The clothes that we wear have a far-reaching impact on the planet – from the extraction of the raw materials and manufacturing process all the way down to the mounds of textile waste from fast fashion and other discarded clothing. With all of these environmental concerns, it’s easy to overlook the energy requirements of the buildings that house their retail locations.
Seven years ago, Quebec City-based department store La Maison Simons set out to construct a building that generates as much energy on-site annually as it consumes. Teaming up with Oxford Properties, the shopping centre landlord for its Galeries de la Capitale location, the company began mapping out the different technologies required to become the first major net-zero retail store in the country.
The retailer decided to first road-test some of its plans at the Londonderry Simons store in Edmonton, installing a sizeable 636 kilowatt solar array and making numerous energy efficiency upgrades throughout the building. It led to a building that is 30-40% more energy efficient than an average Simons store, and where half the energy is generated on-site through renewables. It also benefited from an Alberta government green incentive program that covered 25% of the cost of the solar panels.
Simons applied many of the lessons learned from the Edmonton project in designing its net-zero Galeries location, which opened in March 2018 in Quebec City. It doubled the amount of solar power covering the parking lot and roof, while drilling 27 geothermal boreholes into the ground under the parking lot for geothermal heating and cooling. A high-tech LED lighting program combined with an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reduced energy consumption by 60% compared to its older location.
Buoyed by positive feedback from customers, the company is now exploring plans for several potential new net-zero retail locations throughout Quebec. For Peter Simons, the fifth generation of Simons to run the privately-held company first founded in 1840, the investments were about adopting a longer-term vision for sustainable growth that will pay off for the company with lower costs and better buildings in the future.
It’s also about keeping up with consumer demand in Canada for a more environmentally-conscious fashion experience.