Selling the environment

Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), a community-owned, Seattle-based chain of natural-food grocery stores, will celebrate the grand opening of its new eco-friendly store this Saturday, June 28.

Located on North 34th Street, between Fremont and Evanston avenues North, the new structure has 20,500 square feet, nearly double the size of the old Fremont PCC market, and has four times as many parking spaces.

PCC is committed to advocating high-quality food standards, as well as operating in an environmentally friendly manner. The co-op has stringent standards for the products they carry, including that they are produced in a manner that helps sustain the environment. These principles extend to the actual structure as well.

"PCC is much more than just a grocery store," said Raymond Glandon, the Fremont store director. "This building satisfies our mission as an organization."

The new market is designed with the environment in mind. From the insulation, which contains recycled products, to the elevator, which uses biodegradable canola oil rather than standard hydraulic fluid, the new facility is designed to be as eco-friendly as possible.

The interior of the store features environmental graphics by Seattle design firm Maestri, a multi-colored concrete floor and art installations by various local artists.

A heavy emphasis is placed on the visual presentation of perishables, including meat and produce. Over the produce area, solar-selective glass filters in light but restricts heat. This special glass reduces solar heat gain by 50 percent, allowing the air conditioning to be downsized by 20 percent.

George Ostrow, the architect of the new PCC store, has worked with the co-op over the last 10 years, and his firm Velocipede designed the Issaquah PCC as well as the new Fremont market. The project took 18 months to complete, and Ostrow faced several challenges.

The urban location of the market combined with the fact that the store is sandwiched between residential units on the top and a parking garage on the bottom created various obstacles. Such typically simple requirements as piping, drains and vents were made more difficult due to the layout of the structure.

"Locating an urban market without creating additional sprawl required a lot of planning," Ostrow said. "But we were able to create a store that is part of the community, and it is like a living organism."

Ostrow incorporated several groundbreaking techniques in creating the new market. The Fremont PCC is the first business in Seattle to install photovoltaic (PV) panels to produce electricity. A PV panel array on the south canopy produces electricity from sunlight without moving parts or pollution.

Another innovative feature is the complete integration of the mechanical system. One example of how this cohesion will increase efficiency is that the wasted heat from the refrigeration system can be used for heating the store during the winter.

After completing a cost analysis on the new market, Ostrow determined the expenditures were only 1 percent higher than constructing a normal store would have been. He also notes that in the long run the extra costs will be made up due to more efficient energy use.

Ostrow hopes other businesses will emulate the eco-friendly characteristics of the Fremont PCC.

"There are many people in this area who have adopted an eco-friendly style as a way of life," Ostrow noted. "This includes food purchases, transportation and housing. I think there will be more environmentally friendly buildings in the future - both commercial and residential."

Ostrow encourages visitors to the Fremont PCC to take a self-guided eco-tour. Maps with descriptions of the eco-friendly highlights will be available at the grand-opening celebration this Saturday, June 28.

As part of the grand opening celebration, 10 percent of sales between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. will go to the Fremont Public Association (FPA)'s Lettuce Link and Food Security for Children programs.

Lettuce Link produces and distributes more than 20,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce to low-income families at area food banks.

Food Security for Children supplies infant formula, baby food and other assorted items to food banks throughout Seattle for families with babies and young children.

"We want to be a positive influence in this community," Glandon stressed. "We have a strong partnership with FPA because we want to help those who are less fortunate, and not just give them food but give them quality food."

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