Australia & NZ

Woolworths Calls for Industry to Support Sustainable Stores

In December, 2019, the Australian food retailer Woolworths Group opened a store in Burwood, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, which is the first supermarket in the world to become associated with certification from the stringent Living Building Challenge (LBC) performance standard.

The supermarket is located in the Burwood Brickworks shopping center, which is in the process of completing its certification.

The Burwood store encompasses a wide range of sustainable features, including two transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems, recycled materials and PVC-free piping.

But for more sustainable stores of this quality to be built, food retailers need more industry support, said Michael Shelley, Group Energy & Resource Manager for Woolworths Group, during the ATMOsphere Australia 2020 conference held online on July 28.

ATMOsphere Australia was organized by shecco (publisher of this website) and included support from the Gold Sponsor, AJ Baker & Sons, and the Silver Sponsor, Arneg.

“As we transition in this age that we’re in, there are solutions, but it is more about enabling industry to be able to support that transition,” said Shelley.

As an example, Shelley highlighted the need for industry training to operate and maintain natural refrigeration systems as well as the need to reduce the costs of alternative materials.

“One of our key issues at the moment is that we can go and put transcritical [CO2] systems in many of our stores but we also need to ensure that we have the infrastructure and the support network that knows how to maintain and operate them to keep the equipment going,” said Shelley. 

“Similarly, alternative methods to cladding your building and alternatives to PVC cabling and piping are there, but we just need to invest in the industries to make them much more commercial and cost competitive,” he added.

Red list

Shelley discussed some of the challenges faced and lessons learned during the construction of Woolworths’ Burwood Brickworks store.

He noted the existence of a “red list” forbidding the use of certain materials such as PVC for floor tiles, plumbing and hydraulics systems. “So we had to seek more sustainable alternatives,” he said. Instead of PVC, piping uses HDPE or aluminum while wire casing employs silicon casing. The store also uses recycled or reclaimed timber on walls, and registers and other locations with timber finishes.

-Shelley said that the store has seen around a 15%-30% reduction in energy use compared to other similar-sized stores located in the same area.

As we transition in this age that we’re in, there are solutions, but it is more about enabling industry to be able to support that transition.”

Michael Shelley, Woolworths Group