Rendering of the future 'net zero' Walgreens

CHICAGO, IL- Walgreens announced last week that it would build in Evanston what the company calls the country’s first “net zero energy” retail outlet, meaning a building that can produce as much or more energy than it needs. Although the project might strike some in the commercial real estate world as futuristic, Tom Lena, director of business development for Arlington Heights-based Osman Construction Corp., which has begun pre-construction activities at the site, tells that builders have become accustomed to using green energy techniques.

“It’s nothing new to us and I don’t think it’s new to a lot of contractors out there, and our subcontracting community has come up to speed,” but what is new, especially for a retail outlet, is Walgreens’ plan to put seemingly every green energy technology into one structure. “We’ve done other retail facilities that have been green,” but the new Walgreens will include “hundreds of solar panels, two wind turbines, LED lights and even geothermal energy” by drilling hundreds of feet underground.   

“We are investing in developing a net-zero store so we can learn the best way to bring these features to our other stores,” Walgreens’ Vice President of Facilities Thomas Connolly said in a statement last week. “Because we operate 8,000 stores, we believe our pursuit of green technology can have a significant positive impact on the nation’s environment.”

Last year, Osman finished Walgreens’ flagship store at State and Randolph in the Loop, and although that was not a green project, the firm also built Marshfield Plaza on the city’s South Side and the Jewel-Osco store in the West Loop, among others, all of which received less-stringent LEED certifications.

“The key for us is managing all of the paperwork on it,” Lena said. Walgreens plans to get a LEED Platinum certification, the highest level, from the U.S. Green Building Council. Osman will have help document precisely how the all of these energy conservation and production strategies will work together and ensure there’s “no mess up when they go to get their LEED certification.”