It may not be easy, but it's important to be green

EDITOR'S NOTE - W. Douglas Carter is returns manager for the new BrandsMart USA store that opened recently on Ga. Highway 20 in Buford. During training, the "green" elements of the new building, which is expected to be LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, were described to employees. From that training, Carter, a native Atlantan currently living in Doraville, wrote an article about the "green" building and circulated it to employees. An edited version follows:

While assisting our customers with their shopping needs, some of them may ask you why our store is a green store. Here is a list of things you can point out proudly in our effort to help our environment.

All of the mats at our entrances are designed to help remove water from our customer's shoes as they enter if it is raining outside. All of the water is channeled into a pipe that returns it to the parking lot. The water from the parking lot is then channeled into a retention pond behind the store.

All of the plantings are drought-resistant and do well in Georgia. Each plant will be labeled so that our customers can identify them. Once the plants have established themselves in approximately six months, we will be able to turn off the irrigation entirely.

The parking lot is white instead of black. This drastically reduces the amount of heat absorbed during the daytime reducing the heat island effect. The white surface reflects more light from the street lights at night reducing our demand for power to illuminate the area around our store. The lights in the parking lot are independently controlled and can be accessed via the Internet allowing the store manager to turn them on and off as needed

Behind the store are four natural gas generators in the event of a power failure, instead of kerosene or gas burners. Natural gas is a much cleaner burning fuel and creates less pollution.

The water from our roof and all of the condensation from the AC units is channeled into two underground cisterns. This water is used in all of our toilets as well as for the irrigation system. Should the level in the cisterns fall below 10 percent capacity, a pump will bring in additional water from a well located on the property. This assures continuous water supply for the building and the plants.

Our warehouse has large skylights, reducing the need for lighting during the daylight hours.

Other areas of the store have additional skylights with a mirrored inner surface on the tubing. The smaller square lights are LED (light emitting diodes) lights. These generate less heat, better light, use less electricity and don't need to be changed like light bulbs.

In our showroom you will also find large skylights. These are equipped with louvers inside that follow the rays of the sun in order to bring in the maximum amount of light available. All of the fluorescent lights on the upper level (appliances) have three bulbs that are set with light sensors. As the day gets brighter and more sunlight enters the skylights, the fluorescents will turn themselves off one bulb at a time.

We used many recycled materials during construction. The floor tile through most of our store contains 60 percent recycled material. The bathroom ceramic tile is made of recycled material. The sheet rock is recycled material. Even the concrete was poured using less raw material.

By building code all internal air in commercial buildings must be changed every hour. Most buildings do this by bringing in outside air. During the summer this means extra cooling cost and in the winter extra heating cost. Our building has been equipped with an air cleaner to remove contaminants. The air inside the building is cleaned and returned to the inside. This drastically lessens our heating and cooling needs.

The roof of our building is made of white neoprene. The white surface reflects heat instead of a dark roof absorbing it again reducing the amount of time the AC units need to run. The membrane also collects rainwater off the 2.5-acre roof and channels it to the cistern system.

There will be recycle bins in the store to encourage our clients (and employees) to recycle.

Finally, our bathrooms. In the men's rooms, the urinals are completely flushless. They use no water at all. This alone should save an estimated 60,000 gallons a year for each urinal. In addition all toilets are a 1.2 gallon flush. Remember this is all recycled water collected from our roof and air condition units.

Behind the building we were able to preserve a wetland area. We will continue to monitor and protect it.

In building this store we have tried to be very environmentally friendly. It is our hope to continue to reduce our impact on Gwinnett County, the ecosystem and increase our ability to conserve whenever feasibly possible. By doing so we further hope to encourage others to do the same.