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Cheshire Oaks – a beacon store for M&S

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A store near Chester is setting new ground in terms of sustainable retail as Paul Sanderson found out


When Marks & Spencer opened its new store at Cheshire Oaks in August 2012, it was seen as a pioneer for the retailer.

Built with the aim of being the most sustainable store out of all of those run by M&S, a year later it is still performing to the highest standards.

A recent Post-Occupancy Evaluation funded by the Technology Strategy Board’s Building Performance Evaluation has found that the Cheshire Oaks building has a 42 per cent reduction in energy use and 40 per cent fewer carbon emissions per square foot than a benchmark M&S store.

It also has a BREEAM Excellent rating.

From the very beginning, the plan was to create a store that would be sustainable in terms of its environmental impact, but also the community in which it operated.

“We engaged with local planners and local stakeholders to make it their store,” says M&S head of Plan A Property Group Munish Datta. “We didn’t want a shed, but wanted a beautiful building that created a great shopping environment.

“At the same time M&S was also launching its Plan A strategy, so we worked with our developer for Cheshire Oaks to come up with a plan for carbon, water and waste, but also for community involvement.

“We were already typically meeting a 95 to 96 per cent target for diverting waste to landfill on our building projects, but we wanted this to be the first zero waste to landfill store.”

The key task initially during the construction process was to minimise as much waste as possible, and then seek to reuse material such as aggregates.

So pallets and cable drums were used to build a play area for children as well as a rabbit sanctuary.

Other unused items were put on sites such as Gumtree and Freecycle, and recycling on site was also about making sure material was segregated as efficiently as possible to enable easy recycling.

Around 55,000 tonnes of waste soil that was excavated was used to create a BMX track and also used on a local golf course.

As a result, the zero waste to landfill target was met during the construction phase.

The building was also constructed using sustainable materials.

Its walls are made out of Hempcrete, which absorbs carbon, is recyclable and also provides insulation.  The roof is made from glued laminated timber and has been used instead of steel in the whole of the roof and first floor and uses one fifth less energy to produce than steel and a tenth of that for concrete.

“We wanted high recycled content by value in the store,” says Munish Datta. “The plasterboard is 100 per cent recycled Fermacell plasterboard and the roof is made from 100 per cent recycled timber.”

But it was the operation of the store where the biggest gains could be made and this was designed in from the beginning.

A biomass boiler was installed to provide heating and this supplies 72 per cent of the store’s requirements and at the same time reduces the store’s comparative heating demand by 66 per cent. In the store’s food hall, a heat reclaim system is used to take waste heat from the fridges and this is fed back into store heating.

The building was also designed to ensure it had 70 per cent better air tightness than required by building regulations.

As a result of the insulation in the store and the air tightness, it only loses 1 degree Celsius of heat overnight in winter.

Indeed, efficient operation of the store resulted in 21 per cent less electricity and 60 per cent less heating fuel consumption than the designers predicted.

In terms of water use, rainfall harvesting means that one third of the water used by the store for toilets and irrigating the stores green wall and biodiversity surrounding the site comes from this source.

Munish Datta says that the store has performed beyond expectations with it being 12 per cent more energy efficient than it was designed for and 5 per cent more carbon efficient.

He adds: “We had some issues with the biomass boiler and rainwater harvesting in the first month, but we made sure this was dealt with as soon as possible.

“We’ve also made sure that the shop was run properly by those running it on a daily basis. It is critical that the Post-Occupation Evaluation takes place and that we review its performance.

“The Technology Strategy Board has been a key partner in Cheshire Oaks and we worked hard to close the gap on what the building is designed for and its operation, but we are delighted that we have exceeded design expectations.”

He is now taking what has been learned from Cheshire Oaks and is looking to put that into new stores, but also the more difficult existing buildings M&S operates.

“”It is a challenge with existing buildings, but is not something I will shirk. We are already looking at some of the measures we have undertaken with Cheshire Oaks to see if we can apply them in four Simply Food stores.

“But some of our other projects from Plan A have seen us save £70 million from water and waste efficiency.”

It isn’t just stores that are proving to be sustainable and resource efficient, the company has a new logistics warehouse at Castle Donnington that also received the BREEAM Excellent rating, and plans for a new warehouse at London Gateway also aim for high standards of sustainability.

 

PROJECT FACTS:

Company:

Marks & Spencer

Achievements: 

  • 42% more energy efficient than benchmark M&S store
  • 40% more carbon efficient than benchmark M&S store
  • Zero waste to landfill in construction
  • 70% better air tightness than required by building regulations

 

Category: Retail
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