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Anyone who has planned, constructed and cut the ribbon on a new carwash knows the process can be more than frustrating. Why would anyone want to further complicate matters and add a whole new level of certification and paperwork?
For Taryn and Eric Rosenkranz the answer was simple. Meeting the requirements from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System would give them a marketing edge, could possibly save money throughout the process, and would match up with their personal values.
The trip that started it all
The concept for an eco-friendly carwash started after the Rosenkranzes took a trip to Australia. The couple was already considering a business venture that could supplement their two incomes when they boarded the plane, and in Australia they were exposed to a land crippled by drought. “[We] saw some of the difficulties people were having with natural resources,” Eric explained. “And in the Outback we saw some properties that were completely off the grid. They were disconnected from electricity and water.”
Eric and Taryn were inspired by these resourceful business owners who did whatever they could to stay in business. “We walked away from that saying if you can be in the middle of the Outback and build a facility that can live off the grid why can’t you take some of the same technologies — whether its reducing the electricity or doing creative things to use water or even being creative in how you build the building so you can reduce the demand for natural sources.”
On the flight home, Eric read a profile about the LEED program and process. “It actually made a lot of sense and especially from the perspective that if you start with an end-goal of sustainability it’s very easy to look at all the criteria that are involved in a construction project to make sure that you’re doing good design and sustainable design,” he explained. By the time they landed, the couple had started to formulate a plan for The Smart Car Wash, a 120’ flex-serve carwash with an accompanying 120’ detail building and two express detail bays.
It makes marketing sense
Although they realize that the most unique element of their business will be its LEED certification, the Rosenkranzes are careful to not oversell on the green trend.
“Green as a term is a fad,” Eric explained. “But good sustainable design is a permanent design characteristic. So we haven’t gone overboard on pushing the green concept. We’re actually pushing the part that we’ve created a good sustainable design that is cost effective and we’re hoping that will come through in our marketing and in the building itself.”
With that “sell” in mind, the couple has designed their tunnel with an educational component. Customers will be able to walk through the tunnel and see some of the green technologies being used, such as the water reclaim system that is encased behind glass. “It’s similar to the way a brew pub does it,” Eric explained. And it can appeal to customers of all types, as Taryn pointed out. “I think I’m like every other mom in the world,” she explained. “I want to do something good and do right by the environment, but if it’s expensive or inconvenient, I’m going to pass. This makes it a pretty easy choice that you can feel good about.”
Lifelong efficiencies save money
When it comes to building a green business, many people focus on the more obvious or revolutionary technologies, like solar panels. But as Eric explained, green design is really more about the nuts and bolts of your building.
“If you look at the LEED criteria, it’s more about things like the materials that you consider and the adhesive you use. Are you designing your building so that you’re taking advantage of natural light? Carwashes are open primarily when it’s light out and when the weather is fairly good, so why spend money on lighting up the building when you can let the sun do it?” Eric asked.
Choosing energy-efficient equipment, renewable design materials and natural resources have helped save money on the bottom line. And in the carwash industry, the options are becoming plentiful, Eric said, citing water reclaim vendors, tunnel manufacturers and ancillary equipment like dryers and vacuums which are energy and water efficient.
For their part, the Rosenkranzes are using a water reclaim system by Con-Serv, tunnel equipment from MacNeil, and chemicals by EcoLab’s Beyond Green program. “The industry is starting to step up and offer components that can plug into any kind of vision,” Eric said.
To read more about The Smart Car Wash and LEED certification, click here and check out our cover story, “What can green do for you?”