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LEED Volume program casts wide net

BY Brae Canlen

A new program by the U.S. Green Building Council may multiply the number of LEED-certified retail outlets, restaurants and hotels by making it easier for developers to get their projects pre-certified. An article in The Green Source explains how the recently introduced LEED Volume program establishes a prototype for certification, allowing such chains as Starbucks, Marriott and Kohl’s to build locations within a tightly controlled set of LEED credits and designs. These buildings, which can be located anywhere in the United States, do not require individual certification to gain LEED status. The minimum “batch” a company can pre-certify is 25. 

Proponents point to the streamlining of paperwork; supply chain efficiencies; and the elimination of costly architects, designers and consultants. One example given was PNC Financial Services Group, which purchased and stored 10 buildings’ worth of certified plywood to take advantage of volume buying.

The USGBC said it is now developing a LEED-based set of metrics that can be applied to existing buildings to improve performance and bring them into the certification stream.

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NAICS 444 shows double-digit sales gain

BY Ken Clark

Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers had a strong month in April compared with a year ago, according to government data released Tuesday.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for April were up 0.1% to $408 billion. The April figure, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences but not for price changes, was up 6.4% from the April 2011 estimate.

In NAICS business classification 444 — building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers — sales compared with a year ago were up 10.3% on an adjusted basis.

Also showing strength was e-commerce, as nonstore retailers’ sales were up 11% from April 2011.

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Walmart throws weight into home improvement

BY Ken Clark

The world’s largest retailer is taking steps to display its home improvement prowess through a digital marketing campaign centered on a “Projects Made Simple” area at Walmart.com.

The area is organized by home improvement project. For instance: how to stain a deck, install a water filter system, caulk a window or install a towel bar. In the deck video, an unidentified handy-man narrator explains, “All the tools are available at Walmart to get you going." 

The website also lets users download a project sheet with tips and instructions.

Walmart has long dealt in home improvement products, but the latest effort e-blasted to customers with the invitation to “Explore Walmart’s complete solution to make home do-it-yourself projects simple” marks an aggressive change for DIY. The e-blast listed the three key features of the online tool: checklists, instructions and how-to videos.

Home improvement specialists of all sizes have long felt insulated from competition from the mass retail channel due to specialized training and product knowledge of employees on the sales floor — a sophistication that they feel stores such as Walmart cannot match. But even if a more focused campaign from Walmart moves the perception needle even slightly, the results could be dramatic given Walmart’s sheer size.

In 2011, Walmart’s sales in the United States were $264.2 billion. The company operates 3,804 Walmart stores in the United States.

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