In an industry often vilified for expanding man’s carbon footprint, one Michigan auto dealer has raised the bar for environmental consciousness by building the nation’s first LEED® Gold-certified auto dealership. The 63,000 sq. ft. LaFontaine Buick Pontiac GMC Cadillac dealership in Highland, MI, which opened in July 2008, received its LEED Gold certification in February by scoring 45 out of 46 possible points.
The LaFontaine Auto Group commissioned the architectural firm Studio Design-ST of Westland, MI, to design the new building. Chief among the client’s concerns was the building’s energy efficiency. Although preliminary planning for the facility began in 2000, it wasn’t until 2005 that the dealership fully committed to going green. That led to the incorporation of a number of innovative energy saving systems and features including: a $600,000 geothermal heating and cooling system; 85 skylights to bathe the sales floor in natural light; a car wash that recycles 85% of the water it uses; a white roof with rainwater collection system; and an interior steel structure built with 70% recycled metal. The Newman Consulting Group LLC., of Bloomfield Hills, MI, served as the LEED certification specialist for the project.
Working closely with the Highland County, Michigan planning commission and the BPG (Buick Pontiac GMC) Identity Program design staff, Studio Design-ST developed a concept that embraced GMC’s dealer guidelines and applicable county codes, which included limiting the building’s footprint to not more than 10 acres of the total 24-acre site. With the width and depth of the structure defined by planning commission restrictions, the resulting showroom appears to be three distinctly different buildings defined by corporate branding standards. The focal point of the overall building, the entrance portal to the Buick Pontiac sales floor, is clad in Reynobond ACM and Reynobond Brushed Aluminum Composite Material, both from Alcoa Architectural Products.
LaFontaine Buick was one of the first GM dealers in the country built according to the new BPG image program and uses scale and color to establish its bold new look. Tapered panels of Reynobond Brushed ACM, edged in contrasting panels of Reynobond ACM in BPG High Gloss Black, flank the entrance portal while a curved eyebrow softens the look and invites customers inside. “ACM is specified for the majority of my projects,” said Stanley Tkacz, ALA, IIDA, principal of Studio Design-ST. “It’s such a versatile material, and the possibilities are endless. I love working with it.”
At its Nashville TN fabrication shop, John W. McDougall Inc. fabricated the steel-framed entry portal from 90% recycled steel. “The completed portal was then shipped to Highland in three pieces, ready to be installed on site,” said George Holland, the company’s project manager. McDougall also fabricated and installed all of the project’s ACM panels.
The showroom’s entry portal required 15,025 sq. ft. of the Reynobond® Brushed Aluminum Composite Material. Those PE-cored panels are 4mm thick and have a clear-coat finish. For the interior and exterior facades and soffits, 27,000 sq. ft. of Reynobond ACM with a 4-polymer High Glass Black paint finish was used. Those panels also have a PE (polyethylene) core but are only 3 mm thick. Holland worked with the contractor to revise plans for the design of a second-floor balcony wall overlooking the showroom floor to create a spectacular radius wall faced with 11,000 sq. ft. of 4mm-thick, PE-cored Reynobond ACM with a Pewter Kynar 500 paint finish. The exterior ACM panels were installed using McDougall’s proprietary caulked-joint (200) attachment system while a caulkless rainscreen system was chosen for the interior accent wall.
Bloom General Contracting Inc. of Redford, MI, was the project’s general contractor.
“I’ve been applying sustainable principles to my designs for years,” noted Tkacz, “particularly the ASHRAE 90.1 codes defining proper insulation standards. The dealership’s commitment to pursuing LEED® certification is what makes this project so unique. Going green added about $2 million to the final cost of the project. It’s estimated that the new system will provide an energy savings of up to 54% a year, recouping their initial investment in the geothermal system within about five years.”
Other sustainable features include low-VOC finishes, vehicle lifts powered by vegetable oil, a rainwater collection system that includes a windmill-powered water pump to irrigate the landscaping, and recycled concrete. And the eco-friendly features don’t stop there. The café serves coffee in cups made from corn products; the logo shirts sold in the boutique are made from organic cotton; and prime parking spots are reserved for employees who carpool to work.
Photos by Wes Thompson Photography, Keller, TX.