Benchmarks will reduce environmental impact of retail display shelving
New research into the embodied environmental impact of metal display shelving aims to generate benchmarks and best practice guidance for the retail sector. Jon Mussett of BRE writes
The environmental impacts of operating retail buildings – for example inputs of energy and water, and outputs of carbon emissions and waste – can be understood from current data and are of key concern to all retailers. At the same time, there is a growing awareness of the embodied environmental impacts (of manufacture, supply, maintenance and disposal) of construction materials, and of the overall carbon footprint of buildings.
But when it comes to loose equipment – product storage and display fixtures, store and café furniture – the retail sector does not yet have a clear idea of the environmental impacts involved in its manufacture, supply, maintenance and disposal. How do they compare to operational and store construction and fit-out impacts? What can retail specifiers and shopfittings suppliers do to manage the impacts of shopfittings – both to demonstrate measurable reductions and to identify cost efficiencies? These are the questions that BRE and the National Association of Shopfitters are working on, with help from retail and shopfitting partners, supported by the Construction Skills Growth Fund.
The Low Impact Shopfitting Tool (LIST) has been developed by BRE, Fitch, DisplayPlan, and Marks & Spencer (see www.bre.co.uk/sustainableshopfit for more information). LIST is a straightforward online tool, based on lifecycle impact data gathered by BRE, which models the overall environmental impact of equipment at design stage and factors in the effects of packaging, transport and disposal. It shows which components and lifecycle stages have the highest impacts and allows the user to evaluate alternatives. LIST highlights climate change impacts (kg CO2 eq) but also shows 12 other impact categories, including water extraction and human toxicity.
Focus on metal display shelving
LIST can be used to model any piece of shopfitting equipment, but the BRE-NAS research is focusing on metal display shelving. This is a product type used at scale and with a common function, and offers the best opportunity to generate benchmark impact figures and identify large scale impact reductions and efficiencies. BRE is asking retailers and suppliers to offer sample equipment designs for analysis and will conduct interviews on shopfittings procurement and management in the context of store development and fit-out programmes. This will allow the research team to estimate impacts at store and national levels.
The project will produce some initial benchmarks for the embodied impact of metal display shelving units, and the first quantification of opportunities for reducing these – for example through:
- Product design
- Supply logistics – packaging and transport
- Service life and end of life – reuse, adaptability, recycling.
Research partners include Lloyds Pharmacy and Hills of Shoeburyness.
Jon Mussett is principal sustainability consultant at BRE, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on getting involved in this research and to be kept up to date