By David Dodge and Scott Rollans
La Masion Simons just opened the first net-zero major retail store in Canada.
The 80,000 square foot store replaces a smaller 45,000 square foot store at Galeries de la Capitale mall in Quebec City.
This new store is powered by solar energy and heated and cooled using a geoexchange (often called geothermal) system.
Peter Simons represents the fifth generation in his family to run this 178-year-old Canadian business, which started as a small dry goods shop in Quebec City in 1840.
Simons has been pursuing energy efficiency and renewable energy for half a dozen years. The Quebec City store expands upon the visionary design of their second Edmonton location, opened just seven months ago.
At 636 kilowatts, the solar array at the Londonderry Simons store is Edmonton’s largest. The store, which is 30 to 40 per cent more energy efficient than a typical Simons location, gets half its electricity from solar.
“We felt after Londonderry we’ve learned a lot and that we were within striking distance of zero energy store,” says Simons.
Solar powered, geothermal heated and cooled
“We took what we learned in Alberta, and what we’ve been working on for five or six years, and we combined that here with a larger solar array,” says Simons. At 1,300 kilowatts, the Quebec store’s solar system provides enough electricity to power the entire operation, including the heating system.
The store’s geothermal component includes 30 bore holes, each about 500 feet deep. Heat exchangers upgrade the heat of the earth to warm the store in the winter, and reverse the process to cool the air in the summer.
This combination—a large solar array plus a geoexchange system—is becoming a preferred way of getting to net-zero in medium sized buildings. In Edmonton it was used to power and heat Canada’s first net-zero church and social housing project and, before that, the Mosaic Center, a 30,000 square foot office building.
60 per cent more energy efficient
The new Quebec store also features an energy-efficient HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and a state-of-the-art LED lighting control program. Together, they cut energy consumption by 60 per cent compared to the original Galeries de la Capitale store.
Simons uses a software component to move excess warm air from one part of the store to another where it’s needed. “With that piece of I.T. on top of all of this equipment, I think we go to a zero energy store,” he says.
Renewable energy charging – for your car and your phone
The parking lot at the new Quebec Simons, like the store in Edmonton, has a canopy of solar covering part of the parking lot. “We put in 10 category 2 and category 3 chargers for electric vehicles,” says Simons. (A category 3 electric vehicle charging station can charge an electric car in as little as half an hour.)
Inside, if you wander into the active sportswear department in the store, you will find a WeWatt exercise bike. “It’s a fun little thing. Instead of wasting … all that energy, why not put it to good use so you get yourself in shape and charge your phone at the same time?” says Simons.
Just a first step
Simons is proud of building Canada’s first net-zero retail building, but he insists it’s only the beginning.
“We’ve looked at our end-to-end operations, and we still have enormous amounts of work to do,” says Simons. The company has worked with sustainability consultants in order to understand the complex trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, economics and social responsibility.
“We still are looking at our complete supply chain. We’ve made some big moves. We have a lot more work to do, so this is not for me the end game,” says Simons.