Singing the Big Box Green Gospel

On the Wall Street Journal's blogging section, there's a recent post with some good details on what big box retailers are doing to go green from an energy perspective, saving on costs and reducing their environmental impact. According to the post, one Office Depot has installed a skylight system that relies on a "reflective mirror that tracks the sun, directing sunlight through a prismatic lens that diffuses it into the store." When the electronic brain behind the system measures a certain amount of light, the store's internal fluorescent lights are dialed down a "couple notches, reducing energy consumption."

In addition, the Office Depot store has installed solar panels that generate about "10% of the store's electricity." What's the net cost and ROI to these investments? "Overall, the new Office Depot store costs about 10% more per square foot to build ... but hopes the changes will cut the energy bill by 25%. If all goes according to plan, it will have more than paid for itself by the end of the 15-year lease on the property."

Even from a cost-based perspective, green investment can make sense. But in the future -- especially in a down market -- companies will need to get the payback period down to more reasonable levels. What's a way to enable this given the added cost of green building materials today? Perhaps the private sector -- or even McCain or Obama -- will offer Federal loans or incentives that pick up the added costs in the near-term in exchange for sharing in savings in the out the years.

- Jason Busch

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