How is COVID-19 affecting retail, restaurants? Learn about energy conservation

With consumers frequently enjoying delivered meals and shopping for goods online, brick-and-mortar restaurants and retail structures need to be more advanced and energy-efficient than ever to compete

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer June 15, 2020


  • Scott Garrison, principal, Peter Basso Associates, Troy, Mich. An electrical engineer for more than 30 years, Garrison heads up his company’s Commercial and Government Buildings market sector group. He has worked on a range of projects including large corporate headquarters, data centers, casinos, sports and entertainment venues, municipal and educational facilities.
  • Jessica Iversen, PE, Seattle office leader | project engineer, RTM Engineering Consultants, Seattle. As RTM’s Seattle office leader, Iversen Jessica manages a team of engineers and designers working in a variety of market sectors across the country. Her portfolio encompasses design in retail spaces, educational facilities, multifamily residential, restaurants, and and a range of tenant build-outs projects.
  • Bradley D. Williams, PE, vice president, Bala Consulting Engineers, New York City. In his role of vice president of MEP, Williams manages the overall New York office operations and oversees a broad range of projects, encompassing the infrastructure, hospitality, data center and, and corporate markets. His more than 27 years of experience includes projects for high-profile clients like Deloitte, JPMC and Rockefeller Center.
  • Jason Wollum, PE, LEED AP BD+C, retail practice director | senior vice president, Henderson Engineers, Kansas City. Having joined the company in 1997, Wollum is now a senior vice president responsible for the design, management and, and coordination of several programs. He also mentors young engineers at the company.

CSE: What level of performance are you being asked to achieve, such as WELL Building Standards, U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification, Fitwel, net zero energy, Passive House or other guidelines?

Wollum: We have seen a renewed interest in LEED certification at silver, gold, and platinum levels recently, particularly on the East and West coasts. This is true for sustainably focused brands as well as luxury retailers. We have worked recently with two major retailers on net zero energy strategies.

CSE: What unusual systems or features are being requested to make such projects more energy efficient?

Iversen: The elimination of natural gas as a heating source is becoming a more common request, especially as cities look to cut back on the use of fossil fuels. While this has typically been a very site-specific issue, we have recently received a request from a large retail client to evaluate implementing the removal of natural gas from all future facilities, regardless of if they are in a city that requires this or not.

Wollum: Solar power, green roofs, heat reclaim systems, CO2 refrigeration, and daylight harvesting are all systems that we have designed recently on projects.

CSE: Describe a recent project in which the building envelope was complex or unique.

Wollum: Our team completed the Nike NYC Flagship on 5th Avenue. This was a unique project that involved converting an older existing building with an all glass façade. The Nike NYC House of Innovation flagship required extensive collaboration with Nike’s store design and digital enablement teams to provide a greater degree of flexibility and functionality throughout. Our team was able to effectively select and design an HVAC system through performance modeling that allowed for the store’s new glass façade. Throughout the grand entry, the power and data distribution and lighting control systems were designed to facilitate simpler space reconfigurations. One of the primary goals was a focus on adaptability, allowing the space to easily transform with the evolving taste of the consumer and city trends. The result was a one-of-a-kind retail experience that we’re all incredibly proud of.

Iversen: Restaurants and even some retail facilities sometimes have a significant amount of roll-up doors to open the customer area up to the outside in nice weather. However, even when closed, these doors often do not offer the same insulation values as a standard envelope. It’s critical to account for these types of assemblies when performing load calculations, to make sure systems are not undersized.

CSE: What types of sustainable features or concerns might you encounter for these buildings that you wouldn’t on other projects?

Wollum: In addition to effectively selecting and designing an HVAC system through performance modeling that allowed for the store’s new glass façade, our team was able to keep the space compliant with the New York City Energy Conservation Code. We’re proud to help protect public health, safety, general welfare, and the environment through design, construction, and occupancy of buildings.

Iversen: The energy usage of a commercial kitchen is enormous compared to other building types. This presents both challenges and opportunities that you may not see in other facilities. The amount of heat produced in a kitchen gives great opportunities for energy recovery strategies to have a significant impact on savings.

CSE: What types of renewable or alternative energy systems have you recently specified to provide power?

Williams: There are two thoughts that come to mind immediately: First, in the northeast, where numerous carbon reduction initiatives are being proposed, we are seeing a prevalence of PV arrays being used to supplement power within buildings. Although many of the buildings have limited roof/associated areas to support a full PV system, owners are sensitive to the need to position their buildings for alternate energy sources. Second, in terms of transferring this supplemental power directly to occupants, we are seeing most developers push to implement electric car charging stations into the basis of the design.

Wollum: Including photovoltaics or wind turbines on a project requires detailed coordination with the vendors providing the equipment as well as special coordination with the local utility company for the project. The local utility likely has special requirements that will need to be coordinated. The designer also needs to pay special attention to the space requirements needed for battery and inverters.

CSE: How has the demand for energy recovery technology influenced the design for these kinds of projects?

Wollum: The design of energy recovery technology has been around for many years and has been more prevalent in projects with a lot of heat rejection equipment – like a grocery store. Today the demand for energy recovery is greater because equipment costs have reduced with advances in technology that make the recovery systems more affordable.

CSE: What value-add items are you adding these kinds of facilities to make the buildings perform at a higher and more efficient level?

Iversen: Great controls are a key component to ensure you are getting the most out of the systems that have been designed for each facility. Many retail buildings are now designed with energy management systems that usually handle controls for both HVAC and lighting, and often incorporate load monitoring. The most advanced systems out there mean nothing if the controls are not given appropriate consideration.

Wollum: Heat reclaim from refrigeration systems to either the hot water or HVAC systems are the most common energy recovery that we see on projects, specifically in grocery design.

CSE: How have energy recovery products evolved to better assist in designing these projects?

Wollum: I would say that the level of control through technology is so much better today making the systems perform with more efficiency.