Pushing the Envelope

Toyota of Corvallis is poised to become the world’s first LEED Platinum net-zero energy dealership
by Dan Miller
Jan/Feb 2017
Pushing the Envelope
Grand Opening
Family, friends and co-workers gather with the Jacksons as the all-new Toyota of Corvallis officially opens for business.
Steve Jackson didn’t rise from selling cars at the age of 18 to owning multiple dealerships some 40 years later by playing it safe. So perhaps no one should be surprised that the owner of the nation’s most environmentally sensitive dealership is breaking new ground once again — with the first store to produce as much energy as it consumes.

Well, no one but Jackson that is.

“To be honest, at first, I didn’t really want to do it,” says Jackson of the decision in 2008 to establish Toyota of Rockwall (Texas) as the first LEED Gold certified car dealership. “But (my wife) Barbara and (daughter) Jasmine talked me into it. It wasn’t until three years later, once I saw the full impact, that I really ‘got it.’ It turned out to be one of the best things we ever did.”

The opportunity presented itself again in 2013, when Phil Doud, longtime owner of Toyota of Corvallis (Ore.), decided to retire — selling his dealership to Jackson. The aging facility, built in the 1960s, was in dire need of an overhaul.

But this time, Jackson didn’t need nearly as much convincing.

“We were determined to push the envelope,” he says. “We’d already achieved LEED Gold. So we knew we wanted to go for LEED Platinum. Then, as the plans developed, it became clear that net-zero energy was also attainable. Once we realized that, we just had to do it.”

A Teaching Moment
By interacting with a touchscreen display, Receptionist Summer Helms demonstrates what sets Toyota of Corvallis apart from other auto dealerships.
Photos by Rex Curry

Balance of Power
What exactly is “it?”

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was established more than 20 years ago by the U.S. Green Building Council to verify the environmental sustainability of public and private buildings. Toyota of Corvallis has been designed and built from the ground up to become the first auto dealership to meet LEED’s highest standard: It must produce as much — if not more — energy than it consumes.

Permeable Pavement
With conventional concrete, rainwater tends to run off in sheets — taking motor oil and other contaminants with it as it flows into gutters. Instead, Toyota of Corvallis used an asphalt mix that absorbs water and can filter out pollutants before they mix with ground water. 

One side of that equation is power conservation. The new buildings, situated on 3.15 acres, have been fully operational since mid-2016. Thanks to numerous innovations, it’s anticipated that Toyota of Corvallis will use only 25 percent as much power as a conventional dealership. A few examples include:
  • Extensive use of LED lighting
  • An 8,700-gallon cistern that collects and reuses rainwater
  • Low-flow toilets
  • Drinking fountains that dispense water at room temperature
  • Doors that open and close quickly to minimize loss of conditioned interior air
The other side of the equation is power generation. Take an aerial view of the dealership and you’ll see that virtually every inch of its 34,000-square-foot roof is covered by photovoltaic solar panels. This massive array is capable of producing 300,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in excess of the facility’s projected annual energy needs.

Go With the Flow
These control valves and heat exchanger manage the flow of water along 20 geothermal wells that help lighten the load on the dealership’s heating and cooling systems.

But you have to dig deep to find another source of energy — 200 feet to be exact. That’s the depth of 20 geothermal wells that employ a heat exchanger to help balance the facility’s interior temperature year-round. During the summer, water circulates throughout the buildings, extracts heat from the air and is then pumped into the wells where it’s stored. In the winter, the flow is reversed — with the hot water helping to warm the workspaces.

“Oregon’s relatively mild climate, where it’s not too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter, made geothermal a viable solution,” says Rick Ferrara, AIA, project director at Gensler, the architectural firm that designed the facility. “If we had tried to do this at the dealership in Texas, with its much wider swings in temperature, we’d need 200 wells. That wouldn’t have been cost-effective.”

“And at 35,000 square feet, the size of the facility was also just right,” he adds. “Many other dealerships would fall into a similar range. They could follow Toyota of Corvallis’ lead.”

Employees Help Efficiency
The technology is in place to achieve LEED net-zero energy certification, pending 12 months of actual utility bills. But, ultimately, it’s the 79 people who work at Toyota of Corvallis who will make the difference. Jackson has hired a facility manager whose responsibility is to ensure all of the systems operate at peak efficiency.

Rainy Day Device
An 8,700-gallon cistern collects rainwater for use in irrigating landscaping, thus reducing the consumption of more precious and expensive potable water.

“The employees need to keep an eye out for things,” says Ferrara. “For example, if you’re a salesperson and you’re walking the lot at 2 p.m. and notice that the site lights are on, you need to tell someone. It’s about being aware and speaking up when something doesn’t look right.”

Jackson admits climbing to the top rung of the LEED certification ladder did increase the cost of building the dealership. But he’s confident he’ll see a return on that investment, once his utility bills fade away.

Still, the decision to proceed didn’t hinge solely on the bottom line. This once-reluctant environmental trailblazer now realizes there are more meaningful payoffs at stake.

“When we built Rockwall, I had one grandchild,” says Jackson. “Now I have four. I’m much more focused on my legacy and what I can leave behind for generations to come. So I thought, ‘What if we do this, and we inspire other businesses to do it, too? Imagine the impact.’ In the long run, that’s what this is all about.”
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