Michigan Family Spends Millions on 'Green' GM Dealership

David Yochum
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How beneficial is it to go "green"?

Ask the LaFontaine family, builders of what may be America's first Gold LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) auto dealership.

After constructing their new Highland Township Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac store, the LaFontaines admit they got "carried away" with using and installing eco-friendly materials. Owner Michael LaFontaine, Sr. will tell you making his new dealership "green" added an extra $1.5 million to the building's final price (a figure that was subsidized a bit by General Motors). But he is happy to point out how and why that money was spent.

The newly opened LaFontaine Auto Group facility is built with 70 percent recycled steel and features hundreds of energy-saving marvels such as:

- A $600,000 geothermal heating and cooling system
- Eighty-five skylights (some prism-enhanced) that help illuminate the dealership's showroom, customer service, and shop facilities
- Ambient light and motion sensors
- LEED-certified furniture and plants
- Doors made out of corn stock
- A car wash that recycles 85 percent of its water
- Waterborne basecoat paint in the body shop
- Low-flush toilets and low-flow faucets
- Hydraulic vehicle lifts that use vegetable oil
- A white roof and a rainwater collection system (including a windmill-powered water pump) for irrigating landscaping
- Recycled aluminum and concrete

Thanks to all these eco-goodies, the LaFontaines expect their GM store will become the first Gold LEED-certified auto dealership in the country. They've applied for 45 LEED certifications (39 are needed for Gold LEED certification), and are already enjoying valuable "green" benefits.

Ryan LaFontaine estimates annual energy savings of up to 54 percent at the family dealership. But perhaps more importantly, the new store is attracting customers by advertising its "green" credentials on a local level. On a national stage, GM is using the 63,000-square-foot facility as a model for how future eco-friendly dealerships can be built.

"Anytime we get a chance to show off this building, we're real pleased to do that," said a smiling Michael LaFontaine, Sr., who would next like to install a dealership windmill field to harness more natural energy.

In addition to its "green" materials, the new LaFontaine store features a boutique, a café, and a hair and nail salon for its customers and employees. Children can stay entertained in a video-monitored play area, which includes painted murals and a new Xbox 360 video game system.

LEED_Architect_2010
Well, they certainly missed being the First LEED dealership... by 3 years. A bit more research might have been a good idea.

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