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Sustainable Restaurant Construction



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For centuries, restaurants have played a crucial role in the professional, social, intellectual and artistic life of our communities. We’ve drafted world changing ideas and planned revolutions in restaurants. It’s a place where we gather our extended families to celebrate milestones and by consuming their food, we entrust our health into the hands of the chefs.

This responsibility, of providing a socially responsible and healthy environment for customers and employees, is a responsibility to be taken seriously. Consumers are becoming savvier about what actions are actually sustainable and request businesses to take the additional steps from “greenwashing” to proven sustainability. We have long passed the time, where businesses can get away with advertising nominally “green” practices and marketing them to customers as a genuine commitment to sustainability.

It is never too late or too early to implement sustainable practices as they have a great impact during construction, interior build-out and well into day-to-day operations.

In this article, I focus solely on the first phase and on how to create a holistically “green” hospitality operation with measures taken during construction and build-out of a restaurant.

In the United States, buildings (construction and operation of buildings) are responsible for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, the number one goal of green building practices is to reduce the number of CO2 emissions.

Simple Ways to “go green”

This can be achieved by

1)adopting green building practices early during the planning and design phase

2)following through with green practices throughout the life of the building.

To reduce CO2 emissions, we measure the cost of a product by it’s environmental cost: the total energy consumed of a product’s manufacturing, transportation, installation, use and ability to be recycled/reused.

During construction of a new structure or renovation of an existing one, this is the time to consider a holistic environmentally friendly approach and work with an accredited professional towards a green building certification such as LEED in exchange for tax benefits, financial support from the local government and lower operating cost throughout the lifetime of the building. This will lead to the biggest reduction in energy cost during operations.

But even without getting certified, restaurants can do their part by using non-toxic paint, salvaged building materials, and recycled products to decrease the total environmental cost.

Consider making investments during the construction phase, that will result in decreased operating costs later. For example: solid insulation allows you to save money by installing a smaller HVAC unit and pay less for air conditioning or heating once your restaurant is up and running.

Buying energy-efficient appliances to reduces not only the direct energy cost, but also minimize the exploitation of natural resources such as natural gas, oil, coal and water.

Plant a garden. Green walls (also called vertical gardens) have a profound positive impact on air quality, with regards to humidity and dust content, both indoors and outdoors, which contributes to guests’ comfort.

Certifications

Getting certified is a long process, but if sustainability is a core pillar of your restaurant concept, these certifications carry an official respect that underlines the credibility of your brand.

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design: A system developed by US Green Building Council to certify sustainable buildings and communities. Rating system requirements differ depending on the part of the building that is being certified and it is possible to certify solely the interior fit-out and interior design of a restaurant.

BREEAM – Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method: Green building rating system developed in the UK and primarily used in Europe.

GRA – Green Restaurant Association has pioneered the Green Restaurant® movement in the US as the leading voice within the industry, encouraging restaurants to green their operations using transparent, science-based certification standards.




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