C-Store Owners Go the ExtraMile for Environment

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C-Store Owners Go the ExtraMile for Environment

By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News - 09/23/2011

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Bob and Katy Barman have owned a convenience store in Beaverton for several decades. But when they decided to do a ground-up rebuild this past winter, the husband and wife co-owners saw an opportunity to not only set their store apart from any competitors, but also help their community as well -- by going green.

Now as the Highland Chevron ExtraMile prepares for its grand-opening celebration Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, the store most likely can boast that it is the first "ecostation" in the country.

One might say the convenience and gas station business is in Bob Barman's blood. He previously worked for a major oil company and his father worked for Texaco. Then in 1999, when he joined the local Lake Corp., a steward for Lake Oswego in suburban Portland, his second passion began to take shape.

"Through that, I learned about problems with runoff from storm water and the problems it causes to our lake," Barman explained. "One way to fix that is to get rid of hardscapes and replace them with landscapes."

More than just a theory that works on paper, the couple decided to put it to practice with their c-store rebuild. "From the beginning, we said 'let's lead our industry with practical solutions,'" Barman said. "Not only to better our image in the industry, but in our community, too."

First, the owners chose to place an eco-roof on top of the gas station canopy. They worked with a canopy company to design a template and install the vision, which has resulted in the Highland Chevron ExtraMile sporting about 1,800 square feet of grass on its canopy roof.

Once the eco-roof was in place, they wondered what else they could do that "was reasonable and smart." The answer: solar panels on the balance of the canopy and on the entirety of the store. The result: a net-zero electric bill, Barman said.

But the pair did not stop there. They chose to install LED lighting throughout the property, bringing it into the store, the restrooms and all the signs. Anticipating that some customers may find the LED lighting harsh, they also contacted a lighting specialist to install shades to soften the atmosphere inside the store. With this strategy, overall energy costs were reduced 50 to 60 percent, he explained.

Other environmentally sound features at the c-store include geothermal heating and cooling, which reduces heating and air conditioning costs by more than 80 percent; biodiesel fuel at the pumps; and an EV electric-charging station.

But is an electric charging station really necessary at this early stage of the game? Barman believes so. Pointing to the fact that people will one day be driving electric cars, he noted that the store's location in a shopping center makes it ideal for motorists to come and "top off" while shopping. "Our hope is that they will come back with their regular cars, get gas and shop at ExtraMile," he added.

Now that the co-owners have gone green with this location, they are looking to making similar changes at the two other locations they own -- a 76 and a Chevron. One location will most likely undergo a complete ground-up rebuild bringing it in line with the Highland Chevron ExtraMile, and the other will be retrofitted, Barman said.

The total cost for building the "green" Highland Chevron ExtraMile was approximately $2 million. While this is slightly higher than the average c-store build (at about $1.5 million), to the Barmans, it was worth it. In addition, they received tax credits for installing solar panels, LED lighting and the geothermal system.

"We did spend a little extra, but look what we got," Barman said. "We've got a story to tell. We know we did something great for the environment, and we will save about $25,000 a year in electric costs."

The Barmans are not only pleased with the end result, but also with the reaction from customers, its community and the Chevron ExtraMile organization.

"Since we opened [about two weeks ago], we have had absolutely the most amazing reception from the customers that I have seen in this industry," Barman said. "The customers love our new store and love ExtraMile. It fits in with the community."

As for Chevron ExtraMile, he said the company has been behind their efforts every step of the way. "ExtraMile has been fantastic to work with. They have embraced and supported it every which way."

Beaverton officials took notice as well. Mayor Denny Doyle recognized the Barmans with the Beaverton 4 Business award at the Sept. 13 Beaverton City Council meeting. The award is given out by the mayor quarterly to acknowledge the significant achievements of businesses either headquartered or with operations in the city.