hannaford Supermarket in Augusta, Maine. Though many were simply excited to have a new grocery in their neighborhood, all bore witness to a bit of retail history: the opening of the first grocery store to be certified platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

From its carefully recycled and reused materials to its 7,000-square-foot green roof planted with drought-resistant plants, Hannaford’s new store is an experiment in sustainable grocery retailing.

“The platinum certification is a high watermark,” says Michael Norton, director of communications for Hannaford Supermarkets. “It forced us to do things we hadn’t done before.”

Already dedicated to recycling and energy efficiency in other stores, Hannaford took its efforts to the next level to achieve the LEED program’s highest certification. “If we’re going to learn, we need to try bold things that stretch our team,” Norton says.

Though it might not look drastically different from Hannaford’s other locations, the new Augusta store boasts a number of behind-the-scenes improvements that add up to resource and energy savings:

  • Ninety-six percent of materials from the former high school that previously occupied the new store’s lot were reused or recycled, including blackboards and desks, which were donated to charitable organizations. “There were schools in the Caribbean coming out of hurricane season, and a lot of those materials went to them,” Norton says.
  • A state-of-the-art refrigeration system uses half the refrigerant gas of a traditional system.
  • Power is provided on-site by the largest solar panel array in Maine.
  • Two 750-foot-deep geothermal wells help regulate the store’s temperature.
  • Low-flow, dual flush toilets, waterless urinals and low-flow faucets— plus ice-free cases in the seafood department—add up to a 38 percent reduction in water use compared to an average grocery store.
  • The store is expected to use half the energy of an average store of similar size and amenities.

As shoppers push their carts through the aisles, which share the same décor and product mix as Hannaford’s other stores, the most notable differences are temperature and lighting, Norton says. The majority of refrigerator and freezer cases are covered by doors, saving a third of the energy used by open cases and maintaining a more comfortable environment for shoppers. Also, “the amount of natural light is quite a bit higher,” he says. Skylights and solar tubes draw sunlight down to product level. Solar tube fixtures mimic those of traditional lights, so a shopper might not even notice the difference, Norton says.

Some of the building’s perks—like paints low in volatile organic compounds and natural lighting in back rooms and employee break rooms—make the store a better place to work as well as shop. “There are some intangible benefits we’ve tried to account for, including the comfort of employees,” Norton says. Parking spots for bicycles and hybrid vehicles as well as radiant heat in the entryway sidewalks to melt winter snow also make the location stand out.

As various eco-friendly programs and technologies are tested through daily use, some will end up being applied to other locations while others may prove impractical, Norton says. But what strikes him about the platinum-certified store is how many innovations went into constructing it. “The material choices were very well thought out—and it’s the LEED standards that drove that innovation,” he says. “When the builders ran up against challenges, they had to work with partners to find different options. Every time they went through that process, they learned something new and got better at it.”

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