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Auto Dealerships Going Green and Turning to Environmentally Friendly Buildings

Once a symbolic target of environmentalists, auto dealerships are now playing a leading role in the development of buildings and facilities exemplifying leading-edge environmental construction standards.

Toyota of Rockwall (Texas) is the first dealership in the country to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Rockwall joins Pat Lobb Toyota (McKinney, Texas), which earlier received a Silver certification as the first dealership to be LEED certified. But they won't be the last.

The USGBC reports that 48 percent of the nation's energy is used by buildings, including 70 percent of the nation's electric use. In addition to more fuel-efficient vehicles, automakers have discovered another way to address the nation's energy problem is to build more efficient dealerships focusing on sustainable building processes.

"Dealers are recognizing the advantages and opportunities presented by building green," says Michael Bevan, Corporate Manager, Retail Market Development at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Research shows that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of businesses in their community that are taking a leadership role in addressing environmental issues. It also makes good business sense to dealers who can re-coup their investment and start realizing savings in five years or less.

"We expect there will be six LEED certified Toyota dealerships by this summer. We've also been working with other auto companies on the dynamics of building a LEED dealership and they are beginning to build facilities for LEED certification."

The USGBC is a non-profit organization committed to expanding sustainable building practices. It provides various levels of LEED certification based on evaluations in such areas as sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

To achieve Gold certification status, Toyota of Rockwall made extensive use of recycled and energy-saving materials. For instance, four water cisterns capable of holding 63,500 gallons of rainwater and air conditioning condensation are used for landscape irrigation. The landscape itself consists of native plants, trees and grasses that are drought and disease-resistant. The roof is made of materials that reflect 90 percent of the sun's heat energy.

"Once we decided to do a green dealership, we decided to stretch the envelope and go for the Gold," said Steve Jackson, owner of Toyota of Rockwall. "We hope to play a leadership role in building environmental awareness in the community and be a place where students come to learn about the environment."

Both certified Toyota dealerships were built as part of the company's Eco-Image USA II initiative that also puts an emphasis on the environment. Under the program, panels used on the building's exterior are made up of 90 percent recycled aluminum. The distinctive portal entryway uses non-lead glass and shades the showroom from direct sunlight. LED lighting is used rather than incandescent and fluorescent lights to further reduce energy use. Toyota also is assisting dealers with cutting edge green options, including different power sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.

"We wanted to provide dealers with the opportunity and encouragement to pursue LEED certification when building or updating their facilities," Bevan said. "There's even an Image II program that provides dealers with a 'turn-key' LEED certified dealership. The dealer can continue to focus on selling vehicles while the new dealership is being constructed."

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