Eco-Conscious Shopping Center Goes for Platinum

Matt O’Reilly and his sister, Lindsey, are setting out to prove that green design is possible and profitable when it comes to retail development—even in what many observers perceive as the unlikeliest of locations.

Images conrtesy Hufft Projects
Images Conrtesy Hufft Projects

In their hometown of Springfield, Missouri, the eco-minded, twenty-something sibling duo are building the Green Circle Shopping Center. They aim to earn LEED Platinum certification for it: an example of sustainability for this city of 350,000 people in America’s heartland.

“Springfield is urban sprawl at its best, with one pre-manufactured strip mall after another and very little thought, if any, given to sustainability,” says project architect Matthew Edwin Hufft, AIA. “Green Circle is built and detailed around the LEED system, almost to the point.”

Eco-consciousness precedes even the 26,000-square-foot building itself. Its footprint is slightly deeper than the area’s 60-foot average to spare a stand of trees at the front of the site. Structural steel and storefront aluminum contain a high percentage of recycled content, windows are double-glazed, and composite wood cladding meets standards for solar reflectivity. Interior technologies include 40 geothermal wells paired with an energy and heat recovery ventilator, and dual-flush toilets that are filled with rainwater collected in a 10,000-gallon rooftop cistern. Other parts of the roof will be planted intensively with indigenous, drought-resistant species and open to the public as a restaurant and green learning center.

Hufft says that the project has already done its share of teaching—with the local building department. A pervious concrete parking lot and bio-swale system was the hardest sell, he says, because it made typical storm water detention methods unnecessary. A cross-parking axis agreement with the adjacent church also ruffled feathers. But with this learning curve behind them, Hufft feels confident that the building department “will know how to react to the next green project that comes along.”

That reaction should be enthusiastic, judging by Green Circle’s initial reception. Dynamic Earth, an outdoor gear store that Matt O’Reilly owns, will occupy one of the center’s three retail bays; the other two spaces sold out six months prior to groundbreaking. And although tenants will be paying a slightly higher rent than their neighbors, that premium washes out thanks to a 54 percent reduction in utility costs. The center should be finished by late fall 2007.