It may not matter much to customers in search of a good deal, but one Illinois car dealership has become the first Volvo store in the country to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS) certification.
Fields Volvo in Northfield, Ill., opened on March 14, 2011, replacing the former dealership, which general manager Pat Hubert says was about half the size.
Hubert says that Fields bought the property and the building that previously stood on the site before replacing it with the current building. In order to meet LEEDS certification, the old building had to be 90 percent recycled. Not only that, but materials used in the new building had to be sourced locally, meaning within 500 miles.
For certification, natural lighting must be used as much as possible, and Fields Volvo uses motion detectors to ensure that the artificial lights stay off when not in use. One of the first things a visitor to Fields will notice are the big windows which provide that natural light.
What looks like a wood floor is actually tile, and cork is used for some of the flooring, although Hubert and her crew have discovered that the natural light fades the cork quickly. All counters in the dealership are made out of recycled glass.
For the most part, though, Fields’ building doesn’t look all that unique, save for the big glass windows at the front of the showroom, which could easily be taken as a design cue. It’s not until one steps outside that the building sets itself apart from other dealerships.
There, on the side of the building, stand five windmills and five solar panels (there are 124 more on the roof), along with two 2,500-gallon water-retention barrels (there’s 10,000 more gallons of water storage underground). This water is used for irrigation and for the building’s toilets. There’s also a garden nearby in which tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and herbs are grown. Those ingredients go into food cooked for employees at other nearby dealerships.
In the service bay, radiant heat is used to save on electric bills (Hubert says the bill is about the same as it was in the previous building, which was half the size). Other service-department tricks that save on the electric bill include large sky lights, light bulbs that turn off in direct sunlight, and big ceiling fans (called Big Ass Fans by the company that sells them, complete with donkey logo) to keep the garage cool. Even the oil used in oil changes is recycled.
Hubert told us that Fields is the only dealer in the country using recycled oil, which she bought in bulk so as not to have to use plastic containers. On top of that, paper sales brochures have been replaced by e-mailed PDF files, the service bay is using wireless scanners to write up repair orders, and no pesticides are used on the property.
Under Illinois law, unused energy in the building goes back to the grid, “so the community is getting the advantage also,” says Hubert.
Hubert freely admits that being LEED certified isn’t always a selling point when it comes to the sales floor.
“Most of my customers think it’s a great idea, but they don’t want to pay more for it,” she said, before later adding, “They come here because this is Fields Auto Group.”
Fields Volvo also peddles Fisker Karmas, and Hubert admits buyers of those high-end plug-in hybrids are more apt to take notice.
“They’re doing it because it’s environmentally friendly,” she says of people plunking down cash on a Karma. She notes that for Karma buyers who are about to drop six figures on a car, chasing the best deal isn’t the highest priority.
Over time, more LEEDS certified dealerships are likely to prop up. For now, Fields is leading the way, especially for the Volvo brand.
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