When coffee lovers in Canada hear the words “double double”, there’s only one place that comes to mind: Tim Hortons. With locations scattered across the country (as well as some in the US), the chain has already acquired the label of Canada’s number one quick serve restaurant and is now working its way to becoming one of the most sustainable in the industry, one location at a time.

In an interview with John Macey, Manager of Sustainable Design at Tim Hortons, BizEnergy discusses the launch of Tim Hortons’ first LEED certified restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario; the first of what the company promises is many, in years to come.

Why Tim Hortons decided it was time to go a little bit greener

According to Mr.Macey, the launch of the first ever Tim Hortons LEED certified location on Earth Day certainly made a splash with those in attendance, as years of hard work finally came to a well-deserved peak. The restaurant was opened in 2010 but only received certification two years later after doing what Macey refers to as “after the fact” work, fixing things here and there and learning a lot along the way.

“The better you do in getting everything in order, the easier the process,” says Macey, who likes to think of the past two years as stepping stones not only towards LEED certification but to initiating a process that will make certain modifications part of the standard building process for future locations and renovations where possible: “Most of these features are now getting incorporated into standard builds including day lighting controls and maximized window space, motion sensors in the back office and washrooms, auto-flush on the toilets, automatic faucets on the sinks, high efficiency hand dryers; these are all elements that we’ve introduced.”

LEED-ing the industry, one build at a time

When asked why Tim Hortons chose to pursue LEED certification (as opposed to other third party certifications like BOMA BESt), Macey provided a reason that was two-pronged, admitting a desire to set the industry standard and praising LEED for its reputation among green builders: “As the leading QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) in the country, we want to show we’re doing the right thing. We realize we have a big footprint in the country and we want to do whatever we can do to improve that. We chose LEED specifically because they have a really good framework, and they touch on everything, from where you’re building to what you’re building. It’s one thing to say that we’re green, it’s another thing when people turn around and say ‘prove it’.”

According to Macey, the cost increase of implementing energy-efficient and sustainable designs required under LEED was minimal. The millwork, for example, built to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) standards, would have been 50% more expensive for one location but because the company needed to purchase enough to do all locations, the increase was less than 2% overall.

Creating a foundation for greener building

The new LEED certified location is located on Upper Ottawa Street, downtown Hamilton and was built on what was, formerly, a parking lot. According to a press release circulated by Tim Hortons, more than 40% of construction materials were regionally manufactured or recycled from the site and the parking lot surface was crushed and reused as granular fill, resulting in 99% of construction waste materials being diverted from landfill.

Built green (literally) from the ground up, additional features that you’ll find decorating the inside and outside of the new location include:

  • A white roof designed to keep the interior of the building cooler in the summer and hotter in the winter
  • LED signage on the inside and the outside (reducing energy consumption by more than 18%)
  • Low “E” glazed windows to increase insulation while allowing for the optimal amount of natural light
  • Locally manufactured millwork and FSC certified wood
  • Drought-resistant plant species which won’t require irrigation, thus reducing water consumption
  • Low VOC adhesives and sealants

A long term commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable design

Over the next few years, Canada’s favourite quick serve will be steering its efforts towards expanding its LEED certified fleet. By 2016, Tim Hortons hopes to have registered a total of 30 LEED certified projects including 20 new restaurants across North America. Other projects on-the-go include everything from the sourcing of sustainable coffee to the greening of delivery suites, following the company’s three-pillar approach of honouring the planet, communities and individuals.

Thomas Mueller, President and CEO of the Canada Green Building Council has congratulated Tim Hortons on their first LEED certified restaurant, saying “this certification is significant not only because one of Canada’s most well recognized brands is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, but for the excellent example it sets for other national companies and restaurant chains. Sustainability can only be achieved through tangible efforts like these, and we look forward to working with Tim Hortons as they roll out their sustainability initiatives.”

Read more about Tim Hortons and their environmental commitments or check out their 2012 Sustainability & Responsibility Report.

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